Saturday, December 25, 2010

Video Game Review: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1–4

One of the things that I really like about the LEGO brand of games is that you can't defeat the game by playing through each level only once. There are always items that you can't find or collect with the characters you're originally given. So you have to go back and retrieve those things during "free play". For example, in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1–4, there are places you can't go or actions you can't complete unless you have a goblin character (like Griphook), a strong character (like Hagrid), a Dark Wizard character (like Lucius Malfoy), etc. But you don't just get these characters automatically—you have to find their tokens hidden throughout the levels and then go buy them on Diagon Alley. Then you come back and replay the level with them.

A lot of people complain that all the LEGO games are essentially the same: you run around destroying things to collect studs and find hidden items. That doesn't bother me at all. I love the original concept. Getting to play it through different stories has been quite enjoyable for me.[1] One thing that is unique about this one is that you collect spells that perform different functions. Different characters have different sets of spells that they can cast (i.e. older characters and Harry, once you've reached The Prisoner of Azkaban, can cast the Patronus charm; Ron and Hermione cannot). In order to learn these spells, you have to explore Hogwarts and attend classes (in addition to playing levels which advance the story). Once a class is complete, you may invoke that spell at any time thereafter.[2]

An improvement over the other LEGO titles is that this one preserves studs you've just earned while animations are playing (before they would time out and disappear while you were waiting for the animation to end). However, it still has the problem that the end of a level is sometimes not obvious and so you can finish the level before you mean to (i.e. before you've collected all the studs or items you wanted to). One thing that really surprised me was how much detail went into designing Hogwarts.[3] There are tons of unique paintings that decorate the walls, several of which interact with you while you play. As usual, the cut scenes are quirky, humorous, and rarely canonical.

My verdict: This is a game that was fun and challenging. There is a little violence (LEGO characters pop into pieces), so the game is rated "Everyone 10+" by the ESRB (see But I'd still feel comfortable calling it a family-friendly game. I eagerly look forward to being able to play future releases in the LEGO video game franchise.[4]


[1] The other titles that I've played are: LEGO Batman: The Video Game, LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures, LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game, and LEGO Star Wars: The Original Trilogy.

[2] You can also buy a few additional spells, like Slugulus Eructo, at Diagon Alley.

[3] Hogwarts is huge, though. I often got lost wandering around trying to find a particular room. So, I drew myself a map, using Inkscape. I've decided to share it in case anyone else decides to play the game. (Be warned that the full-sized image is 4000 × 6000 pixels.)

If you're looking for a map of LEGO Harry Potter Years 5–7, see here.

[4] LEGO Indiana Jones: The Adventure Continues has already been released (and I own it), but I haven't played it, yet. Slated for future release are LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5–7, LEGO Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game. It is also rumored that there will be a LEGO Lord of the Rings entry. I plan on owning them all, someday.


  1. LEGO's games rule. I have the Star Wars trilogy and receive Indiana Jones and Batman for Christmas.

  2. Well, get yourself the Harry Potter game so you can use my nifty map!