by Christopher Park
previewed on PC
LEGOís Emergence to the Realm of Magic
With the LEGO series of video games being so popular, it is a bit confounding that it has taken this long for Harry Potter to be engulfed by this commercially successful line. Better late than never, I guess. LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 looks like itís sticking comfortably to a successful formula Ė being easy to get into and providing a little something for everybody.
A Lot of Story
As the subtitle implies, LEGO Harry Potter will cover the first four books. From Sorcererís Stone to Goblet of Fire which is a lot to cover, at least in terms of story. Though, for the most part, itís hard to imagine what Travelerís Tales will actually do with the rich story the books have to offer, since theyíve stuck to revealing only quick, comedic cut-scenes with silent characters. This is doubly more interesting once you consider that Harryís story becomes progressively darker with each installment. Itís a curious subject and thereís a lot of room for the developers to have fun with it.
As for how the game will play, there is little mystery to that. Just like previous LEGO games, LEGO Harry Potter will have a large number of playable characters. Up to and over 140, in fact. That includes Sirius Black, Harry and his motley crew, Dumbledore and so on. There are few quirkier inclusions, like Dobby and Fang, making it an eclectic cast of playable characters. Characters will also have specific skill strengths compared to others. For example, Hermione has shown her skill at casting spells in the books and her LEGO counterpart will be able to do just as well.
One of the bigger aspects of LEGO Harry Potter is the gameís usage of magic. With a world that exists in the realm of magic and wizardry, itís only appropriate that the gameís focus should be on that aspect. Some of the more commonly known spells from the universe, like ďWingardium LeviosaĒ, will be used to float and reorganize LEGO blocks to progress through the game. Though you will start out with a small set of spells, the number of spell you will be able to cast will increase throughout the game. Alchemy will also play a prominent role. The usage of potions will help progress through levels, but one screw up and the consequences can range from debilitating to humorous, or sometimes both. For example, a flub can cause you to transmogrify into a frog.
Something the LEGO games have always been known for is their cooperative play and LEGO Harry Potter is no different. The biggest change with the co-op is how the game doesnít tether players together anymore. Players could only go as far away from each other as the gameís camera allowed in previous LEGO games. Now, the camera will go into split-screen, letting both players go around and do their own thing. Itís a nice addition and itís a wonder why it has taken the developers this long to include it in their games, but at least itís finally in and hopefully itíll be included in future LEGO games.
Production Quality as Always
Visually, the LEGO aesthetic has served the series well and given it a very strong sense of identity. LEGO Harry Potterís embracing that style and again, itís pleasing to the eye. The artificiality of hard edges, plugs and sockets gives the game a real charming sense of character and its juxtaposition with the more natural backgrounds, like realistic foliage and landscape textures, works surprisingly well with everything else.
Audioís also been a very identifiable feature, mostly because the developers had a lot of music to work with due to the licenses they based their games on. Music will borrow from the rich score John Williams established with the first three Harry Potter films, which means itíll probably sound great. It will also continue to follow the LEGO tradition with how it goes about with the voice-acting. Voice-acting is limited to grunts and noises, as actions will speak louder than words in all the cut-scenes. LEGO Harry Potter looks to have a solid presentation all-around.
A Welcome Addition
Despite the amount of LEGO games that have come out since LEGO Star Wars, itís nice to see the Harry Potter universe being fully realized in LEGO form. Itís been long overdue and the usage of magic should be a natural fit for the LEGO series. With the game only covering the first four books, expect a follow-up covering the rest.