Traveller’s Tales (TT) took the video game world by storm back in 2005 when they released their first game in
the LEGO franchise. Most of the industry didn’t know what to expect from LEGO Star Wars, but
and the game ended up being a huge hit, both financially and critically. The success of that first game was only the beginning as TT then proceeded to released at least one LEGO themed game a year since, and in many cases multiple titles. The most successful of those games were those which crossed over the LEGO franchise with popular IP’s such as Batman and Indiana Jones. Amidst all of those hit games, rumors began swirling about whether or not a Harry Potter-themed rendition of the LEGO games was in the cards for the developer.
In mid 2009, those rumors finally became a reality as TT announced LEGO Harry Potter for pretty much every platform imaginable. Considering the high standard of quality that the recent LEGO standard games had set, expectations were pretty high for the Harry Potter game(s). Finally, this past month, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 was released and not only lives up to the standards and expectations, but sets a new standard for LEGO-themed games to come.
If you have played any of the LEGO “insert popular IP here” games over the past couple of years, you know what sort of formula to expect out of the game(s). The groundwork of the games is pretty much the same across the board: traverse through familiar environments based on the popular property being used while breaking objects, solving puzzles, and collecting LEGO bits which will be spent to unlock collectibles in the game. You did it in the Star Wars universe, Batman, Indiana Jones, and now in Harry Potter’s world. All of the aspects that have become familiar up to this point return; players will constantly be searching the world for more bits, gold (and red) bricks, hit bit collection quotas on missions to improve their ranking(s), and spend collected bits to unlock additional items and characters in the game. The underlying goal of the LEGO game hasn’t changed but the package that envelops that core concept has been taken to an entirely new level this time around.
When I say that TT has taken things to a new level, I am referring mainly to the level of detail and depths that have gone to in order to create the world of Harry Potter. Nearly every single aspect of this massive game is a painstakingly accurate representation of the environments and settings that fans have become familiar with through the movies and the books, both visually and audibly. You are given basically a free pass to explore the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with little to no bounds aside from the limits of your abilities; you can explore as far as your powers will take and allow you. Although you can wander aimlessly throughout the entire world, you will need various tools or more specifically spells, in order to reach many of them and to experience various events. Learning a new spell will allow you to interact with different objects in areas you may have already passed through. Even towards the closing chapters of the game, you will find new reason to go back and visit some of the areas you may have thought were previously exhausted.
Nearly everything that you come in contact with throughout the incredible recreation of Hogwarts can be manipulated or interacted with. Fellow students and teachers can be toyed with, plants and desks can be broken or moved, torches and candles lit and blown out… even the famed living pictures as well as your necessary interaction with them are featured in the game. The only hindrance on your interaction lies in whether or not you have the necessary spell(s) to trigger said action. To this day, well into my time with the game, I am still passing through hallways and rooms and finding new triggers and puzzles which lead to collecting more LEGO bits for my spending.
Aside from the amount of interaction offered in the Hogwarts setting, the fact that the school is pretty much “alive” and ever changing is perhaps the most impressive feature of the game. You are given the feeling as if you truly live at Hogwarts, just like the characters in the original tale(s). Anything that you change or trigger will forever be changed throughout the rest of your stay as the environments are never reset. Decisions and changes that you make early in the game will carry over throughout the rest of your adventure; landscapes will be altered and pathways will be changed. It boils down to being a huge LEGO playground in which you can pretty much do whatever you please.
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