Played on: PS3
Played for: About 12 hours to complete the game and do a bit of backtracking for extras.
Since 2005, developer Traveller’s Tales has been cranking out their charming LEGO renditions of popular licensed franchises like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman and, most recently, Pirates of the Caribbean. Some people love their brand of humor, some people hate their mass amount of collection-based trophies or find them too “kiddie” to play, but you can’t deny their ability to silently tell their stories through non-voice acted cut-scenes that rely heavily on humor and body language while still being accurate representations of the comics or films they’re based on.
Personally, I’ve really enjoyed every LEGO-based game I’ve played. I put a decent amount of time in to LEGO Batman for the 360, netting all 1000G in achievements, as well as LEGO Indiana Jones & LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. LEGO Batman was the first LEGO-based game that I played and I really dug the concept of destroying everything and watching destructible terrain explode in to thousands of LEGO pieces while I controlled my favorite superheroes. So much, in fact, that I couldn’t help but play every LEGO game released afterwards because my inner child was so happy.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 plays pretty much like every other LEGO game. It focuses heavily on exploration, combat and puzzle solving to not only get from point A to point B but to access various extras like new characters, cheats and spells. Spells and potions play a huge role in Years 1-4 and they’re accessed by a Mass Effect-style spell wheel. Like in the previous LEGO games, each character has their own special ability that needs to be used in order to unlock new areas and solve many of the game’s puzzles. For instance, Ron can summon Scabbers to access tiny pipes while larger characters like Hagrid can move heavy objects out of the way. If you’ve played other LEGO games in the past, this probably sounds like old news to you and you might be disappointed by the overall lack of something new.
The world of Years 1-4 is pretty large in comparison to other LEGO titles. Diagon Alley serves as your central hub, giving you access to The Leaky Cauldron to select levels and a few other familiar stores to buy new spells, customize costumes and access cheats. Hogwarts acts as your central open-world zone where other areas open up as you move along with the storyline but you’ll be jumping back and forth between Hogwarts and other areas like Hogsmeade, Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express. Diagon Alley and Hogwarts definitely felt a lot larger than, say, the Batcave or the school from Indiana Jones did.
Traveller’s Tales did a great job of keeping the game in line with the films, but some of the story is altered to allow constant control of at least two characters. I’m okay with this since it makes sense within the confines of the game and doesn’t butcher the experience in any way. Each “year” takes about 2-3 hours to complete which clocks the game in at around 10 hours, but if you’re the completionist type you’ll probably be spending about 20 hours working on your platinum trophy.
- Faithful and hilarious representation of the first four films in the series.
- Split-screen co-op is well executed with drop-in/drop-out multiplayer.
- Tons of stuff to collect, over 150 characters to unlock and tons of replay value.
- Level builder lets you create your own destructible levels to share with friends.
- It’s really more of the same, just a different franchise this time around.
- Lack of story-related trophies to earn which means a lot of backtracking.
There really isn’t much else to say about Years 1-4. If you’ve enjoyed any other LEGO title and you’re a fan of the Harry Potter franchise at all, it’s a worthy purchase. With enough areas to explore and tons of characters to choose from, there is an endless amount of replay value for only $20. Graphically it’s pretty to look at considering the entire world is made of friggin LEGOs. Controls are responsive and the split-screen was well executed, so my girlfriend and I had a blast mowing through the campaign.
The Verdict – C+
Overall, Years 1-4 was a predictably fun time that isn’t really innovative in any way. If you’re okay with the same ol’, same ol’, and like the franchise, you’ll have quite a bit of fun breaking and building with your friends online. It’s been a few years now that TT have been releasing LEGO game after LEGO game, but it’s definitely time for them to starting experimenting with new ideas before they run to the well one too many times.