I think it is important to understand where a reviewer is coming from. Sometimes it is obvious from the article: do they love the Halo franchise? Do they hate all platformers? However a good reviewer will step outside these prejudices and deliver a balanced epistle which will leave the reader with a good idea if they are going to enjoy the game or not.
So where do I come from? I am a casual gamer who is easily addicted to simple puzzle games. I had to delete all Windows games from my PC so I’d pass my degree. I had to go cold turkey to quit Goldminer. I also love all things Harry Potter and lastly I enjoy the Lego games and completed HP Years 1-4 to 100% in a week. Having looked forward to Lego HP II since the film perhaps I was already a biased in its favour. Was it going to live up to expectation?
So what’s new in Years 5-7? The story continues from where you left Harry, distraught after his encounter with Voldemort at the end of the Goblet of Fire. You start the next school year with the main spells from Harry’s first outing but it wouldn’t be the School of Witchcraft and Wizardry without a couple of new ones to learn. Among them, Agumenti lets you shoots jets of water to put out fire or fill up reservoirs, whilst Focus is a little used spell that allows you to work out what characters want.
There are four new films to play through, up to the exciting finale in Hogwarts. As always, Lego do an amazing job of boiling down the film into six key episodes. This time round the game makes the most of cutscenes and moving between locations, with each level including as many as three or four. This is particularly key in the later levels when you might start in the Dursley’s home, fly to the Burrow, visit its sitting room and finally the wedding marquee. It’s a whistle stop tour of the wizarding world at times and all its flavour, with the trip to the underground lake with Dumbledore nearly as terrifying as it is in the book and certainly more scary than David Yates’ film.
The team at Traveller’s Tales has made the game easier though, but in a good way. The letterboxes which unlock helpful cheats are more straightforward to find and therefore getting the stud multipliers, crest finders, character locators and so on comes far earlier in the game, which stops the many play throughs required in previous Lego games. As completionist who has spent hours finding all the elements to 100% HP 1-4 and Pirates, it is much less frustrating this way.
However there are still some niggles. While the vehicles you find and build are great fun there is no excuse for the poor handling. How hard would it be to put a reverse gear in them? I often found myself stuck and having to blow up the car to force it to respawn to continue using it.
If you’ve got a helper at hand you can play the game co-operatively. Stay close and the screen is whole but if your partner wanders off it can split in strange angles making it difficult to see where you are or what you are doing. And besides, I enjoy the seeing all the rich world has to offer, I don’t want to share. The ten steps you take to make a potion so you are strong enough to open Slughorn’s door? I want to see them all, do them all. So tell your partner to start their own game, I say!
Hogwarts is still just as large and difficult to navigate.How do you get from the Great Hall to the Trelawney’s room? I’m still not sure. And the lack of new places to explore is disappointing, though does in include the Astronomy Tower, muggle London and the Forbidden Forest. One of the greatest delights in HP 1-4 was finding all the places you are so familiar with from the films. Rowling created such a rich world in the books and HP 1-4 delivered this with so many places to explore such as the clock rooms, basements in the charms classrooms and dormitories for all the houses. HP 5-7 has very few of these.
So, for those of you who are looking for something different in Lego gaming, look again. Lego games’ greatest strength and weakness is the similarity of the game mechanics. For me, they work and what makes it a joy to play is that every time you think you’re heading off-piste and discovering one of the many hidden gems you are actually following the main story arc. This does make finding Hogwarts Crests or students in peril so much more satisfying. As is the journey of discovery, to my mind the only thing better than making a Lego model is making it with magic and then see it come to life.
HP 5-7 is a good addition to the series. As with any Lego game the enjoyment is enhanced by familiarity with the IP so for me this game gets a well-earned eight.