LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 (Wii) Review
I think we all know how we feel about LEGO games at this point in time – with nine games being released for almost every platform under the sun through the course of approximately six years, it’s a bit understandable if you’re getting tired of the format. I know for sure that I am getting pretty damn close. That being said, there’s always going to be a franchise of the (now veteran) LEGO games that will interest you more than others, and for me this has always been Harry Potter. Don’t get me wrong – while the franchise is boring to me to tears at this point, I really liked LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1 – 4. Now, in little under a year we’ve been graced with Years 5 – 7, the conclusion to the Harry Potter saga and unfortunately it feels like the second part of an already existing game rather than a full blown sequel (though really, what should we be expecting from the LEGO franchise anymore?)
Years 5 – 7, as the name suggests, follows the final three years of the infamous trio: Harry, Ron and Hermione. The game is essentially split into four chapters (following the movie’s splits rather than the books) and sees one playing through the events of the Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince and both parts of the final chapter: The Deathly Hallows. Being easily my favourite entries in the Harry Potter franchise, I was most keen to see how the rather dark and ominous events of the stories translated into the much more child friendly LEGO style of storytelling. Some creative liberties have had to be taken (much like the translation from book to film) but thankfully everything you would expect is here. Most non-fans will have no idea what’s going on here but you’d have to question why someone like that would want to play Years 5 – 7.
As with the previous LEGO games, the visual presentation isn’t really all that different in this new iteration from previous ones. The game’s artistic style means most of the game can run at a silky smooth 60fps without any problems, while the source material provides opportunities for some very snazzy magical effects. For the most part characters look like their film counterparts, as do the environments although there are times when some characters don’t look anything like their actors or film equivalent which can be quite confusing. Besides this very minor setback, the game’s use of pre-rendered backgrounds and actual polygonal models works to its advantages for the most part. As I’ve mentioned in previous LEGO reviews, it’s always cool to see the developers adapt real-life things into the world in a manner that makes them appear like they are made out of LEGO.
The LEGO games, no matter the publisher or source material, have always been a very by-the-numbers affair. Players take a group of characters into levels, collect items, destroy enemies and solve very basic puzzles. I only use the term Puzzles very lightly, however as most of the time they require the player to either destroy enough objects to find a LEGO pile or simple explore to find one – then usually building the LEGO pile up to something will create a path or help the player progress. It’s incredibly simple which makes it perfect for a younger audience, and those who are a little older who might find the experience dull can still find enjoyment at the humorous ways these creations help the player to progress through the level. As with any other LEGO game, there are certain items in the game world that can only be interacted with by a specific character which mixes things up and never gets too tedious as most of the time the game makes sure you have one of those characters with you when required.
Thankfully, the team at Traveller’s Tales have made an effort to keep the experience relatively fresh by adding a few new features and some minor touch ups. A new component has been added that only someone who is from the Weasley family can interact with, modelled on the magical practical tricks that the twins have invented in the films and books. Additionally, a few new spells have been added including a water spell that can put out fires, unfortunately these new spells feel more like different ways to do the same thing rather than substantial upgrades or additions to the system.
The newest and most interesting mechanic that’s been introduced, however, is the game’s duelling system. At certain (scripted) times, players can enter into a duel where a key target and the player will exchange both attack and defence orientated spells. Essentially players must cast spells specifically countering the enemy’s spell in a rock-paper-scissors like fashion in order to come out victorious. The idea is a good one, expanding on the rather shallow combat mechanics of the LEGO games but the way it is handled is pretty clumsy – you’ll be duelling every couple of minutes towards the end of the game and the system does feel overused and boring because of this.
The crux of the fun with Years 5 – 7 is with the multiplayer functionality and I highly recommend playing the game with a friend because of this. At any point in the game, a friend can jump in to the action and take control of one of the computer controlled characters, allowing for multiplayer cooperative action. Unlike some previous LEGO games, Years 5 – 7 fixes the familiar frustration of multiplayer mode’s “battle for the screen”; Whenever players are close together, they both share the screen, but if they stray too far apart the screen will split dynamically to allow separate exploration. This is a great feature that I have seen included selectively in previous LEGO games and thankfully it’s also present in Years 5 – 7.
As with other LEGO games, completing the story mode will rarely net your completion above 50%/60% – largely due to how many collectibles there are. There are all kinds of things to find in Years 5 – 7 including new characters and spells, though you could be forgiven for getting bored before collecting everything. The main story mode, if you want to complete it without collecting, is roughly six to seven hours which feels just right for this kind of game. Some players of Years 1 – 4 will probably be a bit miffed at how many assets have been reused for Years 5 – 7, though this seems because of the repetition in source material than a folly on the developers part.
There’s no real voice acting in the LEGO games, and Years 5 – 7 continues this tradition. That being said, the game still utilises many grunts, groans and moans to convey emotions during the game comical cut scenes and thankfully they do a great job at portraying each of the characters without them uttering a single word. Fully orchestrated tracks that fans will recognise from the movies are a great addition too and really add to the game’s fan service delivery.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 is a good LEGO game though as I’ve mentioned before, it suffers from the franchise that is starting to wear thin. With no indication of the franchise dying any time soon, I wonder how much this dead horse needs to be beaten before publishers stop making them. But I digress – LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 is a suitable and expected follow up to Years 1 – 4, but don’t expect something amazing, revolutionary or mind blowing. This is much the same as Years 1 – 4, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.