Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 was released across all gaming formats at the end of last year and is a follow up game to the Lego original. I loved the first game and played it for hours on end in attempt to complete it so had great expectations from the sequel and having received the game as a Christmas gift last year I couldn't wait to get stuck into the action once again.
I own an Xbox 360 so my review of the game is specifically for this particular format and one again the game is split into 3 separate instalments which cover key moments from the final 3 Harry Potter books; The Order of the Phoenix, The Half Blood Prince and The Deathly Hallows.
Game Play in Story Mode
Playing as either Harry himself or one of the many characters in the HP universe you are presented with a series of levels that have to be completed in order to progress through the game. The Order of the Phoenix is the first instalment and acts as an introduction to how the game is played, the early levels establish how your character can be controlled and what they are capable of and being a game that is all about magic you soon learn that there are various spells that can be used to help you on your way. Harry is of course the main character and he is the most used although there are times when you need someone who is stronger or more powerful and you are able to switch to someone else who can help you achieve the objectives of each level. The levels themselves represent significant moments of each book and there are various items that you need to collect or unlock to be able to move forward through the story and once you get to the end of each level you are one step closer to completing the game.
The levels get progressively trickier the further you progress but aren't that hard that they become frustrating, the fluid control of the characters makes the game feel instinctive rather than challenging and as usual for a Lego game it is great fun. You are able to blast apart the things that are around you and collect hidden coins and tokens and a great deal of time is spent running around collecting the things that you need, you have various spells at your disposal that you can use and these reference the spells used in the books.
There are spells that return from the previous game plus a number of new ones which have been added here and you have to learn them and then practice them before they can be put to use. Selecting which spell you want to use can be a little bit awkward at first as they are presented in a wheel on-screen which you need to scroll through to select, sometimes the action can be a little bit full on and you need to be quick in choosing the right spell but you do pick up speed once you have done it a few times and it soon becomes second nature. Each spell results in a different outcome, some will make things fall apart others will put things back together and a lot of the fun of the game is trying out each one and putting them to use, anyone familiar with the books or films of Harry Potter will recognise the names of the spells and what they can do so its nice to see them represented in the game and they are great fun.
Once again the graphics in this game are absolutely flawless, beautifully presented and rendered in Lego format the shapes and colours look like authentic building blocks and they make these games as special as they are. I've been a big fan of the Lego games since first playing Lego Batman and have owned and played nearly all of the Lego releases and in Harry Potter Years 5-7 they seem to have improved even more. The backdrops are impressive to see, massive in size and full of intricate detail you really can immerse yourself into the game, whilst in story mode you get to explore Hogwarts and its surrounding areas but as the books also feature action away from the school this time you also get to go around Diagon Alley, the Weasley's home and farmland, The Ministry of Magic and Gringotts bank plus plenty of other memorable places that you will know if you have read the books or seen the films. I always think that the graphics are perhaps the strongest point of these Lego games and I'm still impressed at the scale and beauty of them, the attention to detail is incredible and I do think that they add so much to the whole game playing experience.
Special mention should be given to the cut scenes that feature throughout the game as Lego always include them and they're always amusing to see. In Harry Potter years 5-7 they not only help to tell the story and explain what's going on but are also quirky and funny, they have a reputation for being good and once again their inclusion here makes what could be a lull in the action an enjoyable thing and I think they're great and help to bring together a game that has great appeal to its players.
Bits and Bobs
The game is so large that my review here is barely scratching the surface as to what you can expect to discover should you choose to play this yourself. Anyone who has played any of the Lego games before can expect more of what they know and newcomers should find this an exciting place to start although I would say that it's probably a good idea to have played the first instalment (years 1-4) before taking on this game as it does follow on from where the original ended and you'd be missing out on a lot of fun from the first game if you jump straight to this one. I will point out here that there had been reports of glitches and freezes during the first game which have been ironed out for the follow up although I do think that it came down to luck if they affected you in the first game as I didn't experience any and having completed the story mode of this game I have not experienced any here either. I'm at the stage with my game now where I can go back through each of the levels to collect the things I missed before and have new objectives to complete and I do think that this is another strong area of the game in terms of replay value as there's just so much to do that it can provide many, many hours of game play once the main story is over and it's the games charm and appeal that makes me return to it time and time again.
Out of all the Lego games I have played on the XBox this one is probably my favourite, I do love the original Harry Potter game though as well so it's a close run thing but the scale in the follow up is larger and there's so much to do that it never becomes boring. It's not a terribly difficult game, there are some levels which are trickier than others but it soon becomes easy enough to master and is great fun to explore. It can be played either as a single player or with someone else, you do need help in some of the levels to be able to progress and if you do play as a single player then the com unit with provide you with the assistance you need, personally I prefer playing by myself as I do think it can be confusing if there are two characters running around trying to do the same things but at least you can get someone else to join in if you want to or if you want to help a younger player through some of the harder levels.
It is a family fun game which would suit all ages I think, the spell selection can be a little tricky to master at first but isn't terribly difficult once you get a feel for it and although the game is massive there is plenty to do. It isn't a game you're likely to complete in a couple of days, I've been playing mine since Boxing day last year and have only just managed to get to the end of the story mode but this obviously dependant on how many hours you put in to the game but I find it to be an ideal time killer if I want to pass on a boring Sunday afternoon when there's nothing on the television and it is a game that I find that I can dip in and out of.
For its exciting game play, beautiful graphics and sense of all round fun there's very little to complain about with Harry Potter Years 5 to 7 and for me it's a five star game. I'd hugely recommend it to anyone who likes adventure games, the Lego ones in particular, and I do think that this is a very strong release which will appeal to a vast number of game players. Its price varies from place to place but usually retails for around £25 - £30 but I do think it's worth the money for what you actually get and overall it gets the thumbs up from me.
Thanks for reading my review.