Of all the fandoms I've ever had an interest in, Harry Potter is the one I'm most torn on. I love the narrative of the books. Wizardry, magic, mythical beasts, struggles, triumphs, relatable characters and a 9ft tall bloke with a beard. What's not to love? Well… I hate how it's written into the film. It never felt like it was a seamless transition and details, though often small, were missed. (I mean… when in the first film is Hedwig's name mentioned?) However! The transition from film to video game, specifically Lego Harry Potter, is very much done in that traditional Lego-style: through fun driven madness. The same story hosted inside the madness and brick fuelled anarchy of any Lego game.
Lego Harry Potter runs the same formula as many other film franchises that get the blocky makeover. The game runs the narrative of the film whilst introducing unlockable characters, collectables, mini-games and some charming extras. The difference for this title is that each level is hosted in Hogwarts as a hub world. You choose which year (film) you'd like to play and are then placed into the wizardly castle. From there, you can explore and access happenings to replay events from the film.
Powers and Abilities
As you'd expect, characters have access to a plethora of spells which they can use to access or tackle problems. These are unlocked cor characters gradually as they progress through the game and enable them to interact with more and more. They also give value to replaying levels in Free Play to access some collectables you may have missed!
What's more, are the unique elements for some characters. Not every character can utilise the same spells, and some have much more natural prowess than others. For example, the mighty Hagrid can pull heavy chains whilst many others cannot. Ron has Scabbers the Rat who he can send into pipes to solve problems. And Hermione has a rune book to allow her to take on puzzles, too. As players progress they'll gain access to potions that give characters temporary abilities, and will also unlock access to different interact-able elements.
Story and Progression
As mentioned, Lego Harry Potter follows the story of the films. Though loosely. The main occurrences, scenes and characters appear, however the mechanics inside each level linking them centre on gameplay rather than storytelling. Players will need to interact with a multitude of puzzles and in-game elements to make progress - none of which slow the game down. There are some story elements that are more skirted over, and some which are removed entirely, however, this is done for pacing and to ensure the game is family-friendly.
The progress you'll make is done through each of the films, not the books. Each film links to a year from Harry's experience at Hogwarts, and each of these contain around six levels within. These all contain collectables and a Free Play mode when completed. There are bonus levels available, unlocked by collecting gold bricks, and the hub worlds can be explored freely as well. The game encourages and rewards exploration both in and out of level. With a nearly endless amount of collectables available (most of which are entirely optional) you'll never be short of content.
Lego Harry Potter, much like all other Lego games, centres around cooperation and couch coop accessibility. Both players have access to any characters in the level and can switch between them to tackle problems. In fact, many of the obstacles players will face are centred around using two characters, which can be done solo but requires constant switching.
How It Handles
Lego Harry Potter is an excellently fun couch coop game that we had endless fun and hilarity with. From the anarchy of the optional elements to the comedy laced story, every moment is action-packed and an excuse to throw some magic.
Walk-In, Wreck The Place, Leave
There's a play style unique to the Lego games that's consistent through each one. A specific style of approach that all players take on wholeheartedly and without fault. It's ingrained and something you'll be unable to escape. You can go for a steady approach if you want: explore, investigate, interact. Slow and steady, nice and easy… but eventually, it'll trigger. The beast inside will be released and you'll do as all Lego players do. You'll choose destruction.
Without fail, every time we play this game - every time we enter a room - we start throwing spells and breaking everything. Luckily, almost every prop is destructible and contains Studs. (Lego Studs, not the other type.) Studs are a currency in-game and can be used to purchase unlockables as you unlock them in-game. They also count as your score in level and achieving a particular amount in level attains you the True Wizard gold brick (another collectable!)
The other benefit to destroying every fibre of a room is the ease it creates. All necessary elements either respawn or act differently to destructive spells. Some change shape, others don't react to all spells. Depending on what you need, you may not be able to interact with all optional elements if you don't have the tools necessary. Either way, taking the remnants of the chaos and finding out its purpose is easy when everything else is broken. You could choose to take it slow, could use some logic. But you won't. You'll choose violence, every time.
Get ALL The Things!
If you're after a true collectathon, this is it. There's so much to collect. So much. House crests, gold bricks, characters, red bricks, students in peril, true wizard achievements… not to mention the progressive collectables. You'll not be short by any measure! But the game lets you know how much progress you've made towards the highly coveted 100% at all times, so every drip of progress is noticeable. Some folk hate that, I personally love it.
In the levels of Lego Harry Potter, you'll be able to find some standardised stuff. They're always in every level: a student in peril and four house crests. Both are a constant in all stages and are a mixture of accessible immediately and Free Play only. I know some good people hate that. You know the type, the "one and done" sort of people. Those that won't backtrack or replay levels for 100% completion. Those known as the weaker of society. Whereas us, the true 100%-ers, will bask in this knowledge! A reason to utilise that Free Play at end game to acquire all the things. If you do it right, you'll only have to replay each level once. Get the right characters unlocked so you've got a plethora of abilities available and take them on one at a time. This does require a perfect run each time… but hey, it's possible.
Tools of the Trade
The most coveted objects across any Lego game are the red bricks - unlockables so powerful they straight up break elements of the game. From collectable detectors to score multipliers, these are end game essentials for that final mop up. They can be turned on and off and don't deactivate achievements/trophies. The biggest shock for me when I went through was how quickly you get the True Wizard goals when you've got a multiplier of 3840 per stud. Seems wild, but a single 100 stud could claim it you in a single swoop. Seems ludicrous, but it's necessary as you'll have to buy each red brick…. and they cost a fair bit…
I'd honestly recommend grabbing the ones you can as you progress gradually in-game naturally and then go hunting in the endgame. The speed these little red nuggets of power break the game is mad. You'll still be required to actually get the collectables and solve the puzzles, but they'll be pointed out with a big arrow and half the fun is then gone. For me, the hunt is half the fun of the collectathon.
Lego Harry Potter is a superb couch coop game. The associated Lego label makes it a seller for me too as, historically, I've always enjoyed the collectable buffet associated with it. And that coop experience! Sooooo much fun! But would I have played it solo? No. Would anyone? Yes, definitely. If you're big on your wizardry or block-based adventures, the game's quality! For me, the coop experience made it so much more enjoyable and a game we both play when we fancy that couch coop experience! If you're a fan of cooperating, the Lego madness or need that settee soirée of cooperation, this is it.