LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
The LEGO games have allowed developers Travelers Tales access to some of the movie world's greatest licenses and we've already seen DS versions of Batman, Star Wars and Indiana Jones. These have all been very well received by the press and gamers alike and there appears to be no end to the possible franchise that could benefit from a LEGO makeover. Harry Potter was a logical step really, given that the actual building block sets have been best sellers throughout the world, but can the magic be carried over to this DS version and can you really fit four movies into one game?
As the name would suggest, Harry Potter: Years 1-4, allows gamers to explore the first four outings of the boy wizard in an set of abridged adventures. If you've sampled any on the LEGO games before you'll know what to expect. You'll move from one area to another collecting studs and solving puzzles. The big difference is the size of the levels. Where it's been previously very easy to get lost or lose sight of your objectives, everything here is much simpler, what you need to do is generally right in front of you. This is no doubt due to the target audience but even the younger gamer is likely to become frustrated with endlessly wandering around with little purpose.
The central hub is an area of Hogwarts and from there each of the films is accessed through a large wooden door. These are then split into episodes however you shouldn't expect to complete everything within a level in a single visit. This is common with LEGO titles and you'll discover that some areas remain slightly out of reach until you have the required powers to open a door or you have the right character to move an obstacle. There are some deviations from simply running around the various areas, in one level you have a broom (which makes it much easier to get around) and you'll also encounter some chase levels and keeping ahead of the three-headed guard dog has never been so challenging.
Just about everything here is touch screen although you can control the movement of the various characters with the D-pad, if you wish.
Everything is played from a three quarter isometric viewpoint which works fine allowing you to see enough of the play area at any one time. The characters are well animated and the parchment style maps on the top screen are wonderful. The only real disappointment is the FMV which is a little on the grainy side although the sheer amount of footage they've managed to cram onto the tiny cart is still very impressive.
Not only are you treated to the full Harry Potter movie score but there are also some well-crafted sound effects thrown in too. Sadly, there's no voice acting just the usual LEGO style mumblings from the main characters.
While you can use the touch-screen to move your current character around, the developers have clearly spent some time on fine-tuning the controls to allow your stylus to double as a wand. This allows you to not only pick off enemies with a simple flick on the screen, but also to carry out a number of well-known spells when required by tracing shapes. You won't have all of these skills to begin with, and just like in the movies you'll have to attend classes that provide a convenient tutorial as to how and when you can use your newfound talents. The 'when' is simple really - any object with a green outline can generally be altered, levitated or destroyed.
While this latest outing for the Travelers Tales series is yet another triumph in terms of gameplay and overall enjoyment, it does seem to be somewhat overshadowed by the Star Wars and Batman games. This is no fault of the developers, but rather due to the actual plots of the movies themselves. As with last year's 'Up' (from THQ), what is very entertaining on the big screen does not always translate to a game. Plot aside it does have some stand out moments though, the stylus doubling as a wand is inspired, while the FMV cut-screens are just as good as you've come to expect. Overall this is a great little package, which should you wish to complete the whole game; you'll be playing for some time.
Pro: Great Stylus Control, Very Funny (as usual), Loads of Gameplay.
Con: Lots of Wandering Around.
Final score: 8.5
|Publisher:||Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment|