The LEGO action-adventure franchise, to be blunt, has been quite polarizing. The Star Wars games were passable, the Indiana Jones series was lackluster, and Batman was really the only universally regarded standout title. Now, we’re “One Ring” away from having every major franchise covered with LEGO Harry Potter.
Has the LEGO franchise jumped the shark? Is this new game just looking to cater to casual gamers, or does it offer something new? Read on to find out.
In terms of whether or not the series has gotten more difficult, the short answer is “no”. It’s still relatively easy to defeat enemies with simple hack and slash tactics, and the puzzles aren’t really ball-bustingly hard. Not only do you get a heap of tutorials for each new ability, there’s also a very simple to follow “Fable II breadcrumb style” lead into the next area if you’re lost.
To be fair, the LEGO series really should be experienced with a spouse, or a close friend you really have fun playing coop with: just go in expecting a fun time, and that’s what you’ll get. In fact, the entire game feels a lot more streamlined.
In LHP, building structures makes a whole lot more sense – instead of randomly constructing monuments with your bare hands, the young wizards actually use pertinent spells to do their work for them. The effortless psychic manipulation really adds a streamlined approach, and meshes very well with the LEGO franchise.
One thing I noticed in particular (and is also apparent in the demo) is that each character had a specific ability. Ron could send his pet rat Scabbers out to scout ahead, and enter tight areas, Metroid Ball style. Hagrid could use his monstrous strength to lift things other characters couldn’t – and so forth. Since the final version boasts 100+ characters, I’m interested to see if more of them actually have unique abilities on par with the cast found in the trade demo.
Another aspect of the game is the frequent use of puzzles: these segments are pretty simple, yet rewarding. Most of them involve using standard spells, point and click adventure style, to cause an event, and solve a problem. For instance, in order to get rid of a pesky clothes eating chest of drawers blocking a doorway, you have to shoot a living portrait and knock his pants off, distracting the chest just enough to sneak past it.
Although it may seem a bit off topic, it’s interesting to note that JK Rowling was very much involved with the creation of her theme park at Universal Studios, and made sure it really stayed true to the books. From the vibe I was getting, the developers of LEGO Harry Potter gave it the same feel and authentic polish.
Hogwarts looks excellent, which really showed particularly in the rotating staircases, student living quarters, and living portraits. The signature grunts and groans of the LEGO characters are also apparent, and fit more than ever in the light-hearted Harry Potter world. However, I am worried that the humor will lose its luster as the game makes its transition into the darker chapters.
Despite my concerns over the seriousness of the latter part of the game, I was very impressed overall. More and more over the years, I’ve become increasingly accustomed to casual titles, and if LEGO Harry Potter is any indication of where the genre is headed, I’m happy to call myself a hardcore-casual player.