With Harry Potter being the fourth series to be Lego-fied, developer Traveller's Tales has a fair bit of experience under their belt. Having made Lego iterations of Star Wars, Indiana Jones and Batman before, there were a lot of expectations for Lego Harry Potter to surpass the earlier games in quality. So does this latest Lego game do enough to build on those that have come before?
The good news is that, in some ways, it does. Lego Harry Potter is a huge game and Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry really comes alive. There is always something going on the background, with students running to class or terrorizing one another. The hub system from the past games is back, in Diagon Alley, where you can purchase extras such as new characters to play or you can always just create your own. They've really pumped up the customization options, with thousands of options for your character. Of course, running around as a black, suited up Harry is a complete riot.
The gameplay is solid, but it does get a little repetitive. Most of the puzzles involve using Wingardium Leviosa to assemble Lego blocks into a tool or repairing a broken piece of Hogwarts. One enjoyable little throwback was having to blast the portraits in order to interact with the wizards inside, for example, near the end of year one, in order to get past the three-headed dog you blast a portrait of a wizard taking a bath, knocking his rubber ducky into Harry's side, then distract the dog with that while you rebuild the harp to put it to sleep. Unfortunately the boss battles aren't terribly deep, but really, it's a Lego game. What were you expecting, Metal Gear?
The story is pretty clear-cut, being based on the movies and books, there isn't much room for change in there, although in the interest of being kid-friendly, or just to add a wink of humour, some tweaks have been made. As usual, the jokes are spot-on, even though there's no dialogue. It's always great to see a game legitimately pull off good humour, and having everything as Lego adds an almost absurd twist to it all.
Just as before, players looking for the prestigious 100% completion will be revisiting levels repeatedly to collect every stud, save every student in peril, and find all the hidden bricks. Again, it's not challenging so much as it is time consuming. Finding most of the collectables involves simply blasting everything around you to get at the delicious Lego inside. This can sometimes be a real pain though, as the camera angle often gets in the way, and aside from a slight pan to the left or right, it's staying put.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of problems still left in the game. The camera work has already been touched on, but the glitches are a serious problem. There are random freezes, which can be forgiven, and the AI isn't exactly the greatest either. The biggest deal breaker though, are times when the game has forgotten you've solved a puzzle to pass through a section, but locks the door and leaves the puzzle solved, meaning you are forever locked out, seeing as reloading a save doesn't fix this problem. Say goodbye to 6+ hours! It's this kind of game-breaking bug that knocks the game down more than a few pegs.
Lego Harry Potter is an odd creature. It's an honestly fun experience, looks great and ties the two franchises together very well. However, the bugs and glitches are severe enough to break any suspension of disbelief and ruin most of the fun. While some players will never see a single glitch at all, others may get locked out of their own save files and have to restart from the beginning and risk it all again. If it had stayed in testing a little longer, Lego Harry Potter could have been a much better game, but instead it's stuck in mediocrity.