“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
There are few companies out there that embody the above idiom quite as strongly as the hugely successful Traveller’s Tales. Since hitting it big with Lego Star Wars, Traveller’s Tales has churned out at least one Lego game a year to mostly high levels of both commercial and critical success. From Star Wars to Indiana Jones and Batman to Harry Potter, it seems that just about any franchise can be squeezed into the company’s rather brilliant Lego bashing template.
While the core theme of co-op centric gameplay built around the principles of simplistic combat, rudimentary puzzles and the consistent draw of collection has always remained the same, the Lego series of videogames has actually done a pretty good job of evolving the central concept while keeping that winning formula intact – and that’s exactly what they have done once again for Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7. All the Lego hallmarks are present and accounted for with success and progression achieved by the same means as they have always been. If you’re tiring of the Lego template, this addition to the series might be a push too far, but for those still enjoying the collection heavy gameplay, the latest Harry Potter entry will deliver the most polished and perfectly crafted world yet.
Other than a higher level of polish than ever before, the one thing that makes Harry Potter stand out from the crowd is the way in which the rules of the Harry Potter universe are such a natural fit for the general Lego mechanics. The use of a wand or spell to break and rebuild or to unlock new paths feels much more natural than it does in other games. Sure, Traveller’s Tales made it work for Indiana Jones and Batman, but unlike in those cases, here, the fit feels organic and in no way forced. If you had never played a Lego videogame before (as if), you could easily be mistaken for believing that the game was built around the source material rather than the other way around.
Following the story of the last three books and last four movies, Years 5-7 inevitably covers similar ground to the proceeding Years 1-4 release. You still have Hogwarts as your major hub and you inevitably have a crossover in the characters available to you, but like the films upon which the game is base, Years 5-7 does benefit from a tonal shift towards the darker source material and a more grown up cast of characters. This is seen not only in the cut-scenes (which are still hilarious despite the darker tone) but also in Hogwarts itself, which is now seen from enough unique angles to make it feel like a fresh experience for returning players. Like the gameplay itself, there are no surprises in store, but for the millions of Harry Potter fans out there eager for another decent videogame adaptation of their beloved source material, Years 5-7 will no doubt deliver in spades.
Other than a very smart broomstick flight over London which shows that Traveller’s Tales can successfully move away from the core template when they are brave enough to do so, Years 5-7 is predictable but never anything less than wholly entertaining. They have done a great job of cutting to the core of the rather weighty material while once again showing their deft hand at balancing humour and reverence. Like always, the silent comedy delivered pokes fun at the material while still managing to celebrate everything that fans love about the series. The material isn’t quite as open to subtlety as the universally known Star Wars saga, but many of the nods are nonetheless smart and very funny.
Visually, the game isn’t going to blow anyone away, but Years 5-7 still stands as the best looking Lego videogame to date and a marked improvement over the already handsome Years 1-4. The lighting is impressive and the visuals are sharp, but like always, it’s the attention to detail that sets it apart from its peers. From the unique touches and nods to the source material to the fantastic animations that perfectly capture many of the characters defining features, Years 5-7 has something around every corner for fans of the series.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 will deliver zero surprises – this is Traveller’s Tales once again playing to their strengths and once again delivering a fantastic adaptation of a truly beloved movie franchise. It looks great and delivers that magical gameplay combination of simple mechanics, basic puzzles and seemingly infinite collectibles with aplomb. It may be a little disappointing to see Traveller’s Tales stick so rigidly to their winning formula, but when the results are this polished, it’s hard to remain upset for too long. I would love to see a bit more expansion next time around, but for now, Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 still represents the finest videogame adaptation of the Harry Potter movies and one of the best excuses to play videogames with your family this Christmas.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox 360 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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