With the release of the final part of Harry Potter’s movie adaptation mid-last year, it was inevitable that a game covering it would be released in its wake. Enter Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7, released in November that year and recently ported to the Mac, and PlayStation Vita.
If you've never played Traveller’s Tales’ Lego crossover games, their premise is simple: take a movie (such as Star Wars, or Indiana Jones), and render iconic scenes from them in Lego blocks. The players then take on the role of minifigs (Lego men) based off characters from the movies, and run through the world in a spree of cartoonish violence. It’s a fun idea, and even better when played with friends.
Even in the darker end trilogy, Harry Potter lends itself well to the bright, colourful, and over-exaggerated Lego aesthetic. Traveller’s Tales’ Lego-inspired slapstick humour is a natural fit, and the idea of another take on Rowling's world is quite nice.
Even with all these points in its favour, Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is probably the weakest member of the Lego crossover franchise.
It is almost painful to see the wasted potential and bizarre design decisions flowing off the screen from minute one. Where previous Lego games relied on action, large open areas, and larger set pieces to tell a story, Lego Harry Potter puts the focus on banal puzzles and tiny spaces.
The player is given a temptingly large arsenal of magic spells and special abilities, most of which don’t work at all outside of the extremely contrived situations separating sections of a level. Even then, there is very little player interaction beyond reacting to the glaring on-screen prompts.
If there is any challenge in the game, it comes from trying to match up an area with its movie or book counterpart. While the cutscenes have their occasional funny moments in retelling Harry Potter through lego pantomime, they are largely as disjointed and full of non-sequiturs as the rest of the gameplay. Casual and dedicated Harry Potter fans will be hard-pressed to work out much of what is going on in and outside of the actual gameplay.
The Lego crossover staples of extra content to find and unlock through multiple playthroughs are there. However, due to the uncomfortably cramped levels, the barriers to extra content are intrusive in normal play, and the secrets are not worth the extra effort.
The game makes poor use of the Vita, as well. The cutscenes are pre-rendered and painfully different from what actual play looks like, the touchscreen features are clumsy and add little to the game, and save/load times are uncomfortably intrusive.
The most disappointing part, however, is that multiplayer has been completely gutted from the game. It’s just not a Lego crossover game without the option of playing along with a friend, and it’s especially odd when the Vita’s local and online play features are heavily touted.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is a disappointing re-release to a disappointing entry in a great series. If you’re a truly committed fan of both Harry Potter and Lego, it might be worth a look. There’s just no real reason to pick it up on the Vita.
Lasting Appeal: 3