LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 covers the books/movies "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" and "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." If you're used to thinking of the final book as a two-part movie, you'll be happy to learn that the game treats each half as a separate "year." Voldemort is back, and it's up to the player to destroy the seven Horcruxes to defeat the Dark Lord.
The story is told in cut scenes with mime instead of words, often with a few silly changes and gags. As with other LEGO titles, some scenes are almost incomprehensible without prior knowledge of events from either the books or movies. More casual fans will be confused instead of amused, but it's not as if people play LEGO games for their deep narrative.
The LEGO games are platformers with a focus on co-op play, simple puzzles and basic combat. They're designed to be very accessible to players of all ages, so they have forgiving game mechanics and offer constant rewards. The primary rewards are studs, which are one-piece LEGO blocks, which serve as currency and can be traded for new characters or bonus items. You earn studs by solving puzzles, defeating enemies or advancing the game. The only punishment for death is losing some studs. It's a simple but rewarding system, as it allows you to play the game without fear. Doing well earns you rewards, but even the youngest player can get through the game.
Since LEGO Harry Potter is a game about wizards, a good portion of the gameplay to revolve around magical spells. While there are a couple of Muggle (non-magic users) characters, most of the available LEGO folks are various witches and wizards with amazing magical powers. When you start the game, it's the beginning of the fifth year, or the book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix." Dolores Umbridge is teacher of Defense Against the Dark Arts, and she refuses to teach magic since she thinks that Dumbledore is planning to use the students to attack the Ministry of Magic. As such, Harry is stripped of everything but the basic "lift" power (Wingardium Leviosa) and his cloak of invisibility.
You gain new abilities as you progress. Each spell is basically a different way to solve puzzles. Your go-to spell is Wingardium Leviosa, but there are others, like the light-summoning Lumos, but they're more puzzle-based. You usually get a lesson beforehand that explains how the spell works, and it's a good enough tutorial that even young kids can pick it up quickly. The aforementioned Lumos, for example, lights up dark areas or makes magical plants back off. There's no punishment for using the wrong spell, so it's fine to experiment from time to time if you can't figure out what to do next. When in doubt, though, you'll find that Wingardium Leviosa gets you through most situations. Some new spells are introduced in LHPY5-7, such Aguamenti, which allows you to put out small fires and make plants grow.
Staying true to the series' darker and more action-oriented ending, dueling makes its debut in LHPY5-7. You enter the duel "ring" and engage the opposing wizard. You both must cast the same spell to commence an attack, so pay attention to the color of the half-circle around the foe and switch to the appropriately colored spell. You can also toss up a shield to block incoming attacks while you're cycling through your spells.
Unlike the last LHP title, LHPY5-7 spends some time outside of the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. You'll explore locations like the Forbidden Forest, Godric's Hollow, Grimmauld Place, Horcrux Cave and the Ministry of Magic.
There are a number of students in peril that you can find scattered around Hogwarts and in the game levels. Students can be trapped in the geometry of Hogwarts, be bullied by older students or endangered by animals. Rescuing them rewards you with studs and other useful items. You'll earn neat rewards, including additional playable characters and gold bricks, which can be used to access new areas.
Alas, the game is rather short. If you care only about the main plot, you can probably run through it in a single night, but that ignores the ridiculous amount of available side content. Unlocking characters and spells allows you to do things in earlier areas of the game that you couldn't on your first playthrough. Like most LEGO titles, the name of the game here is replayability. The more you replay stages, the more characters, extras, gold bricks, red bricks, students in peril and studs you unlock. You can travel to Diagon Alley to buy more characters and content. It's a cycle, but a good one, and encourages replay. This level of repetition might get tiresome for adults, but it seems endlessly entertaining for the younger ones. There's a surprising amount of content packed into the game, and it should last for quite some time.
LHPY5-7 is a great multiplayer game. The co-op mode is great for kids to play together or for a parent to play with his or her child. Since there isn't strict punishment for failure or death, you're free to let the kids goof off until they need their parent's help to solve a puzzle. It may be an easy game, but it's hard to not get engrossed with some of the on-screen events, even if you're not a Harry Potter fan.
This is a pretty good-looking game, with all the charm and adorable quality that we've come to expect from LEGO titles. The LEGO aspect is used well, and Hogwarts looks like something you'd see built from the plastic blocks. There are 200 characters, but many are slight variations on the same character, like Harry in a different shirt. It's not a huge problem, as there are a lot of different characters to choose from, but collecting all of the characters is a little less fun when it's the same guy in a different hat. The soundtrack was good, mostly utilizing the iconic theme from the "Harry Potter" movies.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is a great game. It's full of life and detail, and there is a bunch of stuff to do. A variety of collectibles assures that the game will remain fun once you've finished the fourth year of the story. Perhaps the only complaints are a slight lack of variety in the playable characters and a few potentially disheartening glitches. Aside from that, LEGO Harry Potter is one of the better kids' titles on the market. It's an added bonus that adults enjoy the game, too.
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