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LEGO Harry Potter Collection

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: TT Games
Release Date: Oct. 30, 2018

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Switch Review - 'LEGO Harry Potter Collection'

by Andreas Salmen on Feb. 5, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

LEGO Harry Potter Collection unites the creative prowess of LEGO and the expansive world of Harry Potter, with an exciting journey full of spell-casting, potion-making, puzzle-solving, lessons, dueling and much more for players young and old to enjoy.

Buy The LEGO Harry Potter Collection

Almost two years into the Nintendo Switch's retail life, and the stream of old game ports is still going strong. The latest such port that we're reviewing is The LEGO Harry Potter Collection, which combines the familiar LEGO gameplay with arguably one of the most interesting IPs to date. While the game itself is a known quantity with the expected ups and downs, it runs into some additional technical hiccups on the Switch.

The LEGO games have aged pretty well due to their minimalistic graphical representation, and the same holds true for The LEGO Harry Potter Collection. Harry Potter Years 1-4 (2010) and Harry Potter Years 5-7 (2011) comprise the collection, but they don't look as old their age when compared to most recent LEGO outings. Both titles were originally released for the last-generation PS3 and Xbox 360, with a similar remaster following on the current-gen PS4 and Xbox One. Both games in the collection are playable from the outset, so you can jump into either title right away. While they were released separately at the time, both games make more sense when experienced in a cohesive, chronological order, since they use similar mechanics and have a continuous story.

Unsurprisingly, both games aim to re-create the movie adaptations of the "Harry Potter" novels. Throughout the experience, we control Harry Potter and an exhaustive cast of both main and side characters as they roam around Hogwarts and other movie locales, eventually taking on Lord Voldemort at the end of the seventh year. While the game features a lot of open areas, it has more of a closed-level structure, unlike newer LEGO games, which feature increasingly larger open worlds to explore. LEGO Harry Potter and its re-creation of Hogwarts was a step up at the time, since it featured a larger-than-usual hub area (Hogwarts), but it's still far from what could be considered an open world.

That doesn't hinder the gameplay, as the actual re-creation and gameplay still work well to yield some addictive session for gamers of all ages. The environments aren't limited to Hogwarts, but it does take up the vast amount of the gameplay. Occasional visits to the Ministry of Magic or some locales in London are welcome distractions from the usual Hogwarts life. The latter stays the same across both games, but new skills and a few clever rearrangements assure that the school is not exactly the same in both games. Exploration remains enjoyable, even though you'll spend at least 20-25 hours within the school's walls to beat the story mode for both games.

The LEGO Harry Potter Collection obviously incorporates the usual gameplay mechanics that we've come to expect. We walk through enclosed LEGO areas that are partially comprised of the famous plastic bricks, and we try to collect a certain item, defeat an enemy, or pass a similar challenge to eventually advance.

The actual draw isn't the familiar gameplay but how well it has been adapted to fit the Harry Potter theme. Bricks explode, disassemble, and reassemble easily out of thin air with a simple magic spell. While it isn't much different from other LEGO games, it makes sense in the context of magical powers and environments. The game is playable either alone or with a friend in local co-op, both in docked and handheld mode. Ultimately, it's a mixture of a collect-a-thon, action-adventure game with very mild puzzle elements. At any given time, we control one character, but at least one more character is available in each level. We can swap between characters on the fly to use their unique abilities, and once a level is completed, we unlock more characters that can be used in free play mode.

The Harry Potter story is fairly well told here, including separate stages for each significant event in every movie, ranging from sneaking around Hogwarts to classes and boss battles. The tale is told in brief cut scenes with no dialogue, except for a few grunts and sighs. It's lovely to see, but it's not the perfect way to retell and summarize the key story elements in a kid-friendly format. Players who aren't already familiar with the story may have a tough time following some of the narrative, so a rough understanding of the movies is helpful.

Classes also double as events to unlock spells or potions that open up new possibilities to interact with the environment. Similar to a very light Metroidvania, new powers unveil new secrets in previously visited environments. Cauldrons are placed strategically for you to mix known potions to blow up a wall, get stronger, or copy someone else's appearance. Spells range from basic light and levitation magic to dueling and dark magic powers.

Gameplay also incorporates special skills that only specific characters possess. Harry Potter can open snake emblem doors using parseltongue, Hermione can open book shelves, and some characters have pets that can venture down small tubes or dig up useful items. While following the same gameplay loop, we have a range of activities that we can use, making the journey enjoyable and diverse if we take the time to look around and locate the hidden objects.

With these skills, we uncover secrets that include hidden areas, gold brick collectibles, new characters, and more studs. The balance of the spells and potions is a bit off, as our repertoire is fairly limited in the beginning, making it mind-numbingly easy to progress. After we gather a fair amount of spells and potions, it becomes a far more enjoyable adventure because interacting with the environment isn't as restrictive and obvious.

The LEGO Harry Potter Collection is easy since it's intended as family entertainment, and the difficulty level scales reasonably. Kids will enjoy the creative and interactive environments as well as the mild punishment should you meet a timely demise. Death only loses some studs, and the player respawns instantly. For the more serious gamer, the title has an insane amount of collectibles that aren't too easy to find, making it both an addictive and relaxing way to sink an hour here or there. Jumping in and out is facilitated by the Switch's portability. It's incredibly easy to lose yourself in a state of relaxation when playing and collecting just one more golden brick, saving the students in peril, or collecting all four house crests in a level.

It's not a magical experience in all respects, though. If you're used to newer LEGO games, The LEGO Harry Potter Collection will be a significant step back in world size, gameplay and visuals. If you want to, you could say it's a weaker title sprinkled with solid but known gameplay elements. It doesn't play perfectly, either. The fixed camera is a pain to get used to when in certain platforming sections. The angle of the camera can make it tough to judge whether you can make a jump, creating needlessly frustrating situations.

This also creates issues for some puzzle segments, where we can arrange large LEGO bricks freely on a platform. The bricks will sometimes get stuck in the background environment, but our movement is limited to a 2D plane, and there's no way to determine if the background is interfering with our movements. Add to that the usual glitches many LEGO games suffer from, like certain mission objectives not completing, the partial disappearance of the HUD, or character respawns in areas that result in an instant death. The issues aren't frequent, but they contribute to some rather frustrating moments.

Visually, both games in the collection look great, with Years 5-7 featuring the more refined gameplay and visual representation. With that being said, they both run rather inconsistently. Years 1-4 works like a charm no matter how you play and runs at 30 fps or higher in most instances, but Years 5-7 suffers from frequent frame drops and image stuttering. It's not unplayable, but it's definitely noticeable and hinders the enjoyment.

All in all, The LEGO Harry Potter Collection on Switch is a fun game that is suited for all ages, and it's best played with a friend or family member. The gameplay is simple fun, and it delivers one of the better LEGO stories and environments. It's a step back for players who are coming from newer LEGO experiences, and the title has its share of technical issues on the Switch that occasionally interfere with the gameplay, but if you can look beyond those blemishes, it can provide some fun times.

Score: 7.0/10

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