Should I Buy? – LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7


A brief look back over my posts will show that I’m quite the fan of Traveller’s Tales  series of LEGO games based around famous franchises. I was quite taken with LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 in particular for its emphasis on puzzles and exploration instead of the more linear, simple formula the earlier games had relied on. It wasn’t their best game, sure, but it was a fun experiment. So surely Years 5-7  must be a refinement on the original and a true classic of the series, right? Eh, not really.

It’s not a bad game by any means. It will occupy your time. It’s not that there’s a whole raft of problems holding it back, it’s more that Years 5-7 is just…going through the motions.

It recreates the films pretty faithfully, with the slapstick humour the LEGO games are so well known for. This does lead to some odd choices in order to fill out the necessary twenty four levels, but seeing a they’re pretty much all based around solving puzzles it’s not as noticeable or annoying as with other games.

A weakness of Years 1-4 was that the minimal fighting and lacklustre bosses meant levels often felt free of tension or danger and that’s certainly still present to an extent. There are more enemies added in when it makes sense, but the bosses aren’t really improved much. Most of them are just the same ‘puzzle’ recycled.

There is a true improvement on the combat, though, as Duelling has been added. You and your opponent stand in a circle and have to cast the appropriate spells to hurt each other. Again, it’s recycled without variation and is basically just another puzzle, but it does help to add variety and keep things fresh.

By far my favourite part of Years 1-4 was how Hogwarts was full of secrets to uncover, and as you learned new spells and abilities you could explore more and more. It helped pace the game and  give a real sense of growth to your main trio, seeing as you were almost always stuck with playing as them.  And yes, your characters do have to relearn a lot of their spells and there are special abilities you’ll need to get from buying other characters, but there isn’t the same sense of exploratory wonder any more.

Partly this is because your characters, despite the depowering, still have a large selection of powers off the bat. By the time you’ve played a good chunk of the story levels, you’ll have almost all of them. And finally, either finding all the collectibles is that much easier in this game or I’ve become some sort of LEGO game Zen master. Regardless, I got 50% in under two days without even trying.

My biggest problem with Years 1-4 was that if you needed another character’s skills while roaming Hogwarts, you had to backtrack all the way to a Polyjuice Potion in order to do it. Thankfully, Years 5-7  lets you use any cauldron in the Hub areas as any of the four available potions, and using a Polyjuice Potion gives you a wheel of characters who cover all the skills (provided you’ve bought a character with the necessary skills) to flick between with the press of a button. Problem though, why do I need to use a Polyjuice Potion before I can use this feature? It’s unnecessary busywork.

Should you buy Years 5-7? If it’s going cheap and you want a light distraction or are/have a rabid Potterhead in your life, sure. But it’s not one of the classics of the series. It’s an also-ran. It fixes a few problems of the original but fails to offer anything substantive or new enough to make it stand out.

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Should I Buy? – LEGO Lord Of The Rings


Who’d have thought that not only would the  gimmicky idea of mashing up LEGO and Star Wars into a videogame for kids not only work, but endure for nearly a decade without stagnating and branch out into some of the most beloved nerd culture franchises of all time? So far it’s taken on Star Wars, Indiana Jones, DC Comics, Harry Potter, Pirates Of The Carribean and now Lord Of The Rings. There was even that Rock Band spin-off that was actually better than Rock Band (not that that’s hard) .

Oh, and next for the franchise? Marvel Comics. No really, they’re making a LEGO Marvel game that will have over 100 characters including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Wolverine, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Deadpool, Loki and Galactus. I know!

After that? Almost definitely a Hobbit game. Another DC Comics game to capitalise on the planned Justice League film also really likely. Somebody gets these guys the rights to do Doctor Who and Star Trek. Not just the new revivals either, both new and classic versions of both shows should be made into LEGO games.

Anyway, the question you clicked on this link to have answered is “is LEGO LOTR any good?” Rest assured, it is. Maybe not the best, but certainly up there with titles like LEGO Batman 2 LEGO Star Wars 2.

Squeezing Peter Jackson’s three Lord Of The Rings films into one videogame took a fair amount of compression that really shows at times. Sure, all the key scenes and plot points are recreated but this is one of if not the first time a LEGO game has cut out parts of its source material that could have made great levels, rather than expand small action beats into full levels.

This is most readily apparent with the Return of the King section, where Denethor is completely absent, and there’s no night raid on Osgiliath, no attempt to reclaim it, no trying to take over the Black Fleet, no lighting of the Beacons and no battle in the streets of Minas Tirith.

While it is a shame that both these and sections that weren’t in the film like the Barrow Wight aren’t in the game, the levels that are there are fun, varied and of a good length. Unfortunately, not all the characters are as great. Oh sure, their designs are all spot on but some like Merry and Pippin don’t get that much to do while others like Legolas, Gimli and Sam are so incredibly useful you’ll spend most of your time as them.

While it is fantastic that they’ve recycled the audio from the films, with both Howard Shore’s music and the original actor’s voices, none of the voices were re-recorded to make them better match the heavily shortened cut-scenes. It’s not a huge problem, but the flow from one line to the next isn’t quite as natural as it was in the films in terms of emotion or emphasis.

They’ve made a fairly big deal out of how Middle-Earth is a completely free roaming experience, and you can literally walk from Bag End to the Crack of Doom on the world map, passing through all the key locations. It’s scaled down just enough so that it feels big enough to encompass all those locations and secret collectibles yet not so big that it’s a chore to navigate and even if you do feel that way, there’s also a fast travel system in place.

While there’s just about every character you can think of from the films and a few more like Radagast and Tom Bombadil thrown in, most of them don’t have any innate special skills that make them useful in Free Play, and there’s basically no enemy exclusive skills you’ll need to collect so it can often seem like you’re doing it for its own sake.

There is a way to remedy this, however, with the also much vaunted item forging system. By collecting Mythril bricks, which replace the traditional Gold Bricks, and the appropriate schematics you can craft a large variety of items that give your character access to abilities they don’t normally have. By the time you’ve forged a good chunk of these items, you can pretty much demolish the entire game as characters like Arwen, Eomer, Rosey Cotton, Faramir or Lurtz.

But even this throws up a new problem. That’s not an option until you’ve already completed a good chunk of the game and fun as it is to replay levels and the like, a major part of the fun in LEGO games is going back to find all the crazy secrets as characters you love and/or didn’t get to use the first time round. Sure, the inventory system means that almost every character is precisely as useful as every other, but it takes a damn long time for that to happen. Time you’ll spend playing primarily as Sam and Legolas.

To talk about the controls, there are some problems there too. In order to access the inventory, you have to hold down a button to bring it up, from which you scroll through the items which seem to have no real order to them and pick one out. This is often way slower than just quickly switching to an on-hand character.

Also, most Mithril items can only be wielded one at a time and can’t be placed in a character’s own inventory, so every time you want a new one it’s back into the confusing menu. The only items that do get placed in your inventory (other than ones you pick up from the world map in the levels) are the various cosmetic items like the Goggles, Shimmering Armour and Statue Hat.

Switching characters is something which should be perfected by now, but LEGO Lord Of The Rings contains the most infuriating problems yet. For starters, the ‘press button to open character wheel, hold to bring up big menu’ thing quite often doesn’t register that you’re actually holding the button and just plain switches you over to the other character (at least on the XBOX 360 version). This isn’t too bad in and of itself, but when you’re in the middle of a particularly long or difficult platforming section and when you accidentally switch to Samwise waiting at the bottom and the character you were playing as has jumped halfway back to you by the time it switches back, it is really annoying.

There’s also an odd problem where the game seems to want to keep you as having one Hobbit sized and one human sized character at all times, perhaps to further enforce that Samwise and Legolas are the Gods of LEGO Middle-Earth. See, if you’re playing as Legolas but want to switch over to say, Frodo for his Vial of Earendil, the game will switch you to playing as the Hobbit in the player 2 slot and then change *them* into Frodo whenver you’re in Free Play or wandering the world map after finishing the story. Again, this doesn’t really become a problem until you’re in the middle of a platforming section, but they make up a a fair portion of the levels and a huge chunk of the post-story collect everything stage of the game.

None of this is insurmountable or game-breaking, merely frustrating. Oh, and like all the other LEGO games, there’s a fair few mostly harmless bugs to be found in this game.

Again, I feel like I’ve been way too hard on a game I actually really like. LEGO Lord Of The Rings has all the charm and polished design the rest of the series has, and a greater reliance on sight gags has meant they can keep their trademark humour without compromising the serious tone of the story.

There’s a lot of content, most of the collectibles can either be plainly marked on your world map, or are hidden in easy-to-find places and behind puzzles with an obvious start point in the levels themselves, so you can work through it all at a sold and productive pace without getting it done in a few dedicated sessions.

The puzzles and boss fights have by and large been simplified, but giving that this is a series aimed at kids being more readily accessible to both children and people who don’t frequently play videogames is really a plus rather than a negative. Actually, it’s probably one of the most easily accessible LEGO games out there.

In a sense, it is to Peter Jackson’s film trilogy what the Jackson trilogy is to the books. After a long time, finally a truly great conversion to another medium that cuts, changes and compresses where it needs to in order to fit itself into a new medium.

If it being a fun, long-lasting and well designed game isn’t enough by itself, let it be known that what you see below is real in game footage of an item that actually exists.

Should I Buy? – LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes


Over the last nine years, the LEGO crossover games have slowly been refining their mechanics and it’s pretty obvious with LEGO Batman 2 that they’re still working on it. As fun as LEGO Batman 2 is, it’s pretty rough around the edges. In some places, it’s just a few niggling bugs that shouldn’t have made it through, in others its design choices that are confusing or questionable.

The LEGO Harry Potter and LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean  games experimented with a fairly limited sandbox as opposed to the traditional mission hubs that you can adventure through and explore to find secrets, and LEGO Batman 2 ups the ante by giving you all of Gotham when you’re not playing the story mode. There’s a wealth of content including villains to defeat, heroes to discover, citizens to save and more beside. It’s almost a shame that the weeks you could spend finding all this stuff can be muted to a couple of afternoons once you find the cheats that point out the locations of all these things.

Travelling around the map itself can be a bit of a headache. Of course running about is way too slow unless you’re The Flash, so you’ll want to rely on vehicles and the power of flight to get around. The actual unlockable vehicles like the Batmobile and Two-Face’s truck are really fast, to the point where trying to drive them in anything other than a straight line is a hassle. Flight itself works great for gross motor control, but when you try to make small movements to, say, land on a small roof, things get infuriatingly fiddly.

That said, flying is fun and fast and pretty widely available. Just in the course of playing through the story, you’ll unlock Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern as flying heroes so actual aircraft become rather pointless. Not quite as pointless as aquatic vehicles though, which have no use other than the Gold Brick containing driving courses. When you play one of the rare vehicle levels, you don’t even get the choice of your unlocked vehicles. It’s kind of a mystery why they bothered, and this is one of the areas where the game where things get questionable.

What about the story mode? Well, it’s the first fully voiced LEGO crossover game and the second to use an original story, so it’s a pretty big change from the standard format. The humour is much less slapstick this time around, but still has that same goofy, irreverent charm which is really helped by the healthy application of DCAU VAs reprising their roles and other experienced VAs  stepping into the empy slots. Christopher Corey Smith’s Joker is fine, but does lack the range and sheer insanity of Mark Hammil’s, Troy Baker makes for a good Batman, though I do miss Kevin Conroy. The real star of the show is Clancy Brown’s Lex Luthor, whose deep voice is equally adept at making Lex sinister and comedic.

The story itself is just as silly as you’d expect, with some pretty questionable logic on the villain’s part. Fifteen levels being pretty short as far as a LEGO crossover game goes and the story feels truncated and aguely unsatisfying for it. Any villain that isn’t the Joker or Luthor get the short end of the stick, basically being reduced to cameos. Still, the levels are fun and make good use of the character’s abilities.

Remember how in the original LEGO Batman the hero levels were the most boring because the limited number of abilities meant there were only so many ways you could be asked to solve a puzzle?  2 handles the situation a lot better, with the new Suits Batman and Robin wear each having two different abilities instead of just one and the design requiring a lot more cooperation than before. And when Superman comes on the scene, he’s just as powerful as you’d expect. He’s super strong, can fly, has heat vision, ice breath and is completely invulnerable to damage. However, he can’t demolish levels by himself and relies on Batman and Robin to fill in the gaps for him, meaning that the other two don’t turn into useless loads.

If nothing else, LEGO Batman 2 is a great representation of why Batman and Superman make such a good team. Unfortunately, there’s no villain levels this time around to counterbalance the hero ones which might leave you feeling short changed, given how the original game had twice the levels.

The much vaunted inclusion of characters from across the DCU doesn’t really make itself apparent until the end of the game. Apart from Cyborg, they’re not high on the versatility scale so you probably won’t be using them much unless you’re a real fan. Green Lantern and Flash do have unique abilities, but it’s pretty rare that you’ll need them. Actually, Aquaman is more useful than they are in the grand scheme of things. Aquaman! Among the Batman villains, there’s also a few from other heroes like General Zodd, Brainiac and Sinestro. Though this leads me to one of the design choices that annoys me most. Sinestro can’t build Green bricks like Green Lantern, but there are no Yellow bricks for him to use, and neither of them get a ranged attack, so Sinestro only gets to fly and Green Lantern’s one special trick is very situational.

But that’s a minor complaint. And those are all I can really muster. It looks great, it’s funny, the soundtrack mixes Superman and Batman music together well, there’s plenty of content for the explorers to find and hey, where else can you play as Huntress, Hawkgirl, Ra’s Al Ghul or Captain Boomerang? Also, whenever you take to the skies of Gotham as Superman, that music plays.

Should I Buy? – LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga


Who doesn’t love LEGO or Star Wars? If you don’t, you might not be human. Not judging. Just saying. When I first heard the news about the first game being in development, I was really excited. The Complete Saga is actually two games stitched together into one, one based on the Prequel Trilogy and the second based on the Original Trilogy.

Thankfully, these interpretations of the Prequels are much more fun to sit through than the films. For those of you without a soul and ergo have not played the LEGO games yet, you (and a friend if you wish) control little LEGO versions of the characters as you play through the events of the films with all that plot and dialogue removed and replaced with funny cutscenes and puzzles.

And it’s really fun. It’s got a tangible affection for the source material and a light, breezy style. See, each character has a variety of skills which have simple applications in puzzle solving. Force users can build stuff, robots can use panels, guys with blasters can shoot targets etc. The levels don’t outstay their welcome but if you want something really deep and meaty you’re better off looking elsewhere.

There’s a few kinks, the partner AI is terrible and can’t kill any enemies, blaster characters from the Prequels can’t dodge at all (and Chewie, for some reason) and there’s vehicle sections which are…well, vehicle sections.

Where a lot of the replay value for this game comes in the option to replay levels with any available characters to find more secrets or to see Yoda kick Vader’s ass. There’s also a lot of fun to be had playing with friends, and the simple gameplay means that anyone from kids to adults can enjoy it together. Seriously, if you’re looking for something you can play with a young child like a daughter or a nephew or a little sibling for some ‘quality bonding time’, the LEGO games are great. And it means you don’t have to fall off Rainbow Road all the time.

So yeah, it’s fun, colourful, charming, family friendly and great for pick up and play sessions. Seriously consider investing in this. Just don’t get the one based on the Clone Wars TV series. That’s supposed to be terrible.

Price: (CEX) £15 – PS3
(CEX) £20 – XBOX 360
(CEX) £15 – Nintendo Wii
(Steam) £14.99 – PC

Should I Buy? – LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4


This is a rather special edition of Should I Buy, as it’s being written to commemorate the release of the final Harry Potter film. Still, you all know of J.K. Rowling’s seven book phenomenon, so I don’t need to reiterate the premise or other such details here.

I did review this game before, along with several other LEGO games from Traveller’s Tales. However, they really do warrant being talked about individually so that’s what I’m going to do here.

LHP is the result of the LEGO game formula being refined through its four previous incarnations. And that’s really tangible here. Instead of trying to shoe-horn in unnecessary combat or stray from the events of the books or films to create dramatic sequences to the extent that the LEGO Star Wars games did.

The game derives most of its gameplay through using your various magical abilities to manipulate your environment so you can proceed. While this is hardly new to the LEGO formula, they’ve clearly learnt from past mistakes. While it can still be unclear what you’re meant to do at times, the game cleverly changes the aesthetics of the puzzle enough so that you never really realise you’re only ever using the same dozen or so techniques.

Instead of the traditional hub from which you jump into any of the available levels, the game takes a more narratively structured approach. Once you’ve gone past the first level, you’re free to wander around Hogwarts Castle to your next lesson or level by following Nearly Headless Nick. Or you can simply explore the castle, looking for secrets and unlockables.

A lot of these can’t be found until you learn new spells though, which in turn require you to play through the game to acquire from the various lessons. This means that the castle opens up gradually to you as you play, and at certain times of the plot it’ll be covered in snow or soaked in rain as it was when the events you’re playing through took place.

Diagon Alley is a location that you can return to at any time, and serves as a more traditional hub alongside Hogwarts. Here you can buy characters from Madam Malkin’s, play secret levels at Gringotts, replay levels from the Leaky Cauldron and many more. All of these feel very characterful and shows how much attention was paid to LHP in the design phase. My favourite touch though is that if you want to switch your character while exploring Hogwarts to somebody with a special ability you need, you have to brew some Polyjuice Potion.

There are a few frustrations with the game however. I can understand that they needed a lot of characters for us to find in the huge castle and all the levels, but why would I want to play as a Milkman? Or Harry’s Dragon Task outfit as opposed to one of the six other outfits I have for him? This kind of ‘reward’ is anticlimactic and unsatisfying.

Speaking of which, the levels do suffer somewhat from the lack of external conflict. What combat there is is very simplistic, with all enemies but Dementors requiring only a spell or two to defeat. And even then Dementors only require one hit from an Expecto Patronum, which only certain characters have and takes ages to cast. They don’t show up often either which is something I praised earlier and indeed it’s not something they should have changed but the levels don’t ever feel tense.

They’re also rather short. If the puzzle or solution is not obvious, blow up everything in site until it does. They’re fairly fun and never really dull, but outside of the context of the story, they don’t have the same excitement factor or length that previous titles did.

Still, the game has bosses! Surely they must heighten the atmosphere right? To an extent. They tend to just be puzzles you have to solve while under attack. They’re not terribly complicated, and don’t feel like bosses in the way ones from a Final Fantasy or a Zelda game do. They’re not bad, they’re just not bosses like you’d expect the Basilisk or Professor Quirrell to be.

All that aside, I do still recommend this game. It’s fun, charming and slightly more cerebral than the other LEGO games, though not too much so that a child playing the game couldn’t figure it out with some patience. The only reason I’d say not to buy it is if you’re looking for a way into the Harry Potter universe. It’s taken for granted that you know what’s going on and that knowledge will come in handy. Sure I know to touch Quirrell to harm him, but the game doesn’t tell an uninitiated to.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then this is a great game regardless of your age. It has a real tangible affection for the source material and the trademark LEGO humour is as strong here as ever.

Price: XBOX 360: £18 (CEX)
PS3: £15 (CEX)
Wii: £12 (CEX)
DS: £15 (CEX)
PSP: £10 (CEX)
PC: £5 (CEX) £19.99 (Steam)

Should I Buy? – The LEGO Games


OK the last review was a long on. I had to explain what I was doing, then give context to the game and then talk about the writing and both sides of gameplay. I imagine it was so long some of you didn’t bother to read all of it. So today, I’m picking something both more ‘casual friendly’ and easier to get a shorter review on.

Everybody hear loves LEGO right? That wonderful Danish invention, it was certainly the best toy I had growing up. Well it seems Telltale Games loves LEGO too. They’ve spent years making LEGO games based on various famous film licenses Warner Bros. owns.

Because I’m writing about four different game, you can zoom to one using Ctrl + F then typing in the key LSW, LIJ, LB or LHP to find the one you want.

Now the reason I can review LEGO Star Wars I & II, Indiana Jones, Batman and Harry Potter Years 1 -4 is because they’re all very similar in play style and, conveniently, I own them all. Also, these are all available on 360, PS3, PC, Wii and most are available on the handhelds. These are great for more casual gamers as you can’t actually lose, just die and respawn a few seconds later a little poorer.

As a note, the handheld version may lack some features or characters and have new ones to compensate. I’ve also heard about some of them having dire performance bugs, and they lack local co-op play. I’d advise getting these on consoles.

OK, so here’s how a LEGO game work. They’re based around three or four films and let you replay scenes from those films as fully interactive levels that are full of puzzles, combat and things to blow up. The cutscenes lack any dialogue, meaning that what little story they give is done through mime, and all the scenes work in a few good jokes too. Once you beat the levels in Story Mode (which you can easily do with a friend, the game has full co-op compatibility) you unlock them in Free Play where you can go back through them as any character you want to unlock all their hidden goodies.

See, each character has special abilities. For example, in LEGO Star Wars only Stormtroopers can use special Stormtrooper doors, only characters with blasters can grapple, only Force users can interact with certain objects and in some cases you need Dark Force powers. This, combined with the ability to unlock a whole range of characters from the games’ source material and even a character creator system gives the games great re-playability.

They do have their cons as well as pros, and before I talk about each game in turn briefly I want to talk about the flaws the series as a whole has. The camera moves along a set path throughout the game, which can be dodgy but is generally OK. In co-op though, some games won’t let the two of you move too far apart because you share the same screen. In other, you can because if you get too far apart the game becomes splitscreen which can be really confusing when it happens.

If you’re playing solo, then you’re stuck with a crappy AI partner. They’re incapable of killing enemies (not for lack of trying) and about the only thing they can do is help you with puzzles. You do one part, they do their part. The stupid AI can also get stuck on a jumping section because it keeps respawning to and jumping from a point that it can’t reach the other side from. You’ll occasionally have to take a break from doing your LEGO  thang to unstick the AI, and that’s never fun.

LSW
OK, let’s get started with LEGO Star Wars. Now if you’re going to buy these avoid the latest release and instead plonk for The Complete Saga. This is both LSW I & II combined, and covers the six films. The first game has you play mostly as Jedi, and here the puzzles are quite simplistic, use Character A on Object B type stuff. And if there’s no solution around, just hit stuff til so it explodes, you’ll find something to use. The second has a few levels as Jedi Luke, but most of the characters use blasters so shooty combat got upgraded. Now shooter heroes (excpet Chewie, for some reason) automatically dodge attacks if you press the attack button. The levels here are longer and focus more on puzzles. Overall, these two are a great buy buy still a bit on the pricey side. Steam will give it to you for £15 if you want it on PC, but I maintain these are best on console where you’ll be charged roughly £20 to get it preowned. Steep. Then again, it’ll be a bit cheaper if you get the PS2 version, but not much.

LIJ

Now, Indiana Jones, I haven’t played the second one, only the first. The first covers the original trilogy of Raiders, Temple and Crusade while the second has these ones with redesigned levels and the fourth film. The levels are as well designed and cutscenes as enjoyable as ever, but this game does have its problems. The heroes don’t really have that much in the way of unique abilities, so you’ll spend a lot of the game picking up weapons and tools to help you through the levels. This works fine most of the time, but some tools really limit your character’s combat ability and if you’ve had to put on a ‘hat’ as a disguise, one hit will knock it right off.

That’s another thing, the combat in this game doesn’t feel properly balanced. The game will throw hordes of bad guys at you, often armed with guns. This means you’ll die a lot and lose a lot of in game currency (studs) in some locations. In one level, there’s an area that almost makes me turn the game off rather than play it every time. Then, on other levels there’ll be nothing but a few barely noticeable spiders, and you’ll have to puzzle your way through the entire thing. This does make thematic sense, there’s no reason for Nazis to be in the tomb they just trapper you in after all. And I actually had more fun with these levels, because the puzzles are more complex and feel rewarding to solve. Ultimately, this game’s more of a mixed bag of tricks than a straight up recommendation. I’d say buy another one first. The Steam price is £13 and CEX asks about £10. This is also available on PS2.

LB

Ah, Batman. It was inevitable I’d buy this someday. So inevitable, I’ve bought it three times. Not because this is the best LEGO game necessarily, but because I’m such a sucker for Batman. The game has two halves, the Hero Missions and their villainous counterparts. This is the only LEGO game to use original plots, such as they are, rather than follow a film chronology. In this, a whole bunch of Batman’s villains break out of Arkham Asylum and split into three groups to do evil stuff. You’re Batman and Robin. You stop them.

Each level has the Dynamic Duo go after one of these baddies in a themed level and then fight them at the end as a boss. To compensate for the limited characters you get to play as in these missions, both the Caped Crusader and the Boy Wonder get four additional costumes that give them special powers that are scattered throughout the level. They do mean the game gets to be more complex than ‘punch things’, but some of them near useless while others are just annoying. Sure, they’re serviceable, but you’ll probably get fatigued of them before the game’s over. Also, a couple are near useless in the story missions, and almost as much so during free play.

The villain missions let you see the events that led to the levels you played in the other missions. You don’t get to play as every villain, but they’re all unlockable. Also, none of your boss fights here wear a cape. Most just don’t end with one. Most villains have at least two powers that the heroes don’t have access to, so the puzzles in these missions require different things of you, meaning the villain levels are a breath of fresh air.

Despite this being the darkest LEGO game, both thematically and visually (what with it all taking place in Gotham ‘the sun never shines’ City), the cutscenes retain their humour. Special mention goes out to Batman STILL being serious and competent in a LEGO game, while Robin goofs in the background. That said, Batman’ll still get a few laughs out of you. Another thing I love is that while Batman uses big beefy strikes and throws to fight, Robin uses more agile kicks and tumbles. This is a really nice characterful touch.

Damage wise, this is the best deal. roughly £10 both preowned and on Steam.

LHP

Finally, we reach the most different game of them all. Remember all that visceral combat in the Harry Potter films? How many times did that Herbology class seem so kick ass you couldn’t wait to play a game about it? Yeah, no and never right? This has been a problem with making Harry Potter games, but Telltale have cracked it with their mix of puzzling and platforming.

As you move through the films your characters learn more spells and gain a few abilities, and you have to use these in the most puzzle based LEGO game yet. The levels aren’t based on the easiest material to use and while there’s nothing really wrong with them, they do suffer from some quite extreme brevity when put alongside the other games. Still, the levels aren’t the real focus of the game. Instead, you get to use these magical powers to explore Hogwarts. As you go to more classes and gets more spells, you can interact with different parts of the castle to find collectibles and secret areas.

This can get frustrating at times because some parts require you having a character you haven’t found the token that lets you buy them, and you’ll have to scour some likely levels to find it, but for the most part the exploration is really fun in a ‘Gotta Catch ‘Em All’ kinda way. In terms of price, Steam’ll give it to you for £20, and preowned it’s between about £15-£20 depending on the platform.

OK so this was another long post, but I reviewed four whole games! C’mon people, work with me here! Anyways, I’d recommend any one of them as a fun distraction or to play with a younger sibling or a friend or partner who’s not particularly interested in games. They’re fun, simple and funny. If you don’t enjoy the LEGO games, you have no soul. Not judging, just saying.

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