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.