LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7
Personally, we find it a bit odd that 3DS just received its first Mario adventure roughly eight months after the system debuted, yet it already has three LEGO games, Star Wars and Pirates of the Caribbean being the first two.
That said, we expected LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 to be the best, largely because the developers had more time to learn the ins and outs of the hardware, but therein lay the catch. There's a reason Warner Bros. pumps out so many LEGO adventures. They are, for the most part, exactly the same, and Harry's is no exception.
As you probably deduced from the title, Years 5-7 follows the last three Potter books, as well as the remaining four films. The boy wizard continues on the path to his inevitable showdown with Lord Voldemort, with his trusty friends, Ron and Hermione, along the ride.
As such, you'll get to explore a variety of famous locales pulled from the fiction, such as Hogwarts, Diagon Alley and Privet Drive, along with new places never before experienced in a LEGO Harry Potter, including the Ministry of Magic and Godric's Hollow.
To that end, it's entirely your decision whether the saying, "played one Lego game, played them all" makes this worth a purchase. The game boils down to an untold number of fetch quests that involve putting things together to activate switches/open doors that normally result in some burst of collectable studs; you can also grab hidden wizard hats to unlock rewards.
The key to success involves figuring out which magic spell will get the job done (don't think too hard, the game readily supplies this info) and then casting it to repel enemies (Dementors, kids foolish enough to challenge Harry to a Wizard Duel) or complete some mundane task, like finding ingredients for a strange concoction, or freeing imprisoned characters, which more often than not get added to your stable of playable LEGO people, for a roster that goes well past 150.
That's where players will get the most value from the experience, by swapping out different characters and making use of their signature abilities to locate secrets.
While not a bad formula by any means, we struggled to stay awake playing this title. That's what years of the same old thing will do to people, and it doesn't help that the game features horribly compressed cut scenes most likely pulled from the console version. Not only do they look atrocious, but we also struggled to smile while viewing these mostly unfunny clips. A shame, since previous LEGO adventures are quite humorous.
Then we have the frame rate issues, where the game's speed dips when we activate glasses free 3D. That's quite disappointing, but on the flip side, 3D does little to enhance the visuals, so feel free to skip it altogether.
As for the graphics, the majority of the game appears dull and washed out like an old t-shirt. Colors don't pop like they do in the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions. At least, on the positive side, fans can still enjoy authentic music from the films.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is far from a disaster. Newcomers to the whole LEGO phenomenon will probably dig it, but the poor visuals, frame rate jitters and lackluster objectives left us wanting more. It's time for this franchise to evolve in a big way.
Review copy provided by Warner Bros.
What's Hot: Over 150 characters, familiar locations, lots of spells, quality soundtrack.
What's Not: Mundane objectives, performance issues with 3D turned on, faded graphics.