Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7

Year: 2010
Platform: Xbox 360, PS3
Publisher: WB Games
Developer: Traveler's Tales
Genre: Action/Adventure
Review Date: 1/20/12
Rating: ****

More Harry Potter fun from the folks at Traveler's Tales, but like the later movies, this game has a much darker and more dangerous atmosphere. The first thing you notice when you start playing is how sad the despondent the music is, which immediately sets the emotional tone for the rest of the game. Things get increasingly tense as the game progresses, until even the sanctuary of the game hub at the Leaky Cauldron is overrun with Death Eaters. But fortunately, all of this death, mayhem, and misery is handled with a light-hearted and irreverent touch, just like the other Lego games.

If you played the first Lego Harry Potter game, this one is simply more of the same. The mechanics are identical, and there are some new spells and abilities at your disposal. Hogwarts seems to have been trimmed down a bit, and there don't seem to be as many different areas to explore. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, since it was so easy to get lost in the first game. Instead of having multiple bonus levels, there's only one big Lego City bonus level where you have to score a million points. The story elements are quite charming and do a good job of recounting the events of the last four Harry Potter films. The cinematics are much more streamlined this time, and don't seem forced or overly long. The students are still pretty chatty, but not nearly as noisy this time around, which I'm glad for. There are also a couple of nice parodies of "Star Wars" and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" which are good for some chuckles. There are a full 200 characters to unlock, but purchasing and selecting them can be confusing and frustrating, since character tokens cycle through all of their variants.

I've been noticing that the Lego games keep getting easier, and the amount of hand-holding in this one is pretty ridiculous. None of the tasks in this game are particularly difficult and nothing really strains your brain or reflexes. Collecting and mailing parcels is extremely simple, as opposed to some of the dastardly parcel puzzles in "Lego Indiana Jones", and there are no sinister time-based vehicle puzzles like in the "Lego Star Wars" games. This game also does away with the dorm specific tasks, which were a constant point of frustration in the first game. With this iteration, I got the distinct impression that this isn't so much a game as it is an interactive time waster. Go here, do this, destroy everything you see, and collect everything you can find. It's all pretty mindless, but still lots of fun and insanely addicting for an obsessive personality such as my own.

With this game closing out the Harry Potter franchise, I was expecting it to be the end of the Lego games as well, but I just heard that they're going to do a "Lord Of The Rings" adaptation, as well as a follow-up to "Lego Batman." Even though the formula has gotten stale and overly predictable, the Lego charm remains undeniable.