We have been lucky enough to receive Lego Harry Potter, episodes 5-7 (Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows) for the PS3 a few days before its release to review. The game is the 2nd instalment of the series and we weren't quite sure what to expect as we've never played a Lego style game before but this aspect was a truly pleasant surprise.
Lego Harry Potter is an action/adventure game. When we received it there was no rating showing on any of the sites selling the game. I believe it is rated for the 7+ age group and I think that's rightly deserved. The storyline follows the films exactly. My teen knew what was coming next, hence me having to take my 3 year old out of the room when the Dementors were about to attack in the tunnel in Ep. 5. as she was worried it might upset her. I have to say, it may have done but they were a lot cuter than in the film (I peeped around the corner) :) The whole look of the game seems to have the increased darkness and more mature theme, reflecting the films well. Don't be put off by that last sentence. There is also an excellent element of humour throughout the game. We both started to laugh the first time we saw Draco Malfoy boo and jibe Harry but it seems all of Slythein do this every time they see him! :)
The characters are instantly recognisable and the quirkiness of the Lego shapes makes them all huge fun to interract with - even the baddies. The worlds are beautifully built and you can explore areas from Hogwarts, where you can go to 16 magic classes to learn new spells, through to the Ministry of Magic. Diagon Alley is where you can upgrade your characters, change their outfits (Ron's blue pyjamas, Hermione's cardigan, etc) and collect up to 80 new characters, amongst other exciting things.
As well as moving around the areas, working your way through the storyline, you have the added element of the Lego. Different coloured blocks are all around you and you use them to assist you during the game. You can make them into a staircase to reach an upper level or a handle to work a lift. You can also decide to be destructive with your wand and fire it at the Lego in order to destroy it and collect the coins and special (gold) Lego pieces as you continue on your adventure. Also, specific characters can repair or work with certain coloured Lego which makes for another interesting twist. For example, only Arthur Weasley can repair muggle equipment such as cars. There are locked areas where you need the Weasley Sticky Trainers to explore them or master dark arts to open chests. There are lots of reasons to re-visit an area and you will not get bored doing so.
The wizarding is a challenge and you need to do a good bit of searching around. There is a lovely blend of the logic of a puzzle game and the fun of the magic. This is what I think makes the game special. All I can hear from the lounge at the moment is "Wow, legend" which I think translates from teen speak to 'I really like this' ;-)
There seems to be a save at the end of each area and this is an automatic action (with a Voldemort head to say it's saved).
The cut scenes are very good and I like the way the characters 'talk' without actually saying anything! I love the fun parts like Hermione falling into the freezing water and turning into a floating block of ice and the distractions like reading the newspaper. Small parts of the game that make you realise just how much thought has gone into it.
It is interesting to see how the game follows the films. For example, you cannot cast a spell at Dolores Umbridge in Hogwarts to dispose of her quickly before she makes all the students' lives a misery. Anything you fire at her simply goes around her. She is 'immune' until the right point in the game.
There doesn't appear to be much necessity for the lives that you have as you rarely tend to die or fall to your death whilst jumping or riding in the flying car. There are warp points on chimneys but not all areas have these so you often need to check for other methods of transport. We did find ourselves, at times, wondering aimlessly around an area trying to find an item or complete a puzzle. Often this was followed by us slapping our foreheads and saying "DOH" when we realised what we were supposed to do. So yes, this game can be a good challenge.
I would have to wait probably a few months to do a full review of each level and tell you how we found the game once it was completed but I would prefer you see it now. Depending which console you are using, the price varies from £14.99 - £34.99, the latter being the PS3. It may seem expensive but it is newly released and, to be honest, I think it's worth it. I'm sure given a few months it will be discounted via Amazon ;-) I can see much playing and entertainment value from this set of episodes. My teenage daughter is thoroughly enjoying it and has played a few areas now with no intention of stopping. I think that says a lot about the playability of the game and the fun she is having with working through the levels.
I would point out we have not played Lego Harry Potter 1-4 but I understand this was a little flawed from reviews I have seen of it. It seems any such issues were ironed well and truly out of this latest instalment.
Unfortunately we don't have two controllers but I understand that friends can drop in/out at any time in the game to join in the fun. I think I'll have to invest in another controller to test this out :)