I’d totally forgotten I bought this back when I bought LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. I put it aside for “later” and it got stuck under a load of other things in what is known as my “filing system” or “mess”.
I suspect that the Collectors Edition of this game weren’t selling that well because I picked this one up for AU$25. It came with four LEGO magnets with each House Crest on them, a ‘making of’ DVD, a broomstick for your Avatar and a slightly larger box that becomes awkward once you’ve removed the magnets to stick on your fridge.
The DVD was mildly interesting, which is damning praise in itself, because I often enjoy “making of” specials more than the movie/game, no matter how much I enjoy the game. I think part of it was the amount of repeated material from interviews.
Anyway, the game.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (LHPIV) has moved away from the traditional LEGO “hub” in favour of a sprawling Hogwarts. As the story progresses, Harry and his friends move from one part of Hogwarts to another, led by Nearly Headless Nick, who leaves a trail of “ghost studs” behind him. You can stop following him, however, and explore any bits of Hogwarts currently open to you to find more studs, House Crests, Red Bricks and more.
The levels are pretty well split between lessons, which take place in classrooms and teach you various spells and potions, and the actual story, which can take place in or around Hogwarts and are closer to the normal LEGO level. There is a slight difference to previous LEGO games in that in many cases there are few to no enemies, and therefore more a reliance on puzzles.
You only start out with a few spells at the beginning, which means fewer types of puzzles, but as you go on, learning more spells, the types of puzzles grows. Occasionally things are shaken up a bit as you get to play a character not in Harry’s group and therefore get access to spells you wouldn’t normally be able to use yet.
There’s also less reliance on having to have the “right type” of character, as potions can often give you temporary attributes. For example, if you need a “strong” character, there’s often a potion that you can mix up to give Harry a quick boost of strength. This means you don’t need to have Hagrid around.
On the whole, the way they’ve changed the way a LEGO game works by removing the hub, and the increased puzzles from having multiple spells available, works really well and I was having a lot of fun with it. However, there are a few problems, which are really beginning to irritate me, or at the least, push me away.
The first hasn’t been a game or puzzle breaker so far, but it has caused much angst. Someone screwed up the way the screen moves when you’re aiming a spell. You hold down a button, then move a reticule to aim a spell. However, as you move the reticule up, the screen pans down, as you move the reticule down, the screen pans up. There are no options for “inverting Y axis” or similar, so it seems (on the 360 version at least) you’re stuck with this. While it hasn’t broken any puzzles yet, the contortions I’ve had to go through to complete some sections are insane.
The “auto aim” is also somewhat broken. In many sections, most notably the boss fights, you have something thrown at you, and need to use the Wingardium Leviosa to throw it back at the boss. Except there’s not enough time (for me, anyway!) to grab the item with manual aiming, and the auto-aiming often selects the object way too late to do anything about it. This has certainly got worse since (for example) Star Wars, where the auto aim for the Force was quite good.
The real problem for me, however, is that while I’ve found having too many enemies in previous games was irritating, having very few (in some cases none) means it becomes a collecting-puzzlefest. Now, I thought that I’d enjoy that, but it turns out that after a while I stop enjoy enjoying it. There needs to be just a little more challenge, enough to make it interesting, at least. Overwhelming with enemies, such that the puzzles are difficult because of it is going too far one way. Having too few enemies is obviously too far the other way.
Still, I’m sticking with it. I’ve collected a bare amount of characters, House Crests, Red Bricks, Gold Bricks and Students In Peril. I’m some of the way through Year 4, and have only completed 35% of the game, which will give you some idea of how much exploring is left before me…