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One fatal flaw with the PSP... or rather, with mobile console gaming in general, is the weak confines within which developers are forced to operate. Therefore it becomes increasingly frustrating to make the types of games that will appeal to a wide audience of gamers. You either have a notoriously linear one-time wishy-washy experience, or you have something that seems like it's got a lot to offer, a lot of things to DO within the game, but the gameplay itself is so poor you don't stick with it. However, every now and then you get an all-around solid PSP game, and Lego Harry Potter hits all of the requirements to be one of those solid games.
If you happen to be one of those people that gets bored with games after they beat them, and just want one fun playthrough, only to be finished with the game afterwards, then Lego Harry Potter for the PSP should be satisfying enough, gameplay-wise, for you. Various notable story sections from each of the first four Harry Potter books are converted into levels for you to play through as Harry, as well as some other famous and favorite characters. Some of them deviate from the actual story from the book/movies, so as with other Lego games like Star Wars or Indiana Jones, you are definitely expected to know the story BEFORE you play the game, else the short cut scenes with little talking will just confuse you and leave a very bare experience.
Most of your gameplay is going to be either simple puzzles, basic combat, or mini-games. As always, the Lego appeal is not nearly as much about what you are doing so much as where you are doing it. Yeah, you're essentially just spamming the "Square" button for your attack spell, but it's in Hogwarts as you head towards Potions class, so it adds a level of interest that would not otherwise be there. However, this also means that if you aren't into Harry Potter, you're not going to like this game. This may seem obvious, but I feel inclined to point it out regardless. Don't come into Lego Harry Potter looking for a good "action game" experience. If you want that, go play another PSP great like God of War, Metal Gear Solid, or Killzone. On a similar note, the puzzles and mini games are nothing spectacular either, it's all just far too linear to appeal to anyone that isn't a Harry Potter fan.
Lego Harry Potter isn't going to blow you away like some other PSP games, and that's simply the bare truth. The graphics and Lego asthetics are appealing and easy on the eyes, but it's not like it's some graphical masterpiece within the boundaries of the PSP's hardware (see Daxter if you want a truly phenomenal mobile graphics game.) However, it's also important and fair to keep in mind that Lego games aren't meant to have massive epic Michael-Bay-Transformers-2-like explosions. We're on a playing field of toy blocks, and if you think about it that way, there is truly nothing to complain about graphics-wise. If you played Lego Star Wars on the Playstation 2, then Lego Harry Potter will look great, and you'll have nothing to complain about. And really, if you're coming into this game looking for HD graphics, then you should probably have your head checked- it's not the forte of this game, nor does it pretend to be.
There isn't much to say here except... it's a Lego game. That means there is no challenge. If you lose all of your health, your character bursts into tiny little brick pieces, and then respawns pretty much right where you were with no progress lost. If you want a game that isn't going to frustrate you, then this is probably it, because in every level of every book, I never once found myself annoyed or unable to complete a task assigned to me. Literally, anyone could pick up this game and beat it, which is both a good and bad game. In a way it can make the game a bit dull at times, knowing that you WILL succeed, heck, you'd have to try not to. But on a more lighthearted note, it also means this will be a more attractive gaming option to more people.
There's actually a surprisingly large amount of lasting appeal to Lego Harry Potter. With four books worth of levels, and each of those levels containing all kinds of hidden goodies like Red Bricks, Wizard Cards, etc., you'll have your work set out for you for a long time. Each level is loaded with studs, and a number threshold must be crossed every level to obtain one of the five Golden Hats in every level of the game. And for every 15 Golden Hats, there's another character available for purchase in the game's central hub, the Room of Requirement. And what better thing to purchase them with then the Lego studs you collect throughout the game? It's all quite inter-connected, and it really is nice to see an effort at creating a game that will be a longer lasting experience than the 10 hours or so that it will take to race through all of the levels.
What's really interesting about all of the game's levels though is that it forces you to replay older story sequences if you want to complete everything. There are parts of Diagon Alley and Privet Drive in the Philosopher's Stone, e.g. the first 25% of the game, that will not be unlockable until Harry has learned high level spells in Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. This means that it is not just about running around levels in your first playthrough, it's about obtaining all of the characters, abilities, and spells, and then using them as your tools to lift, move, ignite, and transfigure the Lego world to your liking in order to find everything that is has to offer.
The linear gameplay is still the flaw that plagues the Lego series, and that issue has not gone away with Lego Harry Potter for the PSP. However, the charm still survives, at least for now. As I've said already, those who are not already a fan of Harry Potter should not pick this game up, as it simply isn't something that's directed at a general audience. However, if you are a Harry Potter fan, and you want a game that will give you lots of things to unlock, and a bunch of interesting locations from your favorite book series to explore, then Lego Harry Potter will provide hours of gameplay for you to get lost in, which is really all we can ask of games today anyway.
Admittedly, I've been hooked on the LEGO games ever since Lego Star Wars: The Video Game came out in 2005. If you look past the fact that they are aimed at kids, you'll find addictive gameplay and excellent graphics. Plus, they're funny, which is rare in video games these days.
I enjoyed the Lego Star Wars games on PS2 and Lego Indiana Jones on PS3, as well as Lego Batman, but I wanted something new. There had to be something better than Force powers, whips and caped superheroes...why, magic of course! I was delighted when Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 was announced, which would be based on the first four books and films in the series. When it was released around seven months after Lego Indiana Jones 2, I bought it for PSP. So, is it up to the standard of the console games or just a lazy effort?
The PSP version of Lego Harry Potter basically features the same kind of gameplay as the console versions. You control a Lego character and explore Hogwarts in levels mostly based on scenes from the films. However, there are several differences.
When you start the game a cut-scene is shown, which really puts you into the mood of the Lego games. It's funny and looks good. After that, you are taken straight into a level set around 10 years after the cut-scene. You have to find Dudley's presents and at the same time you are taught the basics of the controls - how to walk, push objects and most importantly, use magic.
After this, you have the option of being taken to the next level or going to the Hub world. I'll talk about the Hub first. There's not that much to do and it lacks the scale of the various Hubs in Lego Indiana Jones 2, but it's certainly worth a visit. You can go to the shop run by Fred and George Weasley. From there, you can buy characters, unlock hints and purchase abilities that you have unlocked from red bricks. I'll talk about that later. You can then go to the Character Creator. You can edit Harry's hair, outfit and facial expression. There is also a gallery where you can view Lego scenes, based on levels in the game. Lastly, there are four doors where you enter the levels.
Once you've looked around, continue with the story mode. You may have passed the tutorial level, but there are still some things to learn. Before you know it, you arrive at Hogwarts and are being taught new spells. You need to know about the 'spell system', as I like to call it. When a blue glow appears around objects, it means that you can use magic on them. For example, this may happen when there is some debris on the floor. If you press X on it, you must press a combination of buttons. In this case, you need to press the circle button three times because you need to repair. You easily learn what buttons to press in what occasion. However, when a red glow appears around objects, it means that you haven't yet learnt the spell that you need to cast on it.
You will probably complete the game in less than 10 hours. But you're not NEARLY finished yet. By now, you will have learnt every spell, so you can go back and do everything that you can't have done before. You could find chests that you couldn't open because you hadn't learnt the unlocking spell, Alohamora. It will enable you to reach Wizard Hats, Red Bricks and Wizard Cards. I'll explain about these next.
There are five Wizard Hats in each of the 44 levels in the game. For every 10 Wizard Hat you get, you unlock something for the Gallery I mentioned earlier. Red Bricks are quite valuable. There are 15 hidden across the whole game and each one unlocks a special ability and are either hidden or found in plain sight. Some are used for comedic value, but others help you. Lastly, Wizard Cards simply unlock new characters, which you can use for Free Play - when you can replay levels using any character.
==Summary of Each Stage==
Stage 1 - Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - is the longest stage in the game, but is more about teaching you about what to do, rather than fun. It's arguably the worst stage in the game. Nevertheless, the last level is superb and the mini-games are great.
Stage 2 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - is far better. Each of the 12 levels feature varied gameplay. You also learn new spells and there are a wide range of environments, including the dark Forbidden Forest and the lively Diagon Alley. The only real negative I can think of is the easy boss in the last level of the stage.
Stage 3 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - features some vast levels and there are even more secrets to discover. It tells the tale of how Harry tries to avoid escaped prisoner Sirius Black. Like the previous stage, there are plenty of different environments. It's the best stage yet, but can The Goblet of Fire beat it?
Stage 4 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - is a fun, albeit short, stage. Even so, it IS the best stage and is somewhat epic. It features some of the best levels in Lego games yet - there's been nothing better than swimming around in a huge lake avoiding sea creatures and exploring a deadly maze. I expected it though, as it's based one of the best Harry Potter films, which featured some of the best scenes in the series.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 on PSP has the same graphical style as on consoles. It doesn't feature a huge amount of detail - after all, it's a LEGO game featuring lots of Lego. But in my opinion, it's one of the best looking games on PSP.
The sound quality isn't great, to be honest. It's a bit tinny and sounds like something from a low quality radio. However, it may sound a bit clearer if you use headphones. But the music itself is great - it's taken from the films. There's no talking in the game anyway, so it doesn't matter too much.
Overall, Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 is a great game. It features addictive gameplay, has a great replay value, features excellent graphics and is funny! The sound quality is average, however, and it's a bit too easy. Plus, I found a glitch that stopped me from progressing in a level so I had to restart it. But if you can overlook these, you'll really enjoy it.
This review is also posted on Ciao, under my name YoshiCheesePuff. Thanks for reading!