LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 Xbox 360
Published by Warner Bros. Games
Developed by TT Games
Some of the best games aimed at children over the last half a decade or so have been the LEGO games developed by Traveller's Tales. First of all there were the LEGO Star Wars titles which were quickly followed by the LEGO Indiana Jones games, LEGO Batman, LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 and LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean. All of the aforementioned are great fun for children and adults alike. The basic formula for each game hasn't changed that much over the years but they are all great entertainment for the whole family to enjoy together. The latest game in the series, LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7, is another fine addition to the series.
The LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 is based on the final three books (or four movies) taking the long-running saga to its conclusion. The game doesn't include all of the events featured in the movies and books but what you get here are the essential parts of the storyline played out with all the usual cheeky charm (and the cheeky charm is maintained despite the somewhat darker nature of the storyline in these final episodes) that we've come to expect from the LEGO games. The levels feature a variety of puzzles to solve, most of which can simply be solved by exploring the environment and making use of each character's special abilities, and a minor amount of combat. The combat has never been one of the series' better qualities and it's still as limp here as before. With that said, there are spell-based duels to engage in during the course of the game. These happen at specific points in the game and are genuinely fun. Later in the game they can get repetitive however.
The replay value of the game is good with a number of items to collect throughout the course of the game such as LEGO studs (which you'll use to unlock many additional characters), Golden Bricks and clothing for each of the characters. There are also 60 students in peril to rescue. You can't access all of the areas or complete all of the tasks on your first play through as there are times when specific characters or abilities are needed that you won't have acquired when first playing the game (you are notified visually of this using either text or icons). There is so much extra content in the game that you probably won't have even completed half of the game by simply playing through the storyline for the first time. There is so much to see and do here that you'll want to play through multiple times, not just to experience all that the game has to offer but also because it's so enjoyable, particularly when playing with a friend or family member.
The game's level design is beautiful and fans of the stories will really appreciate how much Traveller's Tales have managed to capture the look and feel of the Harry Potter universe. The general look of the game is as polished and as detailed as any of the LEGO games which have been released to date. The cut scenes in particular look great and are really enjoyable thanks to the cheeky nature of them. The game's frame rate is generally smooth throughout. Most of the load times are respectable but there are some which are rather long. When playing with a companion you'll notice that the screen dynamically splits when the two of you are too far apart. For the most part this works well but there are times when it can be a little disorientating. There is some minor screen tearing but this is far from being problematic and on the whole the game's presentation is absolutely first class.
One of the more impressive aspects of the LEGO titles is that there is no use of speech in the games. Communication is carried out through means of comical gestures and expressions from the characters (with the odd uncaptioned chuckle or scream here and there). As a result there are no communication barriers here for deaf gamers and subtitles are not necessary. The downside to this of course is that there is an almost total absence of narrative and to a certain degree there is a reliance on you knowing what the movies are about to fully appreciate what is going on. However, it has to be said that even if you are not aware of the movies' storylines that the game is based upon, you'll have no problems in enjoying the game. There are times however when you're told to find a certain character and if you have no knowledge of whom the character in question is, it can be a little problematic.
LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7 is another enjoyable game for all members of the family, whether they are Harry Potter fans or not. Yes, the basic formula found in the previous LEGO games from Traveller's Tales hasn't changed much at all but why should it when it's been so successful over the years and continues to be so? Once again Traveller's Tales have been faithful to the source material whilst not forgetting that the game should be fun and completely accessible to both children and adults. As a single-player game it's quite enjoyable but it really shines when played with a friend or family member. If you're looking for a game for all the family to enjoy this Christmas, this has to be top of your list.