Harry Potter is an incredibly successful media franchise and much like similarly-successful series like Batman and Indiana Jones, it’s been mixed with LEGO. LEGO Harry Potter brings the storyline of the books and movies to a video game setting that’s interspersed with the charm and style of the long popular construction toy.
LEGO is quite notable for it’s line of tie-in video games, even ones that sit alongside more traditional remakes of popular media. In recent years, these games have made their way into the mobile word, including Harry Potter. Today, we’ll take a look at the LEGO Harry Potter games available for your iPad.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 covers the first four Harry Potter releases (canon with the storyline of the books and movies), kicking off with a cinematic cutscene that introduces the backstory to the main character’s situation from the beginning (and that’s Harry Potter, natch). Likewise, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 covers the latter part of the franchise’s storyline.
Playing through the game, you’ll explore a variety of the locations in the Harry Potter universe including Hogwarts and other famous places that fans of the franchise will instantly recognise. I’ll admit that I’m far from the biggest Harry Potter fan, but the vibe of the game still really feels as if it’s been designed to be canon with the series down to the smallest detail. This is impressive, especially on the mobile front.
The game mixes between simple exploration, where the LEGO-centric features come in, and actual plot. Notable parts of the story can be played out over the course of the game but this is nicely interspersed with periods of simple exploration. You also collect LEGO studs as you navigate around the environment, which contributes to a points system, a secondary measure of your success.
The LEGO aspect of both games does two things. Firstly, it adds an unmistakeable charm to the presentation of the game that creates a lighter atmosphere. This is especially great as it makes such a game more accessible to a younger audience, of which devices like the iPad are undeniable popular. The LEGO style is cool, if nothing else, and the reconstruction of environments in the game itself and in the cutscene videos are immensely impressive.
The bricky style also impacts the actual gameplay, too. The game isn’t exactly challenging, opting to encourage the player to spend most of their time simply exploring the enviroment, passing obstacles that they may come across. Such obstacles include LEGO, which the player can manipulate in order to break down and/or rebuild, helping them in their quest. Certainly fans of LEGO will appreciate these little touches that make the gameplay a little more unique instead of yet-another-game-of-a-movie.
Controls and Miscellanea
The game’s scheme of controls are pretty basic, although I’ve found they still take a good few minutes to truly get the hang of. Fortunately, you’re thrown right into a playground (literally, in the second game) to mess about and try out to master them. I’ve always found the LEGO games to make a big deal about trying to explain touch controls to me after freshly installing, but they don’t differ too much from any other game that utilises touch controls on the device’s screen.
The expanse of the games go beyond the core storyline, too. In fact, once you’ve made your way through the storyline a first time, you probably won’t be 100% complete. There’s a significant sense of replayability with a portion of the game only being unearthed in a second or third play through. The LEGO games are far from stereotypical examples of iPad apps that feature pretty basic storytelling.
Honestly, the LEGO Harry Potter games are fantastic examples of apps for the iPad in this category. At face value, that conclusion might seem pretty unjust since the games are far from challenging, opting for easy, straightforward combat and puzzles that are hardly difficult. However, they still manage to create an engaging, fun experience, especially for younger players with whom the regular franchise games — which are unfortunately not available for iPad — are unsuitable. The spice of LEGO adds an undeniable charm to the game’s presentation that allows even the littlest of Harry Potter fans to still have a good time playing with the virtual toys.
Credit needs to be given where it’s due for the games’ values. For $4.99 each, you get a whole series of memorable gameplay for less than ten dollars, much less than it’s console counterparts — the Xbox 360 edition of Years 5-7 still retails for four times the price of the iPad app, for example. Unfortunately, this is met with some performance disadvantage. While my experience with Years 5-7 has been fine, I did experience stability issues with the first game with multiple attempts needed to get the game up and running, which is unfortunate for an otherwise stellar app.