LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (iTunes link), $4.99 USD, is a game developed by Warner Bros. for the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad. I know what you’re thinking: “Harry Potter?! Really?” Simply put: yes, really. While LEGOs are usually reserved for kids, LEGO games are clearly not. They are for childish youthful individuals that are either too embarrassed to admit their soft spot or who no longer have their favorite childhood toys at hand. At 1 year too young and about 7 years too old, I decided to take the dive and open the app with a wide mind, and my findings are the following.
Presentation and Graphics:
This not being the first LEGO game that I’ve ever played, I wasn’t surprised to find that the graphics were of abnormally high quality. Although LEGO HP can be bested by a few other big players in the App Store, the featured graphics are, in fact, comparable to those that can be found in the same game but in the console version. There aren’t any complex terrain or facial features that the developers made an attempt at, so I am confident in saying that you won’t find even one object or graphic of poor quality.
Most colors in the game are either very vibrant or very dark, and work with other features of the game to add to a unique mood that is set from most levels of the game.
Tested on my 4th-Generation iPod Touch, the game worked perfectly when put hand-in-hand with my Retina display. I can’t say how it’ll look on an older device since I don’t have one, but it’ll still look, at a minimum, good.
I found that there weren’t many menus to go through in the game, but the few that I encountered looked very thematic and unique. Displayed on intricate backgrounds, most of the menu selections used graphics such as wizard hats and statue busts, rather than titles or brief explanations, which gives you a better feel for where the story takes place and what your environment is like. For menu selections that used text instead of icons, some were printed in the signature title-font of the Harry Potter series, which was an instant recognition for me.
The audio in LEGO HP is another one of those features that seem to put you in that mood– the mood where you don’t even realize that you’re in a video game world, despite the fact that your friends have cylindrical heads, yellow skin, and hooks for hands. Imported into the game are the original scores and pieces written for the Harry Potter movies. If you know anything about music, you’ll know that classical music has the capability of setting any mood on any given scene. At times, the music will be light and dainty, and at others, heavy and dark. The music in this game is no different.
The cutscenes featured in LEGO games are unlike any others in that they are absolutely adorable. The characters can’t speak, and are instead forced to either laugh, shout “Oh”s, or mutter complaints or curses through their gritted teeth (Don’t worry: I assure you that all parts of this game are rated G).
Do not be alarmed: the quality of the videos is very good. Like in any other movie, screen shots always turn out blurry.
Other notes on the audio:
- The quality of the audio was always good in my experiences.
- Sound effects are at par with other adventure games on the App Store (fires crackle, footsteps echo, and coins clatter)
Gameplay and Controls:
LEGO HP falls under the category of adventure games, so you can expect to explore dozens of unique environments and fulfill quests during each of your visits to the app. The story line follows that of J.K. Rowling’s first four titles in the Harry Potter series, each of which covers one year of Mr. Potter’s adventures and mishaps, but can at times be just a bit astray from what really went on at Hogwarts.
Aside from completing quests in order to progress the story mode, your side mission is to gather LEGO studs (which are the LEGO currency), Red Bricks (LEGO’s version of Easter eggs), golden hats (used to unlock viewable statues produced with LEGOs), and character cards (which unlock nearly every character you can think of for purchase in the shop). By collecting studs, players earn money to spend in the shop, where characters, hints, and Red Bricks can be purchased, and cutscenes can be revisited.
You’ll notice in the screenshots that there don’t appear to be any controls at all. By default, there are not; the characters are controlled by tapping and holding your finger in the direction that you wish for them to travel in, or by pointing them to a destination with a tap of your finger. This control scheme, I found, could be rather irritating because my characters often found themselves covered under the shadow of my thumb stretched over the entire length of the screen. The problem can be overcome by playing with two hands (one hand for each side of the screen), but if you’re as lazy as I am, then you may be a bit annoyed.
An alternate control scheme that features arcade-style controls is available as well. However, the joystick didn’t seem to function properly because it would often not pick up on my taps and drags. It’s also very ugly. Besides the joystick, there are two buttons, one with “A” and and another with “B” slapped on top, which were also eyesores. I suggest that you stick to the standard control scheme.
The gameplay of LEGO HP includes mini-games in which you cast spells with your finger by drawing the appropriate shape and (sometimes) dragging puzzle pieces around a board, matching tiles, or brewing potions. The puzzle mini-game wasn’t well-explained (in my opinion), so the first time I came across one, I found myself trying to figure out a 6 piece puzzle for about 10 minutes–perhaps you will fare better.
Although these two issues do not have a major impact on the game, they were definitely noticeable and and bring the score down by one point in this category.
LEGO HP doesn’t bring much to the table in this category. Like in other adventure games, the only sources of replay value are revisits and repetitions of levels and to look for Easter eggs or collectibles that you may have missed during your first time through. After your second time through a level, however, replay value drops down to a near-zero. That said, it’s a good thing that there are more or less than 50 levels. It’ll take you at least 5 hours to complete the storyline if you try to complete it as quickly as you can. It’s taken me days to get halfway through the storyline, so the length of the story is one of the best things that LEGO: HP has going for it.
Value for Money:
In my opinion, nearly all adventure games that lack a multiplayer feature will have difficulty living up to their prices. Was this game worth it? To me, it was, but I’m sure that if you’re not even willing to take the time to complete the storyline, then this game isn’t for you. Aside from the replay value, LEGO HP is worth the $4.99 USD that it costs because of the graphics and gameplay that it hosts.
Although you might take a quick glance at the app as you browse by, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is an app that you’ll want to take a second look at. Or a third. It’s a great game for players of all ages, and although not cheap, it’s an investment that adventure-genre lovers will want to make.