Does Harry Potter fit in better with the LEGOs or the Mega Bloks?
The LEGO series has had some ups and downs over the past couple of years. LEGO Star Wars kicked off the franchise, and succeeded by letting players romp through iconic areas and moments with humorous LEGO renditions of all their favorite characters. The follow-ups, LEGO Batman and a pair of LEGO Indiana Jones titles, seemed to suffer a bit from not having as many iconic moments as the Star Wars franchise. Fortunately, LEGO Harry Potter skews on the side of the LEGO Star Wars titles, offering up oodles of comical takes on familiar moments from the Harry Potter books and movies.
The DS version isn't a grand departure from earlier DS iterations in the LEGO series, but thanks in part to the Harry Potter license, the gameplay seems to fit much better. You can control Harry or any of the number of characters you come across with either the D-pad or the touch screen. However, you need to use the touch screen to interact with objects and perform spells, so the D-pad controls aren't optimal. Luckily, the stylus controls are rather good and make moving around with the cast of wizards and witches easy.
Spells are performed first by interacting with an object by tapping on it, and then mimicking a shape on screen. For the most part, the game is lenient with how you draw your shapes, but occasionally you might have to draw a shape a few times before it works. Your offensive spell doesn't require that kind of interaction; all you have to do is flick the stylus from your character to the enemy or object you wish duel with or destroy. Interacting with all the objects in the game rewards you with collectables, and each spell acts like a Metroid-esque key to other areas.
Each book is roughly two hours long and made up of a number of small levels. The general structure of the game involves completing simple missions that involving interacting with objects, finding items, or finding your way from point A to point B. It never gets too complicated, which is a good and bad thing. The simplicity is warming, oftentimes making the game an absent-minded stroll through a fun world, but it would be cool if it threw more creative tasks your way.
Like past LEGO titles, LEGO Harry Potter offers story progression that limits you to specific characters, and a Free Play mode that allows you to play around in each level with any character you want. Some items and areas are locked off completely in story mode, as you have to control specific characters in Free Play mode to come back and access them.
There's an immense amount of content in this game, especially since it spans four books. The array of unlockables, ranging from characters to cheats, will keep fans and completionists coming back for hours.
For kids who adore Harry and company this game is excellent, but for anyone else who might find themselves interested in LEGOs and/or kid wizards, you might want to go for the home console version or skip this version altogether. Still, LEGO Harry Potter's DS debut has a good foundation, decent gameplay, and tons of content.