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LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7
Score: 95%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Adventure/ Puzzle/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7 takes players through the last three years of the Harry Potter story in that unique LEGO manner that only TT Games can pull off.

Like always, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7 really captures not only the LEGO sets you can buy in the real world, but also the locations from the movies and the personalities of the characters, and all in those non-verbal, but highly expressive cut-scenes. While I didn't see any particular behavioral quirks that make any of the characters' actions instantly recognizable, like Jack Sparrow in LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, all of the events and interactions feel right and the essence of Harry Potter continues to be captured well.

Even though the characters don't actually say anything, I am always amazed by how well TT Games conveys just the right emotions, plus a dash of kid-friendly comedy to make things less serious. LEGO Harry Potter continues that tradition by finding just the right balance between some of the darker moments in the series and keeping everything lighthearted.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7, like Years 1 - 4, diverges from the standard LEGO games in a way that might surprise most fans of this series that didn't get a chance to play the first Harry Potter title. The biggest of the differences is that less focus is put on the levels themselves. Where most of TT Games' LEGO releases have broken up the movies they are portraying into multiple worlds/ episodes/ films and each one of those segments has their own collection of levels that you can jump in and out of with a good bit of freedom, LEGO Harry Potter forces you to play through the events of the story in the order that was portrayed in the films/ books and most of the story progression actually takes place outside of levels.

This was a bit frustrating when I first encountered it. I have to admit here to only recently picking up and playing the first LEGO Harry Potter game, because I found it hard to really gauge my progress in the overall game. Sure, I knew where I was in the story, but there weren't clear demarcations between the different tasks. For the most part, I was running from room to room, exploring Hogwarts and learning the new spells and potions that my characters needed to know in order to open up new areas of the school. When I got used to this though, it felt more natural and seemed to flow better. While you can't simply jump into the three stories and progress in only the ones you want to out of order, the open-world feel of Hogwarts feels like more than just a hub area as seen in the other games.

There is one drawback to this though, and that's the fact that the levels you are thrown in feel a bit jarring and out of place. There were several times when I felt like I should be in a level, but wasn't, or when I was in the level, I couldn't figure out why that particular part of the story needed to be pulled out from the rest. As for the levels themselves, they feel pretty much like the levels in these games always have. There is a lot of exploration and you will need to return in Free Play Mode in order to collect everything. But again, there was one difference that I don't quite get in this game, and that's the fact that characters aren't unlocked at the end of levels. Most of the LEGO titles let you unlock any of the characters that you played as (more or less) when you beat the level, and any enemies you face becomes available for purchase. In LEGO Harry Potter, on the other hand, you have to collect tiles that represent the different characters and then purchase them. This was just another one of the odd changes found in the Harry Potter games, but unlike most of the others, I never really got used to this one.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7 is on par with the other LEGO titles. You will be able to make steady progress through the story, but it's all about the collecting and you will have to return to all of the levels, not to mention revisit many locations in Hogwarts, in order to pick up and unlock everything Harry Potter dangles in front of you.

That being said, the game had the potential to be tougher than it should be since it is easy to not only get lost in Hogwarts, but also not know where you are going to next. Thankfully, the developers knew this would be an issue and in both LEGO Harry Potter games, there is a ghost that will direct you from room to room. So if you aren't sure what you need to do next, you pretty much just need to follow him around.

Game Mechanics:
By not putting the events of the films/ books in a collection of levels, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7 has found a way to tell pretty much the complete story where past titles have pretty much just touched on the big events in the levels and used cut-scenes to show the rest. Instead, you get the chance to explore even the less important parts like the kids in Defense Against the Dark Arts class. As a result, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 - 7 is a big game and you will be able to sink a ton of hours into it.

When the game first came in, I was excited to play it, especially since at the time, I hadn't gotten into the first LEGO Harry Potter game. What I was expecting was a title similarly structured to the past ones and something I would be able to speed through in a couple of days. I might not get everything to call the game completely beaten, but I should have all of the Story Mode done and quite a bit of the Free Play Modes. That is not what I got. Instead, I found a massive game that is just chock full of gameplay. You really get your money's worth with this title and it is great for kids of any ages. Any fan of TT Game's LEGO line will love this title, even if it is a little different, and, needless to say, HP fans are also in for a treat.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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