Harry Potter Week: Getting Into Character, Video Game Style


Image: Amazon

A couple weeks ago, EA invited me to get a sneak peek at the new video game for Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2. As I sat down to the demo, I had to admit that I haven’t played one of the EA Harry Potter games since Prisoner of Azkaban, which, at the time I played it, left me a little cold.

Making your way through through Hogsmeade. Image: EA

It looks like they’ve learned a few things since then. For one thing, Deathly Hallows Part 2, as you know, is full of battles. Serious, epic battles. For the latest game, they focused of fluid key combat. This new spell-casting system is one of the biggest changes from the previous games. There are button assignments for spells that stay the same throughout the game, so as you progress you can really get familiar with using the different spells, particularly the high-utility ones. In many cases, you have to use spell combos. For instance, you might have to strike down an enemy’s Protego spell before you can fire off something stronger.

You can also play as eight different characters as you try to save Hogwarts and defeat Voldemort: there’s Harry, Ron, and Hermione, of course, but you can also play as Ginny, Seamus, Neville, Professor McGonagall, and Molly Weasley. (And don’t we all want to be Molly Weasley in one pivotal moment?) This is perhaps what I’m most excited about. The books are done, the movies are done, but playing as these different characters offers some comfort and satisfaction for the bleak Harry-Potter-less future.

Play as Ron, Hermione, or one of six other characters. Image: EA

It seems EA has also learned from what is often the downfall of games based on movies – the overuse of cut scenes. Instead of passively watching the major plot points unfold, they’ve thought about ways to bring you into the action. They showed me the gameplay surrounding the bridge outside Hogwarts, and having now seen the movie I understand just how cool this scene is. Instead of just watching it unfold, you play as Seamus and Neville protecting Hogwarts. It’s like video game fan fiction.

The game looks terrific, as you’d expect. In fact, you may see (or have seen) a trailer for the game before the movie, which gives you a good sense of the visuals. I found the controls difficult in what little of the game I tried, but that’s likely because it’s been ages since I’ve picked up an X-Box controller. EA has just sent me copies of the game on Wii and Nintendo DS, and I’ll give a full review after I’ve had a chance to play through. We’ll see how it stacks up to my love for Lego Harry Potter.

The Spellbinding Awesomeness of Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Casting spells in Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Movie tie-in video games are notoriously awful. I’ve played some of the Harry Potter games, and you’d think that using the Wii remote like a magic wand would be great fun, but they always fell short of hooking me in. Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 changed all that. Being a Harry Potter nerd and a fan of Lego, I’m going to lay some superlatives on you: This game is my favorite Harry Potter video game (duh), my favorite of the Lego video game franchise (big talk considering previous titles include Star Wars, Batman, and Indiana Jones), and is now one of my favorite Wii games of all time (only Mario sits above it on my list).

Hogwarts, in beautiful Lego detail

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, like the Lego games that came before it, follows the basic plot of its source material, peppering it with fun puzzles and great Lego detail. First off, Lego Hogwarts looks amazing. This being a Warner Bros. title, it looks like the Hogwarts of the movies. You also get to explore places like the Forbidden Forrest and the Weasley House! (I experienced a ridiculous amount of joy de-gnoming the Lego Weasley garden.)

Then there’s the characters.¬†You can play as a bunch of the different main characters, and part of solving the puzzles is figuring out which character to use. Harry is the best on the broomstick while Hermione is hilariously bad, Ron can unleash Scabbers into small places, Hagrid has strength that the other characters don’t… you get the picture.

Harry explores the Lego Weasley house

A good part of the game is learning spells by finding Lego bricks to put into a cauldron. Once learned, you can use spells like Wingardium Leviosa, Lumos, Immobulus, Expelliarmus, and Riddikulus. To get everything you need, you might need to put together a Lego staircase, handle Lego mandrakes, or even use the Invisibility Cloak to get past Mrs. Norris. Pure Harry Potter joy.

What really separates Lego Harry Potter from the other Harry Potter games, though, is its sense of humor. Sure, the characters are preparing to do battle against the Dark Lord, but it really doesn’t need to be so serious? The characters don’t talk for what I’m sure was a long, long list of development reasons, but the outcome of this choice is minifig characters retelling four books of Harry Potter in short, funny scenes. The Lego game doesn’t get hung up on being totally faithful to the books, focusing on great gameplay instead.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 would be great for the youngest readers of the books as well as adult fans looking for some fun. I played it on Wii, but you name it and you can probably play this game on it: Nintendo DS, PS3, PSP, XBox, Windows, and a little owl told me that it’s coming to iOS, meaning soon I can play it on my iPad or iPhone.

Customize Your Own Lego Wii Remote

The Lego Play and Build Wii Remote

As if I could enjoy playing Lego Harry Potter any more than I already do, there is now a customizable Lego Wii Remote. The Lego Play and Build Wii Remote will interact with your own Lego bricks so you can change up the cover and build your own custom display stand. All I need to do is line up some Gryffindor stripes and I’m good to go.

Check out the Toys R Us exclusive retailing for $39.99. (via Mashable)

Oh, and if you have younger ones in the house, you can also now make your Wii Remote look like Cookie Monster or Elmo. Furry, monstery goodness.