Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Fall 2010 Video Games
Ages: 10 & Up
Price: $45.99

It may be hard to grasp how highlights from the first four Harry Potter books and movies, with those twisting plots, remarkable characters, imaginative spell-casting scenes and stunning special effects, could possibly translate into a blockhead Lego world. But what Warner Interactive did to Lego Indiana Jones and Lego Star Wars, they now have done to Lego Harry Potter. The result is a charming, clever, LOL humorous and adventuresome kid-friendly videogame.

All the favorite and feared Harry Potter characters are present-Harry, Professor Dumbledore, Hagrid, Ron, Hermoine, Nearly Headless Nick, Malfoy, He Who Must Not Be Named, and more. Of course, they're transformed into funny little Lego characters who grunt instead of talk. But the soundtrack borrowed from the Harry Potter movies and great sound effects make up for the grunting.

Probably the standout element of Lego Harry is its mesmerizing magical spells. That's where this game begins-learning the basic spells. True to the Harry Potter stories, each incantation has its own use, from levitating things and blasting stuff apart (both well suited to the Lego building block context) to shielding against worst fears and creating creatures for protection. Spells trump combat throughout, so the one-on-one beat-'em-up battles so prominent in many platform games are minimized here.

As you travel on quests through the graphically rich Lego environments, you'll be genuinely wowed by the fully-rendered Hogwarts, the wizarding pub Leaky Cauldron, the wacky busy Diagon Alley, the goblin-run Gringotts Bank, the Forbidden Forest, Hogsmeade, and the other defining Harry Potter locations.

Along the way, you wander around uncovering hidden treasures and looking for opportunities to use your increasing repertoire of spells. A big part of the game is smashing Lego structures and collecting the valuable colored-stud charms that fly out like harmless shrapnel and parlay into new powers and additional characters.

There's a lot of other stuff to do, too, from making potions like Polyjuice that lets you change into other characters, solving puzzles in fortune-telling class, learning how to handle the bird/horse creature Buckbeak, and facing off often with Draco Malfoy-all to complete quests and progress to the next chapter.

Plus, you can spend all those studs you collect to buy extra spells at Mr. Olliander's Wand Emporium, buy valuable gold bricks, or make more extravagant and expensive purchases such as unlocking the entire Wesley family, or buying the entire Gryffindor Quidditch team!

All of it's fun and challenging and provides countless problem-solving and logical thinking moments. And having a friend (it's a 1- or 2-player game) take over the second controller and play as any of your otherwise computerized companions makes the game easier and adds to the amazing wonderment of this great game.

Don Oldenburg   ©2010 Parents' Choice
A former feature writer and consumer columnist at The Washington Post for 22 years, Don Oldenburg is the Director of Publications and Editor of the National Italian American Foundation, in Washington, D.C. He regularly reviews books for USA Today and is the coauthor of "The Washington DC-Baltimore Dog Lovers Companion" (Avalon Travel). The proud father of three sons, he lives with his journalist-author wife, Ann Oldenburg, in McLean, VA.

Look for this product at:
Major, Specialty & Online Retailers
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

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