(Review archived from February 6, 2023)
While everyone else was preparing for some other open world Harry Potter game, I opted to dip into the Pensieve and re-visit a much earlier iteration on the concept …
Within reasonable margins, I don’t really believe in ‘guilty pleasures’. So long as you enjoy it, and it’s not actively harmful to yourself or others, what is there to feel guilty about?* Having said that, on at least a couple of occasions, my fondness for Traveler’s Tales line of LEGO games has been called into question by one of my more ‘serious’ gamer friends. “Those are children’s games”, “Where’s the challenge?”, “Rote collectathons”, etc. And really … those are all fair criticisms. So in some ways maybe LEGO games do come close to being a ‘guilty pleasure’ of mine. But ultimately this was an easy-going, relaxing game I could easily pick up and play on Steam Deck over a busy holiday season without much in the way of thought put into it.
* That it harm none, do as thou wilt
That said … I was really fighting the overwhelming feeling of been-there-done-that while playing through this. And fair point really … a meta-game I actually like to play while playing a TT LEGO game is picking out the subtle nuances that differentiate any particular one of them from other ones. Earlier games in the line play much differently than more recent titles, each license tends to bring with it some special mechanics related to that license, etc. And indeed the second LEGO Harry Potter game brings with it some special spell mechanics that don’t really exist in other LEGO games. Much as in Years 1-4 you learn these spells in a classroom setting setting which is a fun concession to the source material. That said … there’s not a whole lot here to actually differentiate this game from Years 1-4, and there are some aspects that are noticeably more tedious…
… Or maybe it’s just that I don’t enjoy deep Harry Potter lore as much as this game would like me to. One feature of every TT LEGO game tends to be an expansive set of unlockable hidden characters. This is an aspect I’ve often enjoyed in the Marvel, DC, LotR, and Star Wars LEGO games, but on the other hand I tend to enjoy and have some knowledge of the deeper lore in those properties. Do you remember what an awesome character Marietta Edgecombe was in the HP books and movies? No? Well what about Slytherin Twin #2? Not that one either? Well then you’ll surely be satisfied that each of the three principal characters have roughly 28 unlockable outfits between them each of which also counts as an unlockable ‘character’. So if you don’t like playing as ‘Winter Harry’ for instance well you can always play as ‘Christmas Harry’. And to make matters somewhat more tedious, there are 200 ‘characters’ in total to unlock. It’s just too much … and honestly a bit unnecessary this time around. The unlockable characters in the earlier games I mentioned were fun partly because they most often represented fleshed out characters in their respective franchises. Here it just feels like they kept on dumping on more and more shallow variations until they hit their magic number of 200.
All told though, if you’ve enjoyed other TT released LEGO games (particularly so if you enjoyed Years 1-4), and/or you dig the worlds of Harry Potter (a lot), you’ll likely find something to enjoy here. One highlight in particular I enjoyed was the level dedicated to the story-within-a-story about the Deathly Hallows. In this level it reverts to a 2D puzzle-lite platformer replete with storybook graphics. It really is unlike anything I’ve seen in the other LEGO games I’ve played.
Ultimately I think I would have enjoyed this release more if I just hadn’t have gone full completionist on it. There’s a good game here; I’m just not sure it’s interesting enough to remain consistently compelling for the entire duration of 100% completion.
** I also need to ding this one on a technical quirk. It’s listed on the store page as being Steam Deck Verified and it mostly is, but as is often the case, ProtonDB paints a bit more realistic picture in this regard. There was one level I couldn’t complete on Deck due to some insurmountable graphical glitching. Under semi-normal circumstances you could just boot up the game on desktop and beat the troublesome level, but LEGO HP Years 5-7 doesn’t support cloud saves. So this involved manually moving save files around and hoping they would work between Linux and Windows. Thankfully they did, but as anyone who’s familiar knows, it’s not exactly convenient to transfer files to and from the Steam Deck. I mean, it’s not terribly inconvenient either, once you’ve settled on a preferred method of doing so, but the fact remains that it never quite feels as straight forward as you might expect. All’s well that ends well, but just remember that Steam Deck Verified doesn’t always mean 100% playable (just as ratings other than Verified don’t always mean that the game isn’t perfectly playable)