Harry Potter's innocent days are over. The boarding school antics have trickled to a halt, classrooms have gone silent, and even Quidditch matches--once the mark of happier times--have fallen by the wayside. In their place, a much darker picture has taken shape, marked by isolation, unpredictability, and the ever-increasing fear of death. As far as stories go, it's not exactly a walk in the park, but it's nothing that a good Lego sense of humor can't handle. Like its predecessor, Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 excels at finding the true heart of the story it is trying to tell, layering this otherwise bleak premise with its own particular brand of cheekiness without sacrificing the essence of J.K. Rowling's world. This is a fun, richly detailed game that rewards curiosity and offers plenty of gameplay variety, making it well worth the effort for Lego and Harry Potter fans alike.
Dumbledore brews up a bowl of illuminating memory stew.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 weaves together events from the final three Harry Potter books and the final four films. Despite the necessary liberties taken to mesh three narratives into one, the game manages to employ a multifaceted structure that is easy to navigate: each of the four chapters of the game is divided into smaller subchapters, each comprising a new part of the story. The gameplay is consistent with past Lego games: each short level requires you to complete a series of puzzle-solving tasks using a range of character abilities while knocking down and rebuilding a large part of the environment. There are also myriad side missions, quests, and collectibles. While the game's story moves along with effortless, Chaplinesque charm, it's the collectible element that adds both variety and replay value. There's a certain kind of addictive satisfaction that comes with collecting absolutely everything, and the game rewards this interactivity in a multitude of ways: 200 gold bricks, 24 school emblems, 20 cheats, and the fulfilment of becoming a "True Wizard" stud collector. It's also smart about the way it does this: only a proper playthrough unlocks all the characters and their respective abilities, and given that a lot of the game's environments feature areas and puzzles that are not immediately accessible, this adds a very good incentive for a later reexamination, both in single-player or through the drop-in, drop-out local cooperative multiplayer.
Throughout the game, you have access to eight spells, acquired in stages and presented in a revamped spell-wheel system that can be cycled through on the fly. The game has also made things a lot easier by eliminating the need for a lock-on mechanism, meaning you can shoot spells out of your wand to your heart's content or use the crosshairs when there is something specific you want to target. There's also a new, well-conceived duelling system that's both simple and efficient, requiring you to simply match the correct spell of your opponent a set number of times (usually four). As in Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Diagon Alley serves as a hub world, where you can purchase new characters, unlock cheats, and access already-played levels. The addition of Weasley Boxes also helps to make the experience feel new; the boxes themselves--which contain numerous joke products providing special abilities for the surrounding puzzles--can be accessed only by members of the Weasley family, making red-haired companions a must in the free-play levels and providing you with an incentive to switch between characters more often. There are also Luna Lovegood's Spectre Specs, which let you see and build with invisible Lego bricks.
Things are getting heated in the Room of Requirement.