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 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 humour 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.
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. While the Vita version is a slightly simplified version of the console game (for example, cutscenes sometimes replace extended gameplay sequences, and some activities are different), it loses none of the charm.
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 large parts of the environment. There are also myriad side missions, quests, and collectibles. While the game's story moves along with effortless 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 good incentive for a later reexamination.
The Vita version of the game employs a number of touch-screen controls, which work well for some activities and not so well for others. For example, throughout the game you have access to eight spells, acquired in stages and presented in a spell-wheel system that can be cycled through on the fly, using either the right or left bumper or the touch screen. The game has 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. Casting spells with the button controls is simple enough: use the square button and the thumbstick to target and fire.