Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Game Review: Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 (Nintendo DS)

Yeah, I know the game has been out for a while but I just got around to buying it last week when my student loan came through and only got a chance to play it last weekend. And let me just say something before I start the real review. I really liked the prequel. It was a good way to kill time on my longer breaks at work (although buying it did kill about 10 minutes of the break). And I loved doing the transfiguration spells. Really, I liked using the touch screen to cast all the spells.

But sadly, with Years 5-7, that all changed. The first thing I noticed about the game is that Oh My God the cutscene animation is absolutely awful. I know you can't expect much from a literally blocky animation but seriously, those things gave me one hell of a headache. I hate to think what they're like in the 3D version. The colours get so distorted in some of them that it's hard to tell what's going on.

Like I said before, I miss the touch screen spell activation, sure some of them got repetitive towards the end of the last game but still, I enjoyed it. In this one, it took me ages to figure out how to activate Lumos (and I was a little embarassed when I finally figured out you only needed to press A).

But some things I did like that I'm fairly sure weren't in the last game. You can take control of the pets to find hidden areas and items (I know they could find hidden items in the last game but that was just a flashing indicator in the corner of the screen). And personally, I think there's a couple of Layton standard puzzles kicking about in this game. It took me forever to figure out how to progress in the cave chapter of year 6. The new duelling system is pretty good too. It took me a while to get the hang of blocking and it's much easier to use the button commands rather than the touch screen but I think it gives the game somewhat of a difficulty curve.

Although one of the best things and what I often looked forward to was the wall walking segments with those Weasley shoes. I don't know what you'd call them but I got a kind of childish glee from walking up velcro walls. I never did find out if the shoes could vanish while you were still on the wall though.

One last problem I have with the game is how much of each year it cuts out. I know it's trying to fit three years worth of content into one game but there's only four chapters to each year. And because the cutscenes are so bad you can barely figure out which bit of the books it's translating it just makes it look like even more content has been lost in the translation from page to console.

The biggest culprit of that was in the year 7 part 1 section. It never showed Ron leaving! We see them disapparating from the Ministry but when they get to the forest, Ron isn't injured (although it might have been difficult to show that in Lego animation without removing his whole arm) and he just walks inside the tent looking grumpy then when you get back to gameplay he's just not there anymore. Come on developers! I know most people that played this game are going to have read the books or at least watched the films but give us a little more than that. Please?

It might not seem like it but I do have a little praise for the cutscenes. I love the moments of slightly dumb humour that they put into quite a lot of the animations. Probably the best one is near the end of Year 5 when Sirius is dying (spoiler alert!) and falling through the veil but Harry is trying to pull him back out but he only succeeds in tugging his legs off. Then after Harry has run off Sirius re-appears behind the veil and asks Lupin for his legs back.

As for the gameplay, something that bugged me about the levels was the fact that you could switch to playing as a character that had nothing to do with that part of the story in the original text. Think Ginny in the year 6 Room of Requirement level and Ron in the underwater level. Speaking of that, way to take the drama away from that sequence. The characters are clothed and there's nothing about the necklace trying to stop Harry from taking the sword by strangling him. That was a big part of what made that scene so tense in the first place!

Anyway, I'm wrapping up now. I still have a chapter or two to go before I finish the game but I think I've experienced enough to get a pretty good idea. Overall, it's not really a bad game, I was just disappointed by some of the glaring flaws in the game.

Two last points though. One, why does the water in the cave level kill you?! I doubt the water was good for the characters but I don't think it was instant death. I think it would have worked much better if, I don't know, they made the health bar slowly deplete while you were swimming.
And lastly, the section inside the Gringotts vault where you're trying to climb up the treasure chests without landing on the burning gold was surprisingly tense. And it took me way more attempts to complete than it should have. I got to the top a first time to find out that you needed the deluminator so I went back into the dragon chamber to find a light source then when I eventually got to the top again the light had disappeared because I had changed rooms. It wasn't till after that I noticed the lamp at the bottom of the hill. So overall, three successful climbs and more failed attempts than I can count.