LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 in Review – An enchanting LEGO game!

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 joins a long line of LEGO themed games, available on PC and consoles for years, that you can now play on your iDevice. Those new to LEGO gaming are in for a treat. This is a very accessible game that is very careful to explain what’s going on every step of the way. There are puzzles to solve, mini-games to play, quests to complete, and spells to cast, and it’s all very engagingly overlaid on the plots from the first four Harry Potter books.

Serious fans of the LEGO PC or console versions may be interested to know that this is a port of the mobile game, not a direct port of the PC/console version. Don’t let that deter you, while it means that the game is a bit less complex, all of the hallmark LEGO elements are here: block smashing, puzzles, collectibles, story mode and free play, you name it. There’s lots of fun to be had!

The game is beautifully presented in retina graphics and the production values couldn’t be higher. It is a universal app so you can play the same purchase on your iPad. Older devices are supported as well (any device that supports iOS 4.1). The audio is equally amazing, with the music from the Harry Potter movies unobtrusively backing the action. A recent update even added CD quality sound.

Controls are very well done as well, with great support for the touch screen. There are two options for controls: a touch screen, and a D-pad. The touch screen is simple – touch the screen in the direction you want to go. Being a Harry Potter game naturally there are spells to cast. You cast spells by drawing them directly on the screen, which is nicely immersive. There are no cryptic alphabets to memorize, but instead the symbols are simple and intuitive, plus there is always an on-screen guide demonstrating the relevant pattern required to be drawn at that moment. I found the touch screen control works very well, but some users complained about it, so Warner Bros. came out with an update that added a D-pad too.

The screen is very well laid out, with a small map to show quest-related items and exits. Tapping on the map shows a larger view with your progress. There is a small satchel icon in the lower left corner which takes you to menu and inventory, and there’s a portrait showing the current character you are playing that also allows you to switch characters as needed to solve specific puzzles.

Finally, the amount of content and value is impressive. This game covers years 1 through 4, and each year is split into several chapters. By my calculations it will take you 10-15 hours for the first play through alone, with perhaps double that if you replay the levels in “free play” mode to get all the goodies. LEGO games are structured so that you can’t get all the extra content the first time through, in “story” mode. To complete everything you need to play the levels again once you have a larger complement of characters and spells, which LEGO calls free play mode. This is a great way to add replay value, since you can replay any chapter you like in any order, and now get to those pesky areas you could see before but couldn’t enter.

There are a few minor issues, but they truly are minor. Sometimes you need to jump between platforms, and if you don’t get the tap just right poor Harry plummets to his doom. There is a running sequence on one level where you control movement using your finger, as usual, but in this case it can block important obstacles, and the D-pad option doesn’t work for this special sequence. Also, it is unfortunate that the developers stuck with the level checkpoint system, so your progress is only saved at the completion of each chapter. Since a typical chapter plays in about 10-15 minutes, with some even longer, you need to plan your playing time accordingly. Finally, each time you start the game, you have to sit through 5 different logo/copyright screens that can’t be skipped, which adds a good 20-30 seconds to the startup time.

Overall LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 on the iDevice is very polished, with gorgeous graphics and gameplay that is truly engaging. I would recommend it to anyone who likes puzzle or adventure games, since the LEGO games in general are a good mix of the two. It’s also easy to get into, and no previous LEGO or Harry Potter experience required. Unless you have a strong dislike of Harry Potter or LEGO games, I give this game my highest recommendation.

With that, I declare LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 to be officially touched!
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App Summary
Title: LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4Developer: Warner Bros.
Reviewed Ver:2.1Min OS Req:4.1
Price:$4.99App Size:453 MB
  • Beautiful game with high production values
  • Engaging story to please LEGO fans and new users alike
  • Intuitive touch controls
  • Solid compliment to the PC/console version
  • Difficulty curve is variable, some levels are trial and error
  • D-pad control option not available everywhere
  • No multitasking support; leaving the game loses your progress since the last checkpoint

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This review of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 was brought to you by TouchMyApps contributor Paul Close.

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