Entertainment

Lego 'Potter' pure magic

STEVE TILLEY, QMI Agency

Like Luke Skywalker, Batman and Indiana Jones before him, Harry Potter has fallen under the spell of Lego. It's a peanut-butter-meets-chocolate combination that makes no sense on paper, but turns out to be magical in practice. Well, almost magical.

Coming off the success of Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman and Lego Indiana Jones, UK developer Traveller's Tales has turned to their own backyard for Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4, a cheeky, bricky, yet surprisingly reverential adaptation of the first four books and films in the multigazillion-dollar Potter franchise.

If you've played any of the previous Lego games, Lego Harry Potter sticks to the tried-and-true template. It's a mix of exploration, puzzle-solving and light platforming, in which players gather up "studs" -- the Lego universe's version of currency -- and work their way through locations and scenarios from the Potter universe. And yes, everyone and everything in the game appears to have been constructed from those beloved and ubiquitous plastic bricks.

Lego Harry Potter is a big, big game. Covering four sprawling books and films (and, as the game's title suggests, a sequel is already in the works), it is absolutely stuffed with things to do and goodies to unlock. Almost dauntingly so.

Make no mistake, the Lego charm is here in spades, and I'd argue that Harry Potter works better than, say, Indiana Jones for this type of game, if only because of the magical aspect. As players progress, they'll unlock or purchase a wide variety of spells and potions and playable characters, all of which have their roots in Potter lore.

And despite the way Lego games take liberties with the situations presented in the movies, giving them a cute and humorous spin, the games are firmly rooted in the source material. Lego-fied or no, there's a certain thrill in exploring the massive Hogwarts grounds, Diagon Alley, the village of Hogsmeade, the Dursleys' home on Privet Drive and other familiar Potter locations.

So-called completionists will have their hands full finding every gold brick, school crest and other unlockable item and character in the game, especially since Lego Harry Potter's puzzles can be a bit baffling at times, and aiming magical spells never feels quite right. Too much to do is better than not enough though, isn't it?

My only beef with Lego Harry Potter -- other than the lack of spoken dialogue means the characters' constant "Huh? Oh! Hmm? Aaah!" gets a bit annoying -- is that the uniqueness of these titles is waning. The original Lego Star Wars games blew our minds because it was our first taste of that oddball but wonderful mix of toy bricks and a beloved movie franchise. Just watching a little Lego Luke Skywalker do battle with a similarly claw-handed Darth Vader was a hoot.

With Lego Harry Potter, the novelty is gone and the game has to stand on its own strengths. Which it does, even if it's occasionally a bit wobbly.

Bottom Line:

If you're a fan of the Lego games or just Harry Potter in general, you'll love this latest Lego-ification of a beloved franchise. The novelty is wearing a tad thin, though. Ennervate!

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4

4 stars (out of 5)

Rating: Everyone 10+

Traveller's Tales/Warner Bros.

Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Wii

steve.tilley@sunmedia.ca