Game Reviews

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4

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Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Almost anything is made adorable when reenacted in little coloured blocks - Star Wars, Indiana Jones, even a satanic ritual, such is the magic of Lego. When it comes to the magical world of Harry Potter, adding Lego is enough to make your head explode.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is instantly charming and thoroughly impressive. Not only does it combine two of the cutest universes on the planet, but it does so by transplanting the previously released handheld versions onto iPhone and iPod touch (iPad support coming soon) at a fraction of the price.

Unfortunately, awkward controls hamper this darling adventure.

So the story goes

As the title suggests, Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 chronicles the first four years of the young wizard's schooling.

From his first Quidditch match to discovering the Chamber of Secrets, every notable moment has been lovingly rebuilt in brick. Developer TT Fusion has worked magic in making Harry Potter even more adorable than before.

Such irresistible style is supported by a wealth of content. A whopping 44 levels spread unevenly across the school years makes for a lengthy play, not counting the secrets waiting to be found when tackling stages in Free Play mode.

The ensemble cast is enormous: over 100 characters can be unlocked, some requiring extensive play and clever puzzle-solving.

Few portable games are as robust as this, yet unrefined controls detract from its charm and depth.

Screen obscuro

Moving Harry and company is done by sliding or tapping a finger on the screen. You can either drag a finger across the screen to lead a character or tap where you want them to go. It sounds like an intuitive configuration, but it actually hinders exploration and interferes with other aspects of the game, like spell-casting.

Since you're constantly tapping or swiping to move characters, your hand ends up blocking the screen. Simple tasks like collecting studs are more laborious than they should be. Sometimes your character moves when you intend to select an object.

Magic spells are cast by drawing gestures: for example, casting the levitation spell wingardium leviosa is a matter of tracing a triangle with a concave bottom.

Stupefy stuns nearby enemies whenever you quickly draw a circle around your character. It's a neat system, though oddly you're unable to cast a spell and move at the same time.

Price to pay

Use of a virtual analogue stick would avoid these problems, even if it isn't an ideal solution. But the game is without control options of any kind.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 was developed with physical analogue sticks and D-pads in mind, and awkward touch controls on iPhone and iPod touch highlight that fact.

While it's possible to put up with the controls, some of game's magic is sapped as a result. Extended loading times and limited handset compatibility are tolerable given the platform, but playing for ten hours with your hand blocking the screen is irritating no matter what the price (and what a phenomenal price it is).

It's unfortunate because there's much to like about the game: tons of levels and characters, fun scenarios and mini-games, and a wonderful sense of humour. Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is a great deal and good fun, though summoning new controls could make it truly magical.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is a charming adventure hampered by an ill-conceived touch control scheme
Tracy Erickson
Tracy Erickson
Manning our editorial outpost in America, Tracy comes with years of expertise at mashing a keyboard. When he's not out painting the town red, he jets across the home of the brave, covering press events under the Pocket Gamer banner.