The people at Hersheys once had a great idea: combine chocolate (which is good) and peanut butter (also good) to make something greater than the sum of their parts. The rest is confectionery history.
Traveller's Tales has been making the video game equivalents of these with the LEGO and [insert popular brand name here] series for a while now, and - though it's still a mixture that tastes just fine - the product is becoming a touch bland, evidenced in its latest release LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7.
If you don't know the story of Harry Potter's fifth to seventh years then, well, you should probably stop reading this, because the title isn't for you.
LEGO Harry Potter does little to explain the reasons Voldemort is out to get you, why the Weasley twins are always playing tricks, or what a horcrux is, making the assumption that if you've come this far you know the fiction like the back of your wand.
Needless to say, Hogwarts – a school for magical folk – and the rest of the wizarding world is under threat from evil and you have to stop them across four chapters based on the films.All was well... for the most part
Cutting down the plot to a 'best scenes' affair, the game lets you play through major moments of the kiddie flicks, albeit through a humourous LEGO filter.
There's reverence to the subject material by the developer, though the laughs were more subtle in the previous Star Wars and Indiana Jones releases. Much of the comedy comes from slapstick – magic going awry, silly sound effects, and so on – which is perfect for the demographic they're shooting for: children.
This is a game for the young. The visuals are bright, there's loads to collect, and puzzles are simple to understand. It's straightforward video gaming, never experimenting with play styles, just happy to provide an enjoyable romp through the famous world of J.K. Rowling. It doesn't do anything fundamentally wrong, but nor does it do much to impress.
The game sometimes fails to telegraph properly what you need to be doing, leading to a lot of sections in which progress is halted because you haven't realised you can destroy a nearby object in which a vital puzzle piece is missing. But that's the worst aspect of this totally vanilla release.
Going from area to area, the playing style barely changes. You enter an area, destroy everything in sight to pick up collectibles, maybe off an enemy, then wander about waiting to spot blue glows forming around objects. Once they're outlined, you can use magic to put them into a new place, collect the shiny LEGO bits that drop out, and maybe move on to another part of the level.
It sounds a bit dull, and it certainly can become so with extended play, but it's structurally a very sound and enjoyable title in short bursts.Finite Incantate
Combat comes in two main varieties. The first is the melee type, in which tapping the Y button stuns foes that are automatically targetted, and holding it down prepares a more powerful shot.
The second is duelling - one-on-one battles between significant characters where volleys of fire can be smashed back at opponents. Duels are more satisfying than melee combat, simply because a little more thought is required, though not much.
The quintessential 7 out of 10, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5 – 7 is well-made but uninspired, a good choice for those with a younger family member who has enjoyed the Harry Potter movies.
Traveller's Tales really need to work on improving the formula from here, though, because without the 'newness' of the licence it's still the same game they've been making since 2005.