Review: Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 (Sony Playstation Vita)

Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7
Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive
Genre: Action Adventure
Release Date: 03/06/2012

My experience with the Playstation Vita thus far can be summarized thusly: $250.00 worth of potential in a box. Many of the launch titles exhibited the power of the unit, not to mention the new control schemes and online capabilities. But along with that came a sense of déjà vu, what I have come to call “The PSP Syndrome.”

The PSP had a handful of games that were made expressly for that platform, but most of what you found on PSP were straight up ports of PS2 games. For every God of War: Chains of Olympus, or Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, there were a dozen Star Wars Battlefronts, or Lego Batmans, or Lego Star Wars.

I look at the launch titles for the Vita, and while I see some new titles (albeit mostly new titles in existing franchises like Uncharted: Golden Abyss) what I see more of are straight ports of existing titles, like Rayman, Marvel Vs Capcom 3, and so on. I find this trend somewhat worrisome, like history already beginning to repeat itself. It’s as though the developers/publishers learned nothing from their PSP mistakes.

Now the PSP was capable of more or less replicating the visual and musical aspects of the PS2 gaming experience, but any game that used dual analog controls felt gimped on the unit. The Vita does not share this handicap. It has the power to fully replicate a large chunk of the PS3’s library, though the PSP should have taught developers that this isn’t necessarily what gamers want from a portable gaming platform. So someone please tell me why, in the name of all that does not suck, instead of getting a PS3/360 console perfect port of Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7, a feat the PSP easily handled for its Lego ports, the Vita gets a port of the gimped down PSP/3DS version? Why is Warner Bros. Interactive putting this on shelves as a full priced game when it can’t even accomplish what the PSP could do?

1. Story

I’m not going to delve into the story here. If you’ve played any of the Lego games you know what to expect. This is the Cliffs Notes version of the last four Harry Potter films (Order Of The Phoenix, The Half Blood Prince, The Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2) with various extra bits of Lego style humor thrown into the mix. It’s nothing mind boggling, but it does generate some laughs here and there, regardless of age. There were several moments during the game where I found myself chuckling, though not without some small sense of personal shame, so I guess that’s saying something in its favor, however slightly.

2. Graphics

The visuals here are visibly better than the PSP/3DS version, but are otherwise identical. To the layman’s eye, the game might strike you as looking just as good as the PS3 version. However, closer inspection reveals shortcuts galore. The cut scenes have been shortened, with many being removed altogether. What remains has been rendered at a much lower resolution than the PS3/360 version, and appear foggy by comparison, almost as bad as cutscenes from a Dreamcast title. Many of the graphical details of the world around Harry have been stripped down to their most basic visual components, and while the nasty jaggies of the PSP version are gone, the same lower quality textures and object models of the 3DS version remain, only on a more vibrant screen. On a system that can manage an Uncharted game that looks almost as good as its PS3 brethren, this is just inexcusable.

3. Sound

The music and sound effects, for the most part, are lifted straight from the console versions. If you enjoyed the music from the films, you will feel at home here. The best I can say for it is that the Vita version has an overall better sound quality than the other two portable versions of this title, but I would attribute that more to speaker quality than to the game itself. And of course, this being a Lego adventure, there are no spoken lines of dialog, but rather just general utterances of simple emotion. My son and I have played so many Lego games together that speaking to each other in what we have come to call “duhese” has become an inside joke between us that has lasted far longer than it should, so I won’t knock the game for that, as it actually adds to the humor and charm of the series.

4. Control and Gameplay

The controls themselves are perfectly functional and responsive. There are several touch mechanics at play, all ported over from the 3DS version. You can tap the spell circle to swap spells, and when dueling an opponent, you can direct spells with your finger to a certain extent. There is an option in the menu to enable the rear touchpad, but I was never prompted to use it during the course of gameplay, so I am unsure what, if anything, it does for the game.

Here’s what pisses me off the most. The Lego games are already fairly simple pick up and play games as it is, aside from the hundreds of collectables, and while each has its own unique features to differentiate it from the other titles in the series, they all more or less play on the same field. So with a system as powerful as the Vita, why has the gameplay been dumbed down to such a mind numbing degree? The large, open “go anywhere” overworld is gone, replaced with the large central Hogwarts hallway and a few other areas. No more taking the train to London, or exploring Diagon Alley, or hanging around in Hogs Meade. They’ve taken the overworld and replaced it with what is essentially a Harry Potter themed version of the boss selection room from the old school Mega Man titles, the room of doors where you’d be forced to refight every boss before taking on Dr. Wiley. And yes, I realize I just really showed my age there.

Once you get to the levels themselves, they bear a basic visual resemblance to the levels in the console version, but that’s where the similarities end. Gone are all the little interactive elements. In the console version, almost anything can be manipulated. You can walk past torches and cause them to spit coins. You can walk past street lamps and make them bend like Matrix spoons. It is not the case here. For the most part, you will walk into an area, kill whatever enemies are nearby, and then the only objects you can manipulate are those required by the puzzle in that particular room. Going hand in hand with this is that the little side activities are mostly gone as well. In the console version you have House crests, Students in Peril, gold bricks, red bricks, literally hundreds of items to collect. The Vita version has gold bricks, red bricks, and characters, though the means to find/earn them are nowhere near as intricate.

The Vita is capable of full online play, and yet there is no two player option. The game doesn’t even have your typical secondary AI partner following you around, something even the PSP Lego titles were able to accomplish. But not here. Because of this, even the complexities of the puzzles are simplified so that they can be resolved by one character. Similarly the boss fights have been altered and made easier to beat. But then, it seems the only aspect of the gameplay that HASN’T been simplified is the general combat. It’s kind of hard to dumb down point and shoot, folks.

5. Replayability

One thing that did carry over were ability-based puzzles that have to be completed via replaying the levels. There remain objects that can only be manipulated by specific characters, hence whatever hidden item it is can only be retrieved by replaying the game with that “class” of character. So much like the console versions, replay is driven by item collection. And while it doesn’t have as many items to collect as the console version, it still has more than enough to keep you coming back, if you haven’t been bored to tears by its overly-simplified gameplay. And for all you PS3 owners out there who may already have the game, it has its own unique trophy set, so whore away!

6. Balance

These games have never really been known for their difficulty, especially for those who enjoy exploiting the unlockable cheats earned through the collection of red bricks, but this title takes the balance to an all time low. I found it literally impossible to to get stumped by anything in this game. It makes everything perfectly obvious from the get go, insofar as what you’re supposed to do and how you do it. No one above the age of four should have any difficulty completing this game to 100%. My dog should be able to Plat this game.

7. Originality

It’s Harry Potter. And it’s a Lego game. A Lego Game for Dummies. That’s a cash in up port of the version for Sony’s older, inferior handheld. Need I say more?

…I didn’t think so.

8. Addictiveness

Most of the Lego games are highly addictive, not only due to the “gotta find “Ëœem all” aspect of item collection, but also in the puzzles strewn about. On the console versions, you may run past a student caught in a trap, and nothing you do frees him. So you move on, but the thought sticks in your head: “I gotta figure out how to get him out of that trap when I redo this level in free play.”

That experience is, for the most part, absent here, as a side effect of how stripped down the puzzles and overall gameplay have become. You have fewer collectables, and by simplified design, fewer ways to find them. I had to make myself play this game, something that, for me anyway, is a first for the Lego series. “ËœNuff said.

9. Appeal Factor

Many of the gamers I socialize with dismiss the Lego games as kiddie fare. Sit them down with any of the console releases, however (especially an “old school gamer who cut his/her teeth on 8-bit platformers and Zelda-style RPGS), and they are almost always surprised by the fun and addictive nature of the games, especially in two player mode.

If I had a fellow gamer who felt the Lego games were strictly for young children, I would never use this game as a way of changing their minds, as it would only serve as proof to them that the series as a whole is strictly for the diaper set. Diehard Lego fans who own a Vita may get some enjoyment out of it, but if they’ve played any of the previous console titles, especially the console version of this game, they’ll walk away with a bad taste in their mouth.

10. Miscellaneous

Here’s a perfect example of how the developers took the console version of this title and gave it a face full of STUPIFY. In the console version, duels are won based on a defense/attack method, wherein you watch a color coding in the circle that surrounds the dueling space. If the opponent’s side of the circle turns orange, you use that spell to attack him, then switch to a shield spell, then repeat. It’s simple, but there is a layer of strategy there.

The Vita version is mildly similar. The duel takes place in a circle. But the perspective has been changed to a “behind the character” viewpoint, so that you’re looking directly at the opponent. All spells curve along the edge of the circle both towards your opponent, and from the opponent. So basically, you just tap your finger on either side of the opponent’s head to direct which side of the circle you want the spell to travel. If his spell is coming towards you on that side, your spell blocks his spell. So essentially, you can win every single duel by just frantically tapping “left ear, right ear, left ear, right ear” as fast as you can and never lose. Whoever thought this was a good idea should be taken out to Hagrid’s Hut and have a nice long dose of Avada Kedavra blasted right up his shrieking shack.

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Decent
Sound: Good
Control and Gameplay: Below Average
Replayability: Decent
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Poor
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Mediocre
FINAL SCORE: Below Average Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 for the Playstation Vita is a textbook example of a cash grab rush port. Of all the wonderful things the Vita can do, it only takes advantages of the features shared by the 3DS, namely touch controls. It is so bland and lifeless compared to its console version, so bereft of difficulty, complexity, or challenge, that I cannot recommend it for anyone over the age of six. To sum it up as succinctly as I can, playing Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 on the Vita after having played it on the PS3 is like playing any popular 80’s arcade game, then going home, booting up your PS3, bypassing the arcade perfect port on PSN and playing a rom of the Atari 2600 version instead.


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