There’s no question that Vita's gaming experience can be called “magical,” but with the release of LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7, the enchanting experiences of the final films in Harry Potter’s epic adventures are charmingly downsized LEGO-style and placed right upon your fingertips, allowing the magical series to travel with you wherever you go.
Picking up directly where LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 left off, the teenage Potter finds himself in a much different setting than the charming colourful beginnings of the previous title and its heart-warming quest to arrive at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry for the first time. Instead, we find Harry in trouble as he’s trapped in a dark playground filled with the foul creatures that inhabit the wizarding word: dementors. From the onset of year five in the Order of the Phoenix, we find the evil Lord Voldemort’s powers are ever-increasing and Harry and friends will have to fight with everything they’ve got to see that his deadly grip on the world is finally released once and for all.
This isn’t to say that the game’s LEGO-themed atmosphere and charms are hidden behind the darker colour palettes though. In-game LEGO character renditions of the enormous cast of characters resonate with the same little shine of real LEGO bricks, and the colourful blocky furnishings and décor contrast wonderfully with the generally dark backgrounds. It’s blatantly obvious that these are dark times here where witches and wizards roam, but the hysterical re-enactments of the major highlight moments of these final years are humorously acted out with the use of witty sounds and blocky character movements. Even the most dramatic and heart wrenching moments of these final years are cleverly crafted in ways that are not only impactful, but extremely funny at the same time, making the long quest to the spell-flinging epic battle with ol' Lord Voldy Moldy and his sidekick basilisk Nagani constantly entertaining. The only disenchantment here is the cut scene cinematics — while comical, they come with blurry last-generation visuals.
As with all the other titles that have received the LEGO treatment, gameplay is simplified to be easy for all ages to pick up and play. Simply holding the Square button will bring up a small reticule that can be placed over items/enemies and the game will automatically select the desired spell needed for use, or if tapped, will cast the currently equipped spell. Switching spells is mapped for quick selection via the right analogue stick in circle wheel fashion, and the L and R buttons can be used to singly flip through the spells as well. The Circle button is used primarily for casting the Wingardium Leviosa spell to levitate items and using/activating objects, while the X and Triangle button are left for jumping and swapping characters.
Aside from some small platforming segments, the majority of the gameplay is straightforward and simple: casting spells to fight enemies, levitating items and using objects to decipher simple puzzles. Each level is small in size and perfect for short pick-up-and-play sessions. While the basic gameplay can be somewhat repetitious, the constantly changing environments and the desire to find out how the next big scene will play out in its witty LEGO fashion keeps things fresh and continually moving forward at a brisk pace.
Then we come to the duelling. These short battles are one-on-one magical warfare affairs that are delightfully captivating. With only two buttons needed, the Square button casting spells and the X button reflecting them back upon their caster, these short standoffs are simple, yet clever occurrences that are perfectly executed to properly build a dramatic conclusion to many of the major altercations throughout the game. If you haven’t had your duelling fill when the story is over, there’s a full-fledged Duelling Club to battle through, where you can put any of your unlocked characters up against nearly every major character in the Harry Potter fiction. If want to take on Dumbledore’s Army as a Death Eater, or even let the once enslaved house elf Dobby get his revenge on his former master Lucius Malfoy, now’s your chance.
The extras don’t stop with the Duelling Club though, seeing how the game is nearly snapping apart with more extras than you can throw a chocolate frog at. Levels are absolutely littered with LEGO studs to collect and these can in turn be used to purchase characters, or fun little game enhancements that we’ll leave to you to acquire and trifle around with. If that’s not enough, you can even create your very own LEGO boy or girl to take on your adventures, and of course there’s a large assortment of Trophies to acquire, which are aimed directly at the hearts of completionist like a perfectly crafted Amortentia potion, keeping the magic flowing long after the story mode’s epic conclusion. Though, if you’re looking to bring a friend along, look towards the PS3 version instead, as the multiplayer components were cast aside here in the quest for portability.
Simple, magical and wholly entertaining, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 lets you relive the final years of the Harry Potter fiction in a charming LEGO world. The simple pick-up-and-play approach makes this adventure completely accessible to younger ages, while still offering enough entertainment to keep the oldest of fans playing into the wee hours of the night. While it would’ve been nice to have a friend tag along, like Hermione’s magical handbag, there’s enough extras packed into the tiny game to ensure that us Muggles can keep the charms and bewitchings flying, no matter where we decide to go.