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Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 shines by not taking itself too seriously. By being allowed to poke pantomime fun at the films and books, and focusing on local co-operative play, it turns a good game into something rather special.
Despite lacking any real depth or difficulty, the Lego brand of games create a quirky, fun experience. In a genre that deters many hardcore game fans, it actually provided me with a well needed break from all that serious gaming.
I'm usually drawn to realistic games. I like my games to be mature and treat me like I have a brain. I have, though, found myself enjoying the Lego games and have spent quite a bit of time playing through the various film franchises they have explored.
Most recently that has meant Harry Potter Years 5-7. Despite being a second instalment, and being aimed at children, me already knowing the story, and having an absurdly long title, I found myself enjoying playing Lego Harry Potter Years not a little bit.
I'm a 36 year old man with other stunning games sitting on my shelf at home, but have finished this game to 100%, as well as the previous one. I don't even like the Harry Potter franchise; I am sure that they are great children's books but they are terrible films and as an adult I prefer to read books written for adults.
In dressup terms these games are akin to a pantomime - lacking depth, telling stories I already know the ending to, and full of silly slapstick moments. I would never go to see a pantomime, but in a year of very serious games it has been refreshing to play something that is just about fun and escapism.
Harry Potter is perfect source material for a Lego game - I would say even more so that the original Star Wars Lego outings. The different spells, characters, mystery, fantasy and settings allow for what has been the best of the Lego franchise so far, with the far reaching and many rooms of Hogwarts being a great base for exploring, learning, collecting and building.
These games are akin to a pantomime, full of silly slapstick moments.
The Lego aesthetic adds to this, and, again, has much in common with pantomime. The settings are gourdy and over the top - all chunky and destructible for much of the game. There is much amusement to be had from destroying everything and collecting the all important Lego stud rewards.
The game doesn't take itself too seriously and actively pokes fun at the Harry Potter stories, characters and settings, adding amusing scenes and generally making merry with the franchise. This meant that I got over the fact that I'm playing something designed for children by, conversely, allowing me to play it with irony. Its nod, wink and kitsch style enabled me to enjoy this puff piece game.
But beyond all this puff, Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 has a clever level of interactivity, one not that common in these sorts of games. It is one of the purest co-op games I've played. Most games focus on single or multi-player online experiences, but the Lego games are co-op orientated and this is the real pulling factor.
Playing alongside my girlfriend, we each dressup as the various characters.
Playing alongside my girlfriend, we can have a shared gaming experience as we each dressup as the various characters (no, not literally) which gives the game a whole extra level of playability and longevity. We can laugh, talk, shout at the screen and at each other, much like we might call out a vicarious 'He's behinds you' at our fictional pantomime. We can ponder the puzzles and maps together, sharing in our joy as we find and activate another red brick. This seems to me to be the key to the Lego games - the old fashioned 'playing in the same room' mechanic.
Lego Harry Potter is light piece of shareable escapism with not a few laughs rolled in. It is this shared experience that carries these games and, like a pantomime, something that will lack its fundamental focus on fun if not shared with another. So, grab a loved one and sit them down to a few levels of Lego Harry Potter. It won't tax your brain or body, but it will let you share a few giggles.
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