omali's LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 (PlayStation Portable) review

Fails To Meet Up To Lego-Movie-Game Standards

I want to like this game, but it feels as if everything good about the game was borrowed from the other versions of the same title. If the Lego movie game brand is a family, than Lego Harry Potter on the PSP is the red-headed stepchild that even the Weasleys would keep in the magically secured basement. 
Lego Harry Potter borrows its cutscenes from the console versions, albeit at a lower resolution. The scenes themselves continue the silly legacy of the Lego movie adaptations, from the in-your-face (Harry shakes Lupin's hand and breaks it, causing Lupin to comically fall over in pain when Harry leaves) to the small jokes that are worth a chuckle or two (Hagrid has a Harry Potter figurine on his keychain).  
I knew I wasn't going to like Harry Potter on the PSP almost immediately when I booted up the first level, situated in Book 1 in the Dursley house. For a series that has always prided itself on there being no dialogue or conventional forms of discussion (the characters grunt and use exaggerated gestures to make their point), Lego Harry Potter breaks this tradition by not only allowing characters to talk, but attempting to turn the game into a faux-RPG, by outright calling the tasks "quests." From the outside, this may seem trivial, but the inclusion of the text only leads to one thing: exposition, and boy is there a lot of it. Unlike the other versions, there is never any second guessing to what you're supposed to be doing, the game comes right out and holds your hand the whole way.  
In addition, the game misses a lot of the jokes from the other titles, usually by including the punchline but losing the lead. It's almost as if TT Games wanted to keep the jokes in, but didn't have enough space to include all of them, so rather than cutting down on the cutscenes (which they did anyway), they just threw in the punchlines. It isn't all to uncommon to just get the "to get to the other side!" without mention of chicken nor road.
As far as the rest of the Lego mechanics go, Harry Potter fills the void. The game entails your standard running around, collecting studs, and completing challenges and solving puzzles to find wizard hats (generally 5 per level), red bricks (1-2 per level), and hidden character cards. The studs can be used to buy new characters (generally just aesthetic changes), cheats (fun changes to the game), and more. In fact, as far as gameplay goes, Lego Harry Potter does a pretty good job of following the Lego franchise. Collect studs, build structures, and backtrack once you complete the story-mode so you can get to places you couldn't get at the time. 
This is where Harry Potter stops being that silly game and starts being an annoying pest. Spells are cast by pressing the X button when an object starts glowing, and then following a key set of sequences. The sequences themselves are short, three buttons long, but the spell that annoys me most is Transfiguration spell, which requires a puzzle to be completed. Every. Damn. Time. The puzzles are about twenty to thirty seconds long, and by themselves aren't too obnoxious, but the game has a habit of recycling the same five puzzles throughout the entire game, making them quickly boring and monotonous.  
The other major issue I had with Lego Harry Potter was the numerous times I managed to get stuck in the geometry, making the game unplayable and requiring me to restart my PSP. Between getting stuck mid-jump, having objects not respond when they are supposed to, and literally breaking quests so they are not completable, this game could have used a few more months in Quality Assurance before rolling out on shelves.  
One exploit I did use to my favor, however, had to do with these toadstool enemies that appear in Book 3. They jump out of the ground, and it is possible to stand underneath them, allowing them to jump on your head. As the game doesn't know how to deal with enemies falling, they die instantly when you move out of the way. I was also able to avoid many of the game's puzzles, as shoddy coding allowed me to access areas I wasn't supposed to be able to get to, in order to break objects or solve puzzles without having to go through the puzzles leading up to it.
Lego Harry Potter screams "this wasn't made by the original developers," a statement made all too disappointing by the knowledge that it was indeed developed by TT Games (hopefully by unpaid interns). Then again, it may have been made by the same guys who made the Guinness Book of World Records video game, in which case the quality makes perfect sense.  My final gripe, and this extends to all of the Lego Harry Potter games, is the time it takes to learn Alohamora. In the movies, they learn the spell in year 1. In the PSP version, you "learn" the spell in year 4, when Hermione says "we haven't used Alohamora in a while, let's practice it!" We haven't used it at all, you mudblood! 
Lego Harry Potter is a game much better played on the consoles or PC version, and the handhelds should be avoided at all cost. The game is buggy and obnoxious with the amount of recycled puzzles that appear. Perhaps the only redeeming feature of the handheld over the console is that, as there are no physics in the game, the studs always appear in a place that you can reach. 
Minor Spoiler: This was a question I had going into the game, and I'm sure one many of you had as well. How does the game handle Cedric Diggory's death? Short answer: Light heartedly. Cedric appears with Harry when the two are teleported back to the castle, in pieces. His father is sad for a split second, until Dumbledore literally pulls a schematic for building Lego figures out of his pocket. 
One thing I almost forgot to mention: Lego Harry Potter is a pretty long game. I clocked in almost twelve hours just completing the main storyline. Book 4 is the least exciting, and oddly the shortest of the books, despite the book itself being the longest.


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