Your characters will change to fit the scene as you play through Story Mode, so you may find some of the game's many collectibles out of reach until you replay that level in Freeplay Mode, when you can choose who comes along for the ride. Characters have individual abilities - Harry's great on a broom, Ron can send his rat Scabbers into pipes to flip switches, Fang can dig up patches of earth - that you'll need to tap in order to find absolutely everything in the game. And man, there is a lot to find. You'll hunt down boxes for Hedwig, students in peril, bits of the Hogwarts school crest, extra costumes, extra characters, gold bricks, red bricks, and, of course, studs. Studs are the game's currency, which you'll use to purchase more costumes and characters, and unlock wonderfully ridiculous game modes, like one that gives everyone an enormous head, or turns all the wands into carrots. Useful? Not even a little bit, no, but it's worth a few chuckles, just the same.
You'll spend most of your time in Lego Harry Potter with a smile planted firmly on your face, but not all of it. The camera can be decidedly unfriendly, forcing to steer your character using sheer guesswork; it can be particularly bad during the camera shifts to try and accommodate both players during co-op. The game also has some occasional difficulty figuring out what you're trying to target with your wand, which is again exacerbated when two virtual wizards are running around. The collision detection can be iffy, which, when combined with the not-so-generous camera can make the game's jumping puzzles particularly swear-inducing. (Not advised if you're playing with kids, by the way.) None of these problems are so pronounced that they actually ruin the gameplay experience, but when you're having a good time bashing around the quidditch pitch and then suddenly have to spend five minutes fighting the game just to proceed, it's a bit of a buzzkill.
Bottom Line: Like I said at the top of the review, it's Lego Harry Potter, and all that comes with that. It's fun, light-hearted, great to play with a pal, and based on a wonderfully rich and vibrant fictional world. It has some flaws that may set your teeth to grinding, but you'll forgive it as soon as you see the next familiar location or character.
Recommendation: Tons and tons of stuff to unlock, loads of replay value, and a great sense of humor: It's a perfect game for summer. Go get it.
Game: Lego Harry Potter
Developer: Traveller's Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date: June 29th, 2010
Platform(s): Xbox 360, Wii, PS3, PC, DS, PSP
Available from: Amazon
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game.
Susan Arendt regrets that the warm North Carolina winters prevent her from wearing her Gryffindor scarf.