Our November Game of the Month just received a major update. Warner Brothers has addressed multiple concerns players were having with the game by adding a virtual D-pad, fixing various bugs, and expanding device support to include older iPhones and iPods.
While we didn’t mind the game’s original touch-based control scheme, playing with the D-pad does feel like an improvement. Context-sensitive buttons for spells will appear whenever you’re close enough to an object to cast a spell. Combat is also linked to a button, but we found it easier to draw a line like before, so that we didn’t have to worry about which way Harry was facing in the middle of a fight.
Probably the most important change in this update is support for the iPhone 3G and 2nd and 3rd generation iPod Touches. Although the App Store description originally claimed it would run on all 3rd generation iPod Touches, our readers in the comments below reported that the game wouldn’t install on their 8GB models. This has apparently been addressed, so let us know if you bought the game last month and are just now able to play it.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 could have been rushed out as a cheap, awful mobile game in time for the new movie, and it still would have probably sold a million copies. What damage could a bad iPhone game do to two brands that are as strong as they’ve ever been? Imagine our surprise when we found that not only is LEGO Harry Potter a quality licensed title, it’s one of the best kids games on the iPhone.
LEGO Harry Potter is mostly a third-person adventure game, with a bit of shooting, platforming, and puzzle-solving mixed in. You move your character by tapping anywhere on the screen, and must complete simple quests to advance the storyline. You can also interact with objects in the environment by drawing spells on the touchscreen.
Spell-casting is central to any Harry Potter game, but you may not be prepared for the amount of stuff you have to collect, too. Since this game is part LEGOs, with every character and environment made out of building blocks and available for purchase in some Toys R Us set, endless collection makes a sort of sense.
You have studs, or coin-shaped LEGOs, to collect, along with hidden hats, playable characters, diorama scenes, and spells. Trust us– buy this game for your Harry Potter-obsessed child for Christmas, and they’ll still be playing it by the time spring rolls around.
All the optional collectibles are just decoration for a story mode that takes you through the first four Harry Potter books and movies in incredible detail. CG cutscenes mimic shot-for-shot some of the films’ most memorable moments, but with adorable LEGO actors playing each scene for laughs. These cutscenes, for us, were the highlights of the game.
The levels themselves, 44 in total, run the gambit from spell lessons at Hogwarts (which introduce new abilities), to boss battles against Harry’s nemeses. Minigames, including transformation jigsaw puzzles and potion brewing, are simple, but a nice change of pace from the constant adventuring. As you progress through the game’s story mode, you’ll also be able to revisit earlier levels in free play mode to find more hidden items and reach areas that you couldn’t earlier.
Harry Potter and the Marketing Synergy.
LEGO Harry Potter is extremely entertaining because it consistently changes up the environments, breathlessly advances the storyline, throws new challenges at you, and then rewards you with more unlockables. Several of the challenges can be very simple, especially when you’re always prompted to trace a figure on the screen for spells, but we think this makes the game perfect for younger kids.
This is much more than just a cheaply made cash-in of the two brands. LEGO Harry Potter is a full handheld console port, with great graphics and controls that take advantage of the mobile platform, for a bargain bin price. Unless you’re some grumpy muggle who can’t possibly be charmed by Harry Potter, buy this game.