Exhaustive as it is, thereare numerous locations we’d love to have visited in the Wii version of LEGO Harry Potter – Privet Drive or the Room of Requirement, for example. And about the only area in which the DS game beats the Wii version is in its scale. You start at the very beginning, as Harry in the cupboard under the stairs, doing demeaning ‘quests’ for the Dursleys. Before you leave London – before Harry has even been to Hogwarts and learned any spells – you’re using Reparo to restore piles of torn-up books, and zapping bins to find students’ lost Hogwarts train tickets.
The Wii game goes to great pains to make almost everything adhere to the core story – for instance, Harry can’t use spells until he attends the lessons teaching them. It’s disappointing, then, that the DS one is all over the place in comparison. The quests feel like padding, as they seem to have very little to do with either the books or the films; in a game that squishes four stories into one, there must be some part of the fiction left for Traveller’s Tales to plunder.
The world’s isometric, as in the handheld version of LEGO Indy, and you can explore it by swiping your tool of choice over the touchscreen. Using the D-pad and buttons feels more responsive, although it’s a bit impractical, as you need to frequently tap the screen to yammer with someone, drag boxes out of the way or cast a spell by drawing a simple symbol.
Touchscreen spellcasting may seem more convenient than constantly switching between hexes, but many are surprisingly laborious to pull off. Using the Transfiguration spell to transform objects requires first drawing a bow tie symbol, then completing a dull tile-sliding puzzle for some reason. And, yes, that’s every single time you want to cast it.
Contrary to appearances, this is not a cut-down port of the Wii game – there are ideas here that don’t feature in its motion-controlled cousin at all. Aside from their bewildering and frightening ability to talk, the little LEGO wizards can also get their pets to find hidden studs. Brooms play a bigger part in the DS game too, and as you don’t have to worry about the pesky Y-axis, they’re also much easier to control.
All of which makes for an interesting feature list for the back of the box, but fails to coalesce into a consistently enjoyable game. You may see more of the wizarding world here, but when you’re hobbled by dodgy controls and burdened with chore-like tasks, it’s a world where magic seems to be in short supply.
Jun 29, 2010