Alrighty folks, it’s confessional time.
I did not see any of the Harry Potter movies in full until…2012. Late 2012, at that.
Since I don’t see any flaming arrows or rotten vegetables headed my way, I’ll suppose that no one really cares. Regardless, it felt good to get that off my mind because lately I’ve felt quite out of touch with what all the cool kids are doing. What are people watching, wearing, and playing these days? Hell if I know. I’m just trying to get through Xenoblade Chronicles and wondering, through the joys of spring cleaning, how I came to be in possessions of so many hoodies? (Cold, cold, winters, I guess?)
But, Harry Potter. Do kids still talk about the books and movies? Since quidditch is still an all-out sport for some, I’m going to assume yes. I remain a bit in awe that the first movie in the series is nearly old enough to drive! Oh, how fast they grow up, dontcha know? When it came out almost a decade-and-a-half ago, I was not completely oblivious to the madness, but it was not a scene I wished to participate in. Kid wizard tries to find his place in the world? Eh, not interested. Over the course of a decade, my interest in Harry Potter waned even further. Sure, it was fun to watch how Daniel Radcliffe and the gang made the nightly news a bit more hectic for several summers, but that’s as far as I wished to go with the trend – just watching it all unfold on TV. Speaking of which, as the years passed and the HP movies made their ways to cable and basic cable, I did catch glimpses of the movies here and there. But sitting down to watch a whole movie? Nah, I’d rather play Mass Effect, thanks.
All that changed at Christmastime 2012. In a flurry of gifting, we somehow received a set of all eight Harry Potter movies. Over the course of eight weeks, we sat down to watch one movie every Sunday afternoon. I found myself thoroughly entertained and quite captivated on those Sundays. But then the end of the last movie came and the excitement died down. End of blog post.
Or not. Because what happened next (er…several months later) was stumbling across a discounted copy of LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 for the Xbox 360 at the local Walmart. (Of course at the local Walmart. Always at the local Walmart.) I knew full well that the LEGO games had expanded their reach into all sorts of family movie fare past Star Wars and Indiana Jones and Batman. And though I harbored a teensy bit of hate at the time towards an unsuccessful go at LEGO Batman 2, my heart remained quite open to any game featuring those beloved bricks. PLUS, I could finally put all my newfound HP knowledge to good use – no sense in fumbling around an unfamiliar LEGO world now is there?
Captain Obvious says that LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 covers the first four years of Happy Potter’s life, or rather, the first four movies in the series: Sorcerer’s Stone (2001), Chamber of Secrets (2002), Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), and Goblet of Fire (2005). Captain Obvious also says that the mechanics of the game, regardless of which “year” you were playing, remained true to previous LEGO games: traverse worlds, fight bosses, collect bricks and special items to open up new characters, levels, etc. In other words, I was looking forward to spending several weekends back in the enjoyable world of LEGO games, only this time with everyone’s favorite magical crew, Harry, Ron, and Hermione, in tow. (There’s little point in me regaling you with the game’s story. If you’ve seen the movies, you know the game. If you’ve not seen the movies, then you’ve probably skipped this blog post entirely. And now I’m just talking to myself. Hmph.)
As I alluded to above, prior to sinking my LEGO-collecting teeth in LEGO HP, I attempted to play LEGO Batman 2 on the Wii. It was an awful experience – not the game but playing itself the game with the Wiimote and nunchuk. Did things go better playing on the 360? For the most part, yes. The controls worked quite properly while roaming and collecting during missions. It was easy enough to switch between characters, as it was to switch between a character’s abilities and spells. In story mode you always played as one of the main group (Harry, Ron, and Hermione), but occasionally switched to controlling a special character, such as Hagrid, in order to complete a certain section. Like in other LEGO games, there were primary stories to follow, as well as any number of side missions that usually resulted in receiving special block or items as prizes upon completion.
All in all, LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 was a fun, solid game, LEGO or otherwise. But I did encounter a few issues that made me realize that my beef with LEGO Batman 2 might not have been entirely founded. In LEGO Batman 2, one of the worst problems I had was using the Wiimote to aim, which was THE MOST important aspect of the game! Seriously, if you couldn’t properly aim the Wiimote to get little LEGO Batman to a certain area, then you couldn’t progress, and that’s exactly what happened. The aiming system was so incredibly glitchy that it made me quit the game (and resolve to someday try it on another system). LEGO HP also featured aiming – usually involving the casting of spells – and it worked…better? Sort of. Actually, it was still a little problematic, and that was despite being limited to casting on only select object. Sometimes the casting “ring” that highlighted objects didn’t function. It was annoying but not rage-inducing. What did fall into that latter category was, for some odd reason, retrieving objects. Like, there were several instances where my character had to pick something up and place it somewhere, or catch a thrown object and throw it back (the boss battle in the “Year 1” comes to mind), that simply didn’t work. Either the “retrieve” function just didn’t register went I went to an object, or I’d pick something up and then not be able to let it go. Because of these aggravating moments, I had to let the game go repeatedly — stop, play something else to regain composure, and go back to it. Needless to say, completing the game took several months and more patience than I cared to expend. And that’s why I’ve yet to obtain the games’ sequel, LEGO Harry Potter, Years 5-7.
You know how they say “with age comes wisdom?” Well, in the case of LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4, I’d rephrase that to say “with age comes the lack of patience to put up with cruddy controls, no matter how great the game itself is.” More and more these days, I find myself with little desire to waste my time on good, great, or excellent games with poor controls. That’s not to say that I detest learning new control schemes; in fact, that’s something I wholly welcome (though might gripe about for awhile). It’s more about when necessary controls fail that a game becomes more trouble than it’s worth. If it hadn’t been for its trademark, tongue-in-cheek LEGO humor and a downright likeable cast of characters, LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 might have well gone the way of LEGO Batman 2. Though I can’t outright call LEGO HP a good game with bad controls. I will admit that a bit of user error probably came into play somewhere. (I do have pretty poor depth perception which can make for me being a dreadful shot in game generally.) How about this? LEGO Harry Potter, Years 1-4 is a good game with fine controls that may require heightened levels of patience, an extreme love of all things LEGO, and a willingness to put up perceived glitchiness that’s probably due to your old-ass reflexes.
Yeah, that sounds about right.