LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1–4 by Warner Bros. is an action-packed iPhone and iPad game with a console feel. Players familiar with the LEGO franchise for Xbox 360 or PS3 will be right at home and a bit surprised, all at the same time. I had some concern with translation to iOS controls and screen size, but the overall experience was rich and intuitive with plenty of longevity.
The basic premise with these LEGO games varies from story to story (whether it’s Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, etc.), and I was pleased to find that this game was no exception. Upon first launch, the game introduces players to the familiar opening scene with Dumbledore and Hagrid dropping then infant Harry off at his muggle home on Privet Drive. These cut scenes are some of my favorites parts because they push the story forward at a pleasant clip and portray that childish charm that only LEGO can deliver. The basic gameplay sends players off to classes at Hogwarts or other sections of the Harry Potter world to solve puzzles, cast spells and collect studs.
While I’ve barely gotten through the first year, the mix of puzzles, quick mini-games and playfully destructive exploration is really nice. You can choose between 2 control methods: an odd touch-to-walk mode and a more classic “buttons and joystick” mode (I highly recommend the latter). Additionally, when players activate certain objects in the Harry Potter world they are required to draw shape gestures on the screen to complete spells—making for really nice player engagement. Finally, once you’ve completed levels in “story mode” you can go back and play them again in freeplay to collect anything you missed.
In short, this game is a lot of fun. I’ve always been a huge fan of these LEGO games because the controls are simple, the tasks are addicting and, well, they make me feel a bit like a kid again. This game provided a decidedly different feel than the console versions I was used to, but that really was for the best. Developers really took the time to optimize the touch screen capabilities. You spend long enough drawing spell shapes on your screen and you almost feel like you’re Harry waving your wand around. I will say that the virtual joystick is no substitute for a physical one, and don’t get me started on the clunky, unresponsive touch control scheme the game starts you on by default. But once you get the hang of it, the story offers hours of puzzle-solving, spell-casting entertainment. This game really is…dare I say “magical?”