There's something I find comfortingly familiar about TT's LEGO series. Each new license the franchise tackles has resulted in a game - or games - with a core experience that hasn't really deviated from a set template over the past six years. Players still move cute little figurines around different environments, smashing things up, collecting studs, platforming, solving the occasional puzzle and fighting the odd battle.
Players take control of the bespectacled wizard and his Hogwarts pals (along with some of the nastier characters around him) and work their way through the latter three entries in Potter canon; the Order of the Phoenix, the Half-Blood Prince and the Deathly Hallows.
As with the books and films, LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is far darker in tone than what's gone before it, although the good humour of the LEGO series takes a little of the edge off the proceedings. Not too much, mind, and it's a testament to TT's extensive knowledge of the source material that it manages to absolutely nail the different characters in terms of their individual personalities with just a couple of noises and gestures.
The mean-looking smirk that's plastered over the face of Delores Umbridge, along with her smug self-satisfied squeaks, made her every bit as loathsome in the game to me as she's ever been. Snape's haughty disdain is captured in a handful of gestures and harrumphs and, most impressively, You Know Who's sheer menace is evident in the malevolent glee blazing in his eyes. Hats off to TT; this game is the first instance in my life where a LEGO figurine caused a chill to prickle the back of my neck.
There's a ton of things to do between missions, most of which involves collecting studs through platforming, casting spells on the environment and rescuing the odd student in peril. A lot of the spells from the first game also return, as does the slightly unintuitive way of flipping between them - the spell menu is brought up with the same button the player uses to flip between characters.
In the latter half of the game, players will leave Hogwarts for woodlands, other abodes such as Sirius Black's house, or the odd flashback and dream sequence. A new quick-fire control has been also been added, which allows players to spam attacks.
The game supports drop-in/drop-out co-op play and once again, the screen splits if the players wander too far away from each other. Playing in co-op, it becomes easy to see that a lot of the puzzling and platforming was designed with two players in mind. However, the game's AI is decent enough not to get in the way or hold things up for players who want to go it alone.
LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 may strike players familiar with the LEGO series as a bit samey to begin with - especially anyone who played Years 1-4. But thanks to the strength of its stories, its fat pack of content and its irresistible charm, even those initially resistant to the prospect of another three terms at Hogwarts are likely to be won over.
Virgin Media verdict:
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