LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

It's all in the wand. This tool of mystical power may be threaded with a phoenix feather in J. K. Rowling's ubiquitous mythology, but here, in the latest of Traveller's Tales' similarly successful mash-ups, its core is pure brick.

Create and destroy. These twin, conflicting concepts have fired Lego's success for over 60 years: the joy of building a plastic house only to knock it down again; the wonder of being able to rebuild a spaceship as a handgun or a robot as a kitten. The wand presses this same power into our palms.

A purplish glow hovers around clumps of bricks on screen as you point. Squeeze the button and the bricks hover and swirl before assembling themselves into a meaningful shape: a bridge, a staircase, a statue. Meanwhile, another button unsheathes the wand, not as a the tool of a creator, but as the weapon of a destructive god, firing magical bullets that disassemble those same objects into a dozen pieces, spitting out coins to collect.

Traveller's Tales may have established the fundamental mechanics in the Star Wars universe, but it's in Harry Potter's world that the concepts really click into place. A Jedi wields the Force of creation in a palm and the force of destruction in a lightsaber. In Lego Harry Potter, it's all in the wand. As such, there is a harmony of idea and expression that envelops the game.

This isn't the only happy correlation between the ideology of Lego and the mythology of Potter that helps make this the strongest of the developer's games. Rowling's world is held together with a mixture of magic and logic, the two key ingredients to any video game in search of fathomable wonder.

Broomsticks and cars can fly, but people can merely levitate; Chimneys offer warp points, but if there are none around, you must take the stairs or catch a lift. Green spells cause cloying vines to retreat, opening up new pathways or releasing objects, while white spells scare away ghouls. Harry Potter has an unflinching game logic, all keys, locks and hard-and-fast rules that can be written in C++. As such, in the right hands, this written world is ripe for turning into a video game.

A less straightforward challenge is steering a story through three books' worth of plot, all of which take place within the shifting structure of Hogwarts School. As with the previous Lego Harry Potter game, the structure is surprisingly complex and forward-thinking. There are, in effect, two hub worlds to explore, each leading into the six discrete levels that comprise each book's story.

The first, Diagon Alley, is where new characters are purchased, cheats are unlocked, videos are re-watched and previous levels are accessed. The second nested hub world is Hogwarts itself, a mystically mechanical building filled with shifting secrets that changes dynamically as you progress through the game. You follow a ghoulish guide through its corridors towards the trigger point for the next level, uncovering its own secrets en route as you gain access to new spells and abilities over the course of the adventure.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 launches on 18th November, Warner Bros. has announced.

It's coming for - deep breath - 3DS, DS, PC, PlayStation 3, PSP, Wii and Xbox 360.

A PlayStation Vita version was also previously announced.

For those who wand more after Harry Potter Years 1-4, Years 5-7 covers the last three books in the boy wizard series - snorefest Order of the Phoenix, dark Half-Blood Prince and final battle-fuelled Deathly Hallows.

Lego franchise veterans TT Games are once again at the helm as the plastic versions of Harry and Voldemort duel to the death.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4

Warner Bros. has announced expected Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 follow-up Years 5-7. It launches sometime during 2011's fourth quarter - from October to December.

The game covers the latter portion of the boy wizard saga - chunky yawn-fest Order of the Phoenix, tissues-at-the-ready Dumbledore-killing Half-Blood Prince and the final battle-filled Deathly Hallows.

It's out for every console under the sun - Nintendo 3DS, DS, PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Wii - and, interestingly, the Next Generation Portable. Sony is yet to set a firm release date for its new handheld, though this confirms what we knew already - it will be out sometime before the end of the year.

Either that or Warner has said too much and Sony's lawyers are preparing the Cruciatus curse at this very moment.

Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is being developed by franchise veterans TT Games and features all the locations from final books and films, as the series builds to Harry's final confrontation with Voldemort.

Spoilers: Voldemort wins.

Not really.


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