Co-op pals, miles apart?
LEGO Indiana Jones 2 introduced a couple of innovations that changed the way the LEGO games worked. Previously the players would jump in and out of a level from a single hub world and throughout the game they would have to stay on the same screen. This meant that co-op pals would often find themselves trying to run in opposite directions and failing. In Indy 2 you could now separate within a level and Traveller’s Tales gave the players a huge world in which to escape one another. It was liberating, but in hindsight it altered the co-op dynamic. No longer were there many puzzles that required two players to complete e.g. one person holds down a switch to allow another player to pass.
This error has been compounded in LEGO Harry Potter and at times it feels like you are playing two separate games on the same screen. Each player will miss out on so much of the funny Easter eggs and magic of the game because they are too far away from the action – a shame. The levels themselves are a mixture of those that allow the new co-op splitscreen feature and those that revert to the older style of keeping both players together. This is all down to the confines of Hogwarts and the fact that most levels take place in doors. With so much set dressing in these enclosed spaces you often feel cramped and too much can happen at once. The outdoor sections are not as liberating as in LEGO Indy 2 with few vehicle levels in the story mode and no playable Quidditch to be had. Also of note is that only player one will receive achievements/trophies; a little strange for a game so geared towards a co-op experience.
Despite its issues Harry Potter is the most generous of the LEGO games yet when it comes to activities – story mode, free play, bonus levels and a level designer are all included. To get 100% in the game will take a long time. This is great news, but as you boot up the game it can be a little daunting. For the first time in a while I was forced to open up the gaming manual to find the different areas such as where to buy characters and cheats. They are all hidden away in a LEGO version of Diagon Alley, which is brilliantly realized, but confusing to someone who is dropped into the world. Hogwarts is also created in great detail, but when you are forced to retrace your steps countless times in the story mode it can get tiresome. The ghost of Nearly Headless Nick is used to guide the players to their next destination, without him the game would be almost impossible to traverse.