LEGO Harry Potter Collection marks the first time I’ve stepped into Hogwarts in well over a decade, and it feels just like coming home. Having grown up as the books (and later, movies) released, JK Rowling’s magical world has undoubtedly helped shape the person I am today, so to dive into a complete yet truncated compilation of Harry’s adolescent adventures is nothing short of nostalgic. Nostalgia aside, while LEGO Harry Potter Collection is equal parts a Harry Potter game and a LEGO game, the real magic will likely only be felt by fans who are familiar with the source books or films. Still, reliving Harry’s Hogwarts adventures is a good and fun time, and this remastered collection is the definitive way to experience them in LEGO form.
If you’re familiar with any of the other licensed LEGO titles, you’ll know, more or less, what to expect from LEGO Harry Potter Collection—though, admittedly, this is my first foray into any of the LEGO games aside from LEGO City Undercover. That said, I was surprised to see no voice acting whatsoever from the cast of familiar characters. To say it would have been wildly expensive to bring in the films’ actors to reprise their roles here is an understatement, though the game’s shortened versions of each year’s story really doesn’t require full voiceover talent. A few grunts, cheers, and expressive animations is all you’ll get in each cutscene, but that’s really all that’s needed. Again, Traveler’s Tales assumes you’re already familiar with the source material, so being able to rush through the first four years in roughly fifteen hours speaks to the fact that the story here is pretty limited. The fact that the game does make that assumption means that players who aren’t Potterheads might feel a bit burned by the lack of a cohesive narrative, but the fact that all the secrets and collectibles to be found reach into wizarding world lore is a testament to the fact that LEGO Harry Potter Collection is absolutely tailored to fans of the series.
Though lacking any kind of voice acting, what the game does showcase brilliantly well are the films’ musical scores. These aren’t simple recreations, either; what you get here is a full one-to-one rendering of the music as heard straight from the movies, and this only adds to the magic of walking through Hogwarts, seeing familiar sights and faces, and encountering the story beats that made this universe so beloved to begin with.
LEGO Harry Potter Collection contains both Years 1-4 and Years 5-7, wrapping up all seven of Harry’s school years in a single package. You can choose to start either game from the main menu, but you’ll have to complete either Years 1-4 or Years 5-7 according to each game’s natural chronology. While both games have been remastered in HD and look great in both handheld and docked modes, the tight, linear structure of each playable area feels rather rigid in comparison to some of the more recent open-sandbox LEGO titles. Fortunately, after you complete each story mission, any new areas you’ve played through will be available in Free Play mode, which allows you to focus on exploring and collecting rather than progressing the game’s narrative. While this does give an option for players who want to burn through the game’s story to then go back and explore for collectibles, there’s nothing barring you from collecting nearly everything the game has to offer while playing through the story. Still, it’s nice to have the option to freely roam any of the past levels you’ve unlocked at a more leisurely pace. Additional options to explore Diagon Alley where you can view unlocked costumes, purchase new spells, view the game’s cutscenes, and enter cheat codes gives you plenty to do and work toward outside of the game’s main story.
As you progress from year to year, you attend classes and play through various story beats, which unlock various spells. When you first start in Year 1, you have virtually no spells, and it does feel slightly overwhelming, since you can see every possible object with which you can interact, but unless you have the proper spell to interact with that object, you’ll have to come back later. In that sense, LEGO Harry Potter Collection plays somewhat like a Metroidvania—once you have the required spell, you can come back to the plant that’s been blocking your path or zap a pixie that’s been holding an item necessary for you to complete a puzzle. It’s here that the game shines the brightest, and by the end of each game, you’ll have a full arsenal of spells with which to unlock everything the collection has to offer.
It is worth noting that the controls differ slightly between Years 1-4 and Years 5-7; rather than pressing the X button to use whichever spell you have equipped, like in Years 1-4, the A button is the sole button used for spellcasting in Years 5-7, with the Y button being your standard spell to hit and knock over objects in the latter. It’s a small change, but one that will take some getting used to between games. Also worth mentioning is that progress isn’t carried over between titles, so don’t think any of your unlocked spells or currency will make the jump to the later years.
One area in which LEGO Harry Potter Collection falls short is its camera. While only able to slightly move the camera up, down, left, or right to see the environment just outside the main frame, the game’s camera is so acutely rigid that it’s often difficult to see behind or around certain objects. Additionally, the game’s forced platforming sections are rendered even more obtuse when taking into account the rigid nature of the camera. It’s already difficult enough to perceive proper depth when platforming, and the angle forced upon the player simply makes platforming sections an exercise in frustration. Fortunately, death costs a fraction of studs—the in-game currency—and since studs are so rampantly abundant, falling to your death isn’t as costly as it could have been.
The game’s controls also feel a bit clunky by 2018 standards, as character movement speed—whether using stock Joy-Cons or a Pro controller—is rather inconsistent, and I constantly caught myself mixing up the buttons to swap spells or switch between characters. Given that both titles originally released in 2010 and 2011, this isn’t too surprising, and most players should be able to overlook these issues. The game’s frame rate is also wildly inconsistent; at times, it appears to reach a full 60 frames per second, whereas other times it dips below 30. How a game that is effectively seven years old still has such issues is rather perplexing, but it’s not a deal-breaker here.
Whether I’m progressing through Harry’s adventures, collecting character tokens or Hogwarts crests, or just simply exploring the school I wish I’d attended, LEGO Harry Potter Collection is a fun time, especially for true Potterheads. Though dated and clunky design is met with a poor camera, there is plenty of content and fun to be had with LEGO Harry Potter Collection, and the Nintendo Switch version is the absolute definitive way to experience these titles.
Disclaimer: A review code for LEGO Harry Potter Collection was provided by the game’s publisher.