Harry Potter is back on iOS with the final chapters of the story about friendship, and the struggle of good versus evil.
Some of the best scenes from the movies are re-enacted using the Lego brand, and a whole heap of family friendly humour. As a fan of all things Lego from my early years on this Earth I have already played the Wii version from start to end, and then some. My expectations were high both due to the fact that 5-7 was a much-improved game compared to the 1-4, and the fact that Years 1-4 is so good on iOS. Sadly what we get with Years 5-7 for iOS is a dumbed down version where the great gesture controls has been replaced by a stale attempt at making a console control setup.
I get it, I really do. Selling a product for $4.99 will hamper sales of the recently released Years 5-7 on the PS Vita that entered the market at $50. As all PS Vita games the prices tend to plummet, and now it is down to around $20. Still I would rather like to see the iOS version at a higher price if it meant that the quality would be at least as good as the earlier game.
So what have they done wrong? For one the controls are down to a virtual control stick that is ok at best. If your finger veers off the stick your character stops dead in the tracks. Really annoying if you are trying to perform a long jump, or a series of moves. Buttons for using spells, building and interacting with environment, changing character and jumping feel stale. There is no way to customize the size of the buttons, and as they all look more or less the same it makes it feel really unpolished. Holding the spell button to charge a spell is also a hassle since there is little indication that you are actually holding it down. Once charging you can move the sight around using the virtual control stick. I would have liked to see a free gesture based scheme, as seen in 1-4 instead.
The proof that it doesn’t work as well is that the game isn’t that fun to play. As you can’t move buttons around the game gets a bit awkward to play using the iPad. You can’t have it in your lap, but has to hold it like a steering wheel to reach all the buttons. Furthermore my four-year-old daughter who has played Years 1-4 for ages has already given up on Years 5-7. The controls lack that immediate response, and gratification to feel interested to go on.
There, now I have complained for quite a bit, the rest of it has to be good right? Well some of it is. For one the game is quite massive, and you get a console quality experience when it comes to game length and story. The story is told in fun video sequences that give fun variations on the scenes in the movies. What it does get wrong however is the general quality of the graphics. On the New iPad this is evident, as the textures are murky and at times blocky. The most notable eyesore is found in the menus, and loading screen where fonts look messy. Another case where the game feels intentionally mucked up not to draw too many sales away from the PS Vita, and other consoles.
The sound is great, as always with a dark soundtrack fitting the darker movies in the end of the series. You can listen to your own music, and keep the sound effects, which is something I really like.
One thing that the iOS version gets slightly better than the console versions is the sense of level progression. On the Wii me, and the Mrs ran about feeling lost in Hogwarts most of the time. Here Hogwarts is simplified, and there isn’t as much pointless running about going on. It does however bring up something I hope to see in the future: Coop. Now Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is a lonely experience, and all Lego games are best played with a friend.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 is a weird experience where the great intuitive controls of the predecessor have been replaced with unresponsive buttons. Furthermore the graphics don’t look that good on the iPad, and especially not on the New iPad. The game plays a bit better on the iPad if you can manage to hold it without too much strain, as the buttons get too small on the iPhone. What you do get however is a bargain version of a massive console game, and if you are a fan of Lego, Lego games or Harry Potter you will still get a lot of game for your bucks.
Lego Harry Potter: Years 5-7 $4.99 Universal for iPad/iPhone/iPod
Seller: Warner Bros Enterainment