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'LEGO Harry Potter' offers magical fun in block form

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4" covers first four J.K. Rowling books and movies
  • Fans enjoy how Harry, other characters are represented in LEGO form
  • Critics dislike targeting system; other bugs found
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(CNN) -- "LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4" attempts to bring together two fan bases, one for the block-building toys and the other for the admirers of the fantasy world of Hogwarts, in a video game based on the first four "Harry Potter" books and movies.

If you have ever played any of the other LEGO-based games from Traveller's Tales, you know what you are getting -- familiar characters from blockbuster movies set in the land of LEGOs with all the secrets and humor you've come to expect. (See "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones," etc.)

The story opens with Hagrid putting a baby Harry (with trademark lightning-bolt scar and glasses) on the steps of his nonmagical parents' home. The game quickly fast-forwards to Harry pushing his cart through a train station wall and stepping into the world of Hogwarts.

Most of the game is spent passing though familiar locations and scenes, collecting pips (small LEGO blocks that act as money) as you cast magical spells learned from the schoolmasters. Part of the fun was finding bits of blocks and putting them together to create something else.

A friendly LEGO ghost will help keep you on the story path, but there are many different rooms to explore -- each with its own challenges, rewards and humor. Quaffing a strength potion in one room makes Harry bulk up in almost a Hulk-like fashion, except for the tearing-the-clothes bit.

There are puzzles to be solved, students to be rescued and evil Dementors to fight. Ron and Hermione accompany Harry in his journey, and you can switch to them as your main character to use their special abilities (Ron's rat or Hermione's spells). While there is no online co-operative play, a friend can pick up a controller and join in the fun -- which helps if they know the movies and you don't.

Fans seem to like how well Traveller's Tales treat their beloved Harry and his magical world. They enjoy all the secrets to be found and how the developers captured the sense of wonder from J.K. Rowling's stories.

On the other hand, some critics found the targeting during battles to be inconsistent, and a few bugs were discovered during play. But overall, the game has received praise as "easily the best Harry Potter game to date" and "one of the finest LEGO adventures to date as well" from the online gaming site Gamespot.

"LEGO Harry Potter: Year 1-4" is available on the PC, Nintendo DS, Wii, PlayStation 3, PSP and Xbox 360.

[TECH: NEWSPULSE]

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