LEGO Harry Potter brings the magic of Hogwarts to your iPad

by Michael D. Carattini

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 ($4.99) is a polished game that gives you the chance to relive the epic scenes from the popular movies. You can play as Harry, Ron, Hermione or one of many other characters. It's Harry Potter, LEGO style.

LEGO-style video games are nothing new. They offer a solid gaming experience, while providing a sense of humor. It's always funny to see famous characters you've seen in movies, rendered in LEGO blocks. In this particular game, all the Harry Potter characters look like they are made of LEGO blocks. Other than their appearance, the game plays just as it would if it weren't a LEGO game. There are tasks to accomplish, people to talk to, and secrets to uncover.

You control your character by tapping on the screen in the direction you want to travel. If there were one thing this app could improve upon, it would absolutely be the control scheme. Having your finger sliding all around the screen to move really does become a burden. Your finger blocks the screen, and precision is lost when trying to navigate tight corridors. At the time of this review, Warner Bros. has already announced that a virtual d-pad will be introduced in the next update. Let's hope they follow through.

While you move around the open world, you must collect LEGO pieces for points. The more pieces you collect, the better off you'll be. You play through the Harry Potter story, so your first few tasks are to purchase a wand, get a robe, and go to the bank. There are also side tasks that will come up that earn you extra points. While you play through the game, you will encounter certain obstacles that can only be overcome by a specific character. For example, certain actions require a character with more strength than Harry has. So, Hagrid might be a better choice for the job. You can switch between characters on the fly.

Besides the need for a d-pad, other controls work very well. When using your wand, you need to swipe your finger on the screen in a specific motion for a specific action. For example, for an attack you need to quickly swipe from your character to the enemy. To put a broken object back together, you have to move your finger in a circular motion around the object. This element really makes you feel like you're moving your wand around to perform a specific action.

The graphics, music and sound are all top-notch. The entire experience feels fluid and polished, and the cut scenes add some nice humor to the mix. Personally, I'm not a huge fan of games that have lots of little objects floating around the maps for you to collect. I feel like I have to get every little piece, and it just bothers me. However, even with all the little LEGO pieces, this game is a pleasure to play.