This is the first in a series of Harry Potter games developed by LEGO, assisted by Warner Bros., copy right owners of Harry Potter. The J. K. Rowling stories set the actions that are played out in this program. They have captivated the imagination of children everywhere. This program is written to further stimulate the child’s imagination and creativity as they replay these stories. From the companies producing this product you would expect a lot and you will not be disappointed. The excellent graphics, art work, and movie presentations are faithful to the books. Children will enjoy the opportunity to produce extra mini school students and buildings to become part of their play as well as go along with Harry on his adventures.
The game starts with Harry receiving his letter of admission to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and leaving for the school on Hogwarts Express at gate 9 and ¾. The 3D train ride gets you off to a fast exciting start. Once at the school you may sign in with five names and select each of four settings for each name. The next time you enter the game and click the name your chosen sound, intelligent help, music, etc. will be repeated while you play. The intelligent help comes from the “Helper Wizard” in the lower right hand corner of the screen. By clicking on him and then on an object about which you have a question he will tell you all he knows about the object. When you go through the action sequences, like flying Harry on his broom, he will remind you what to do. This is a real help for children who may read slowly. Once the play is mastered the sound can be turned off.
You can create as many mini figures as you wish and even divide them into the four school houses, dressing them for the school you choose or no school at all. Dressing includes clothing, magic wands, cloaks, hats, and other needed equipment for action in the various scenes.
Harry’s “World” for this game is made up of four environments, King’s Cross station, Diagon Alley, the Hogwart grounds, and inside Hogwarts castle. All these can be manipulated so you can look behind hills turn buildings around, walk down halls, etc. The play begins as you use the cast of characters from the Harry Potter stories, the players constructed by the child playing the game, and any new buildings constructed from an endless supply of LEGO building blocks. These can be placed in the part of Harry’s World you choose and used in games made up by the child playing the game. Play will usually be reenacting Harry’s experiences remembered from the Harry Potter books. But new mini figures will allow additions to the stories.
From the King’s Cross station you can lay track, put the engine on, and it will go steaming along at your command stopping at stations you select or ones you construct. The boat may be placed on the lake and it too can be moved about. A few Spells are available when the Action book is selected. As you succeed at various Challenges more Spells become available. For the full set you must have completed all of the Challenges! These Challenges are important teaching devices about how to make things work. One interesting feature is the ability to change the weather. When snooping around the grounds or the castle it’s nice to do it at night!
Each scene you construct can be saved. You can return to it at will to continue your play. If you have saved them you will return to the last scene played when you again sign in. There is even the ability to save an object or character to disk for mailing to a friend. You may also use e-mail to share you creations. Of course your friend will need this software to use what you have sent. By clicking on a camera you can take a picture to save a scene. Another camera lets you see the scene through the eyes of the mini figure you have created.
The imagination and creativity of the player is all important to the game. In fact, the child player initiates all action. There are many pre-made action items like the firing of the magic wands, flying on a broom stick, operating the train, etc., but much will depend on the child’s creating scenarios that use the built in actions as well as the newly created characters and buildings.
I like the program because it requires the user to be creativity and imaginative. Would I buy one for a 6+ year old? Yes, if: the child had prior positive experience with LEGO building blocks, and if the child was familiar with, and enjoyed, at least the first edition of the Harry Potter books.
Many children have had these experiences so there is a considerable market for these products. Motivation and enthusiasm is necessary for the child to expend their creative energy on a game such as this.
The additional games in this series add more buildings, offices, school games, adventures, even other cities that are part of Harry Potter’s world. A good Instruction Manual is provided. Technical support is available by phone at 800-366-6062 and on the LEGO Web page.
Minimum System Requirements: PC Pentium PII 266 MHz; Windows 98/2000/ME;
64 MB RAM; Sound card: 100% Windows 98/2000/ME DirectSound compatible sound card. 4-speed or faster CD-ROM; Two-button mouse and keyboard required — Microsoft compatible Joysticks can be used. DirectX 8 required included on CD; 500MB of free uncompressed Hard Disk space required.
This reviewer used Windows XP Home edition and the software loaded with no difficulty.
This game is suggested for age 6+. For a list of other games in this series go to LEGO, many of the additional programs in the series are for ages 7-12. You can purchase this software from that site for $29.99. It has been out for a while so your favorite source may have it for less.