Lego Harry Potter plays like a secret lost chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. A chapter where Harry goes mad with power, puts on a fake moustache and runs, giggling, through Diagon Alley, turning people into ice cubes with a wand that looks like a carrot.
Everything he zaps explodes, uncoils, is remade in a different shape. Scattered bones are reassembled into dancing cadavers, a couch jumps to life and gobbles up a child, a chess game plays itself to checkmate. Lego Harry is the plastic boy-king of a cartwheeling world that entertains at the slightest prod of a magic wand.
The game covers Harry's first four years at Hogwarts, and the format will be instantly familiar to anyone who's played a Lego game. It's a sidescrolling platform puzzler in which Harry and his chums make their way through a plastic Hogwarts, using their unique talents to break down obstacles and progress through the major events of the books and films. Ron can take control of his pet rat, Scabbers, and send him into piping to hit switches, Hermione can decipher bookcases, Harry's a maestro on a broomstick and Hagrid, well, he's really big.
The addition of a number of learnable spells adds some much needed complexity to Lego's usual brick-bashing. If your character has a wand, they have access to a wheel of enchantments, each of which gives you a new way to interact with the world, from your straightforward Expelliarmus magic missile to the telekinetic Wingardium Leviosa (levitate bricks, build stuff).
Thanks to Harry's pacifism, the combat of previous Lego games is more or less absent. Most areas are peaceful room-escape problems, often with bonkers solutions.
In one scene, I used telekinesis to reanimate a skeleton, which then produced a fishing rod and pulled up a giant squid, which proceeded to squirt water to form a bridge to the exit. It's unpredictable and mad, and likely to be endlessly hilarious for kids. For adults, zapping everything until the door opens may get old towards the end of the lengthy adventure, but the slapstick humour and the bazillion collectibles provide their own compulsive pleasure. The items you've gathered can be exchanged in the shops of Diagon Alley for new spells, bonus levels and the cheats that grant you the giant moustaches and carrot wands.
Lego Harry Potter had my inner child doing delighted backflips. Whether I was laughing at Hermione's hilarious broom-riding animation or totally not on purpose casting Stupefy on my co-op partner for the tenth time, it's willfully silly and fun. For young Harry Potter fans this is a glorious knockabout celebration of the Harry Potter saga. For Lego fans, this is up there with the best of the series.