Considering it's the hojillionth Lego game to be released, what could I possibly impart about the latest iteration that isn't a variation on the "This is a great game for kids of all ages and for parents with Harry Potter-loving children" descriptor? Thankfully, the answer was more obvious than I could have hoped: It's just like Metroid with training wheels! ... And, you know, with Harry Potter instead of a space bounty hunter.
While the whole "Hogwarts" and "Harry Potter" thing is just a backdrop for the usual Lego puzzle-solving-for-kids routine –broken up by the occasional pseudo-boss fight – what's unlike past Lego titles is that, from episode to episode I found myself backtracking through areas of Hogwarts that, at earlier points in the game, I was unable to access. This meant I got a break from the otherwise linear progression to solve some more difficult puzzles and collect more unbearably shiny Lego coins that could then be traded for new outfits (boring) as well as new spells (exciting!) in Diagon Alley.
Thankfully, though I could purchase spells, the Metroid-esque ones require unlocking in the game's campaign. This kept me humming along the single-player (and co-op) story in hopes of unlocking the last spell I needed to get the last piece of every quest.
There's a level of depth to LHP that I wasn't expecting. Yes, Lego coins are found pretty much everywhere. Yes, 95 percent of the solutions are too obvious (so much so that I often missed them on the first pass ... and not just because I'm an adult). But madly collecting coins to buy out Diagon Alley and finding all TT Games' little touches (the fact that every NPC reacts differently to each member of Harry's crew took up way too much of my time) made for a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
If you're a 30-year-old Madden and Halo player, well, why are you reading this review? You already know Lego Harry Potter isn't for you. For those of you willing to take a chance, though -- and if you don't despise the boy who lived -- LHP is easily the best Lego title to date.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 retail version of Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 provided by WB Games.