What we’re playing
Welcome! This column is part of a regular series in which we share what members of the Tom’s Guide staff are playing and enjoying right now, with an eye towards helping you find great games that you may have missed. Be sure to check out our recent entry, where we talk about Spellforce 3.
As the self-declared biggest Harry Potter fan in the Tom’s Guide office — a title that comes with far more uncomfortable baggage than I’d like — I’m finding the wait for Hogwarts Legacy to be almost unbearable. I talk about my excitement for the upcoming Harry Potter RPG so often that at least one of my colleagues is ready to throttle me if I mention the game again.
My hype continues to bubble, but there’s only so many times I can rewatch the recently-released gameplay trailer (I must be hitting double-figures by now). So, in order to pass the time until the game’s release date, tentatively scheduled for holiday 2022, I decided I need to find a distraction in the form of another Harry Potter game that I could play right now.
Curiously, for a franchise as popular as Harry Potter, the Wizarding World remains largely unexplored in the medium of video games. In fact, over the last decade, there have been exactly three Harry Potter games released on console.
One of these was a shovelware Xbox Kinect title, one was a shovelware title for Sony’s PlayStation Move peripherals, and the other was LEGO Harry Potter Collection — a repacking of two games originally released in 2010 and 2011 respectively. My options were pretty slim.
Seeing as I had no desire to explore the Wizarding World using either the Xbox Kinect sensor or a PlayStation Move controller, my decision was an easy one. LEGO Harry Potter Collection it was, and so last week I purchased a copy for the Nintendo Switch. And much to my delight it’s filling the void quite nicely.
LEGO Harry Potter is charming and funny
LEGO Harry Potter Collection bundles together 2010’s LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 and 2011’s LEGO Harry Potter Years 5-7, allowing players to adventure through Harry’s entire school career in a single package.
Considering that both games are more than a decade old at this point, it’s quite remarkable how well they’ve held up. Perhaps that’s more a testament to how timeless the LEGO game formula is, but even visually the collection looks great on a standard Switch display. The plastic characters are ridiculously adorable, and even the more realistic backgrounds look pretty good if a little lacking in detail.
I’m also pleasantly surprised by just how humorous the LEGO Harry Potter games are. Each movie in the Harry Potter series is retold without any voice acting, instead cutscenes tell the story by combining visual gags with pantomiming mini-figures. Seeing iconic moments from the Harry Potter movies play out in this form is always a hoot.
If you’ve somehow never played a LEGO game before, the formula is simple. Each book/movie is split into six levels, where you’re tasked with solving basic puzzles, engaging in even more basic combat and generally smashing everything in sight in order to collect lego studs which act as currency.
Outside of levels, you can explore iconic locations from the Harry Potter universe including Hogwarts castle, Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade. Plus, there’s so much to collect it’s actually pretty overwhelming.
The best collectibles are of course the plethora of playable characters, of which there are over 200 to unlock. These range from the expected picks like Dumbledore to the slightly more obscure ones such as Doris Crockford — 10 points to Gryffindor if you know who that is.
As a LEGO game designed very much for younger players, LEGO Harry Potter isn’t challenging in the slightest. The only time my progress has been halted has been when I’ve encountered one of the game’s annoyingly frequent bugs. Nevertheless, it’s still extremely charming and, for a fan like me, it’s a delight to explore the iconic Wizarding World even in a more simplistic plastic brick form.
Surprisingly, I’m finding the LEGO Harry Potter Collection very much at home on the Nintendo Switch as well. Because of its kid-friendly design, it doesn’t manage to hold my attention for very long. However, the portable nature of the Switch means I’m usually only playing in sessions that last less than half an hour. This is helping to stave off any feelings of tedium as I slowly make my way through the game’s wealth of (pretty repetitive) content.
But I need Hogwarts Legacy soon
While I’m enjoying my time with LEGO Harry Potter, and at my current pace I probably won’t have completed the game until the winter months, the game is only serving to make me even more excited for Hogwarts Legacy.
The idea of exploring a more visually-impressive Hogwarts castle, with a rich cinematic story, proper side-quests to complete, more complex gameplay and a deep upgrades system as well, has me positively bursting with anticipation. LEGO Harry Potter is a nice appetizer, but Hogwarts Legacy is the full meaty main course that I’m really craving.
Unfortunately, just when I’ll get to enjoy that entree remains a mystery. Developer Avalanche Software and publisher Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment are being frustratingly tight-lipped on when gamers can expect to actually have Hogwarts Legacy in their hands. But until that date, I’ll be chipping away at LEGO Harry Potter and enjoying my time in its plastic-brick recreation of the Wizarding World all the same.