This is one of those reviews that could be four words long: "It's Lego Harry Potter." By now, you probably know whether or not you enjoy the Lego series of games, and almost assuredly know whether or not you're fond of the boy wizard's exploits. If you like either half of the equation, you're almost certain to have a great time with Lego Harry Potter (unless you absolutely despise the other half), and if you're that cross section that appreciates both, you're guaranteed to have a blast. For those of you who are new to both camps, be relieved to know that you don't have to be familiar with either property to have fun following Harry and his friends through their first four years at Hogwarts, but affection for the young wizards will definitely help you overlook the game's few issues and flaws.
As its predecessors did with the Star Wars and Indiana Jones movies, Lego Harry Potter faithfully recreates its source movies, down to tiny details that fans of the series will delight in identifying. If you've seen it in the movie, it's more than likely in the game, along with just about every character you can think of: Harry and his friends are there, of course, as are teachers like Dumbledore, Snape, and Hagrid, but even smaller characters like Madame Pomfrey, Fang and Colin Creevy make an appearance. Wandering through Hogwarts as you play through Story Mode is like reliving the films as you go to class, brew polyjuice potion, and watch the endless parade of Defense Against the Dark Arts professors.
Though at times you'll have to actually fight an enemy like a troll or Dobby the house elf, most of the challenge of Lego Harry Potter comes from figuring out how to manipulate the environment in order to overcome obstacles like locked doors and blocked passages. As with all Lego games, the answer usually lies in some combination of blowing Legos apart or putting them back together, though you'll also have to rely on the spells and abilities you learn in class, too. The light spell Lumos will get you past Devil's Snare plants, for example, while the ability to handle mandrakes safely will let you use their shriek to shatter glass. Acquiring the skills is fun, but you'll really only use two with any kind of frequency: you'll levitate things to put them together, or zap them to blow them apart.
Part of the appeal of the Lego series of games is the fact that they can be played co-operatively, but Player 2's enjoyment depends a lot on how good the sidekicks of that particular game's source material are. Did you really want to play as Short Round in Lego Indiana Jones? Me either. Lego Harry Potter has a such a deep roster of great characters that Player 2 never has to feel slighted - you might actually argue over who has to play as Harry, as opposed to gets to play as him. Switching between characters is dead simple if you're playing by yourself, but the game is way more fun if you play with a pal, even if you do tend to "accidentally" zap each other with your wands from time to time.