There have been enough Lego games by now for their design to become familiarly formulaic. Follow the basic plot of a movie series, mix in Lego aesthetics and puzzles, add a healthy dose of humor and call it a day. But Lego Harry Potter, Years 5-7 has to stay bright, cheerful, and family-friendly while tackling some pretty dark subject matter. It also has to cover a lot of the exact same ground as its predecessor, Lego Harry Potter, Years 1-4 as Harry, Ron, and Hermione trudge back to Hogwarts for yet another school term. The game does as well as it can under these restraints, but lacks the sparkle that makes other Lego games so very special.
Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 follows the basic plot of the movies as Harry gets closer to fulfilling his destiny as The Boy Who Lived. Though most of the major events are represented, some of the bleaker details get glossed over or given a humorous twist in order to prevent the game from becoming too gloomy. Harry never has to head to detention with Delores Umbridge, for example, and Sirius' death is played as no more inconvenient than getting caught in the rain. Other tasks are invented not only to give players something to do, but to keep the action light and goofy. Playing through Years 5-7 feels strange at times, with certain levels being exact copies of their cinematic inspiration, and others looking like they came from some other film entirely.
The game takes a while to spin up, as Harry, Ron, and Hermione must first clomp around Hogwarts for a while before getting into the actual adventure. Exploring Hogwarts would be a treat if we hadn't already done it extensively in Years 1-4, but the halls and classrooms of the school gave up their secrets to us long ago . Things pick up considerably once the game begins in earnest and you're given new areas to explore, new creatures to defeat, and new puzzles to solve.
The action of Lego Harry Potter Years 5-7 will be immediately familiar to fans of the Lego series of games, favoring puzzle solving over combat while recreating the visuals of the movies with admirable accuracy and charm. Harry Potter fans will squeal at the detail that went into the game's visuals - you'll recognize characters immediately, despite them being reduced to tiny plastic blocks with c-shaped hands. Though there are a few frustrating fights here and there, for the most part you'll be using your wits to figure out how to use spells and potions to get past the many obstacles in your way. Years 5-7 wisely starts you off with a few spells already in your arsenal, presenting the opportunity for new spells and new ways to solve puzzles. You may have to walk the same halls of Hogwarts, but at least you'll be performing new feats of prestidigitation while you're there. Ron and Hermione are also now constant companions, unless the plot of the movie would make that impossible, so you'll have immediate access to areas that require a book or a pet. Most of the puzzles that required the awkward maneuvering of the levitation spell has been ditched, too, which alleviates much of the first game's frustration.