Relaxation. When I seek relaxation from gaming, I'm seeking easy, fun, and lighthearted entertainment. I am not seeking Mass Effect 2 "Insanity", Call of Duty Black Ops "Veteran", or Dead Space 2 "Hardcore." No, no, and definitely not. In other words, I'm looking for the exact opposite of a challenge, and that my friends, is exactly what Lego Harry Potter: Years 1-4 offers.
The Lego spin-off series of has been applied to numerous franchises from Star Wars to Batman and from Indiana Jones to Pirates of the Caribbean. Aside from Harry Potter, I've played both of the Star Wars versions on PlayStation 2. But for some reason it wasn't until Lego Harry Potter that I decided to give a Lego game a go on PlayStation 3. I suppose I have to chalk it up to feeling very nostalgic about my favorite childhood series: I only purchased my copy about a week after viewing Deathly Hallows part 2, nearly a year after the game's release.
When I began to play Lego Harry Potter, the little kid in me was instantly activated. I grinned like a moron at the silly cut scenes set to the nostalgia-inducing John Williams score. I practically writhed with delight at the opportunity to explore Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, simultaneously blasting apart objects with spells as I searched every class room and corridor for hidden easter eggs and collectibles. This is where perhaps the game sucked me in the most. Aside from following the major plot points of the first four films/books, the game essentially amounts to one massive collecting quest. Indeed, collecting studs, House Crests, Gold Bricks, Red Bricks, characters... the sheer volume of collectibles and secret unlockables almost felt overwhelming in the beginning. However, once I started making serious progress, I realized that all of this collecting became rather addicting. Many gamers tire of repetitive game play, but as a fan of the notoriously repetitive Dynasty Warriors series, repetition has never been an issue for me. In fact, it is probably part of what makes a game like Lego Harry Potter so relaxing for a gamer with obsessive-compulsive tendencies: the simplistic, yet strangely rewarding monotony.
This monotony of tasks makes the game simple, simple enough that I'm never mad or frustrated or throwing a controller at the wall. I just enjoying switching it on, exploring my destructible Lego Hogwarts, and blasting the hell out of the environment with every spell I can throw at it. Taking apart elements of Harry's wizarding world to uncover the hidden collectibles is satisfying; even though the core element of the game play is lacking in complexity, searching for said items can involve a bit of brain power. For a "kids" game, it is surprisingly clever and fully expects the player to explore every nook and cranny of Hogwarts and the various other environments. In addition, there's also small puzzle elements, such as brewing potions or using certain spells on pieces of the environment, that require solving in order to make progress through the stage. The inclusion of such prevents the game from becoming stale and boring.
There's also a good sense of humor and charm to the game that adds to the whole "relaxation" factor. Cut scenes aren't taken seriously, and since it's set in the Lego Universe, many liberties are taken. I don't think I can ever tire of playing as Professor Snape wielding a carrot wand (an unlockable bonus option), hurling spells towards other characters that result in the enlarge of heads, spontaneous laughter, or "jelly" legs.
I don't know about you, but I'm not always looking for a game that's going to test my skill and patience. When it comes to Lego HP, I can essentially shut off my brain when I turn on the console, not caring if my character dies (automatic respawns!) and use minimum concentration to collect a bunch of in-game unlockables. Instead, I can focus on the pretty graphics, charming atmosphere, and the numerous explosions that result from my spamming of spells at every object in sight. In short, Lego Harry Potter, or any Lego title for that matter, is a good choice for anyone who seeks relaxation, fun and simple.