"Lego Harry Potter: Episodes 1-4" has taken a very tounge-in cheek approach to the Harry Potter saga, which, for an avid Potter fan like myself, is really entertaining. Watching certain clip-sequences I found myself actually laughing out loud!
I believe this game encompasses aspects of gameplay that were missing from the previous Harry Potter EA Games. An example of this; rather than performing as Harry during a Quidditch match, you're in the audience controlling Ron and Hermione through the labyrinthine stadium to catch the perpitrators that are causing Harry trouble. You also get to explore places like Platform 9(3/4) and Hogsmeade. Furthermore, you can cast a lot more spells from an enourmous library of selections (some of which you learn through out the 4 years of Hogwarts, others of which you can buy at Diagon Alley using the Lego-currency you collect through out the game.)
Hogwarts is very different this time round. TT have re-created the castle and made it completely their own, not forgetting to add a fair few key-destinations from the films. But generally, its layout is totally re-invented. It's not as open as I hoped it would be, but it is still pretty vast with ALOT of different places to see. Exploration of the castle during gameplay is pretty limited as you are following Nearly Headless Nick to get to your lessons and the next level alot of the time (but you can replay levels and explore alot better in "freeplay mode" later on.)
Generally, the story of Harry's first 4 years of Hogwarts are followed pretty well with some rather entertaining bonuses - like santa hats at Christmas and screaming fans chasing Gilderoy Lockhart around Hogwarts grounds. There is also an impressive change of mood as the years progress. By the third year, the tone becomes noticably darker and much less golden as the previous years. Furthermore, students can be found cowering about the castle in fear of the dementors. My only single criticism is that the storymode moves at a very quick pace. (By the second or third level on Harry's first year, you're facing the "pea-brain" troll in the girl's bathroom!)
If you're a big "Harry Potter" and/or "TT Lego Game" fan and are looking for something extra to add to the collection - I assure you this one is a must-buy! For those rather unfamiliar with the Potter franchise, I think the plotlines might become a little confusing to follow at times (because the Lego character's communicate through grunts and shouts - so there is no clear vocal-narrative.) But otherwise, the game is really fun - albeit pretty easy - to play. (For the regular gamer, this shouldn't take long to complete at all. One day at the most.) I have very little critcism of this game - it really is fun to play. With the promise of revisiting levels in freeplay as different characters to unlock bonuses, this is deffinately a game I won't be getting bored of in a hurry!