A few days ago the LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 game landed in the App Store. Last night I decided to download the app and see what all the fuss is about, and I have to say, it may be one of the most impressive iOS games I’ve played so far.

That’s not to say the game’s perfect. There are a few quirks. My biggest complaint right now is that there’s no simple way to really save games in between save points. You can exit a game and come back — but if you hit the quit button, none of your data will be saved, which makes it difficult to switch saved games (There are four different slots, so multiple users can play on the same device).

The inability to save from any point makes it seem like the developers forgot they were writing for a mobile platform. While the game is truly more fun if you sit down and play for an extended period, I suspect a lot of iPhone gamers expect to be able to play a game for a few minutes at a time while waiting in line at the post office, or sitting on a bus.

I’d also noticed that many users were leaving comments suggesting the game needs a D-pad. Now I see why. While the on-screen touch navigation actually works quite well, making it easy to drag anywhere on the screen to move your characters, when you find yourself tapping anywhere on a 3.5 inch display, odds are that your thumb will wind up over something you really want to look at every now and again. A dedicated D-pad area on the bottom of the screen would be very helpful.

That said, the game looks great and has graphics that are optimized for the new retina display. The short animated sequences are funny, but true to the original source material. I suspect that some aspects of the plot might be hard to understand if you haven’t read the books, but if you haven’t read them then you’re probably not interested in this game anyway.

I’ve only played through the first few mini-quests so far, which means I’m basically just a few pages into book one in the series. But I’m looking forward to seeing how the game unfolds — as much to see what the wizarding world looks like in LEGO/animated form as to actually work my way through the little challenges.

You can check out some more screenshots and a hands-on video after the break. Sorry about the blurry video. Apparently it’s hard for my camera to focus when I put it that close to the screen.

LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 is available from the App Store for $4.99.

Brad Linder

Brad Linder is editor of Liliputing and Mobiputing. He's been tinkering with mobile tech for decades and writing about it since...