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LEGO Creator Harry Potter opens with an animated LEGO-ized version of Harry Potter receiving a letter from Hagrid, then hopping on a magical train to Hogwarts. A familiar scene to those who've read J.K. Rowling's bestselling books, or seen the movie. Others, however, will be largely clueless about what's happening. Users then sign in to play -- allowing up to 5 different users to create worlds that can be saved for later re-use.
First time users start in Diagon Alley, where they get to build the shops, and introduce their choice of familiar characters. Users can also build their own figures using classic LEGO parts in the Mini-Figure Builder, and additional props in the Workshop, and bring them into the world they're creating.
These worlds, however, are far more than simple computer-rendered drawings -- they are 3-D worlds that can be animated at the click of the mouse button!
LEGO elements have always offered kids the opportunity to let their minds run wild, as they create, destroy, and create again, objects of their imaginations. LEGO Creator: Harry Potter takes that concept, and extends it to the computer, where a child's imagination can be LEGO-ized without the constraints of limited pieces, or the need to "clean up your room before dinner."
This program offers lots of tools -- and no set objective. Instead, the user is left to create worlds and interactions in Diagon Alley, Kings Cross, the Hogwarts grounds, and inside Hogwarts itself.
LEGO Creator: Harry Potter has, according to one of our reviewers, "great curb appeal". In other words, the subject matter and packaging are almost irresistable to children who like either or both LEGO and Harry Potter. Actual usage in our tests, however, revealed that first looks can be deceiving. This is a very difficult program to fully utilize. It requires a reasonably good imagination, a fascination with building things, and the patience to learn a challenging set of tools and navigation. For children with all three, the appeal of this program is obvious, For others, the program's rewards didn't seem to offset the time commitment required to become proficient.
Lego Creator Harry Potter installed without difficulty on our test machine. Note that this is a BIG program, requiring 500MB of free hard disk space, even though the program requires that the CD remain in the machine for use. Luckily, the program includes an uninstall option, if/when you need to free up space in the future.
Navigation in the program takes practice -- and a fair amount of tolerance for frustration along the way. In fact, a number of our reviewers (young and old) found this program to be too frustrating... Luckily, the program includes a section of "Challenges" that are actually tutorials in the use of the many program controls. Our testers found this a "must-do" section.
But be warned: even with the tutorial challenges, many tasks are tricky to learn. For example, manipulating lego bricks on-screen takes some practice. Using the mouse with the left mouse button depressed allows a brick to be moved anywhere in two dimensions -- but stacking requires the simultaneous depression of the CTRL key. Easy, once, you get the hang of it, but until you've practiced the move enough to become natural, it remains a challenge and/or source of potential frustration. And this is just one of many unique techniques users must master.
LEGO Creator: Harry Potter is a challenging program that combines some of the classic building fun of LEGO, with the imagination stimulating story of Harry Potter. Given its hand-eye-mouse coordination requirements, we see this as more appropriate for kids 8-10 or older, and definitely better for children who like to spend hours with physical LEGOS -- this program will demand a significant amount of time.
PC: Windows 98/2000/Me, Pentium II 266MHx or faster cpu, 500 MB hard drive space, 64 MB RAM, 8MB Direct 3D compatible video card capable of 800x600 resolution in 16-bit color mode, 4X or faster CD-ROM, Direct Sound compatible sound card, DirectX8 (included).return to top of page
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