Prose & Pixels

Prose & Pixels #3: Lego Harry Potter


Prose & Pixels is a feature that combines two of my loves: books and video games. Here I’ll discuss all sorts of things to do with the two, whether it’s recommendations, influences or just a good old chat.

Today I want to discuss the Lego Harry Potter games, as part of Harry Potter Month organised by Faith @ Student Spyglass!
Just a normal day in the life of Harry Potter.
Just a normal day in the life of Harry Potter.

You may be forgiven for thinking all the Lego games are only for kids. But let me tell you something – THEY’RE NOT! Is Harry Potter just for kids? No. Neither are the games. I’ll explain why you should play these addictive titles, illustrated by some of my own screenshots!

With a wonderful, quirky sense of humour that you grow to recognise as you play more and more of the Lego series, the Lego Harry Potter games will appeal to all. The jokes (all completely non-verbal, by the way) work for both children and adults, and if you know the Harry Potter series then it’s all the more fun. Plus it’s not just the main characters you that meet – but practically every minor character that J.K. Rowling ever mentions has their own little Lego doppelganger.

After breaking out of Azkaban, Bellatrix had to take up a part-time job to make ends meet.
After breaking out of Azkaban, Bellatrix had to take up a part-time job to make ends meet.

It’s so wonderful to play in such familiar settings, and with characters that you’ve grown up with. You’d be surprised at how gorgeous these games actually look, considering they’re based on a load of blocky figures! Practically every environment you could think of within the grounds of Hogwarts, as well as Hogsmeade, parts of London, the Ministry of Magic and Diagon Alley have been faithfully recreated for the games. And unlike so many of the other Harry Potter video games, you have the freedom to explore Hogwarts as much as you want, whenever you want, searching for hidden areas and running through well-known locations. The only game that really got close to that within the film-to-games series (at least of the ones I played) was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

Causing carnage in Hogsmeade.
Causing carnage in Hogsmeade.

Some games take ages to tell a story, through endless cutscenes, countless speeches and thousands more lines of dialogue within the game itself. Although admittedly, Lego Harry Potter is recounting a familiar tale, it manages to tell without any words. There are no voices in the game (only sound effects like grunts and shrieks), which helps to make many a funny moment. The developers have taken some liberties and added in occasional extra bits, or silly moments, but none of it ruins the story and only makes the games even more charming.

This is somehow even more upsetting than the actual moment in the book/film.
This is somehow even more upsetting than the actual moment in the book/film.

Personally, I absolutely love these games, and they’re my favourites of all the Lego games. Of course it helps that they’re based on a series I know and love – but I even prefer them over Lego Lord of the Rings. Whilst the main story may only take something like ten to twelve hours to run through, you’ll want to collect everything and achieve that coveted 100% – which will take so much longer, and many repetitions of levels after you’ve unlocked the right character for the job. Apparently I’ve spent fifty-five hours on the first game, and thirty-nine on the second, which should give you some idea of how much there is to find! However, this means more time to explore Hogwarts, and pretend, even if for a short while, you’re a (rather square!) student at Hogwarts.

Even Snape needs a day off every once in a while.
Even Snape needs a day off every once in a while.
I highly recommend the Lego Harry Potter games to fans of the series, as well as fans of adventure and puzzle games. They’re a real treat that will keep you entertained for a long time, as well as giving you the opportunity to explore Hogwarts!
A combined total of 84 hours later for both games... SO SATISFYING.
A combined total of ninety-four hours later for both games… SO SATISFYING.

Have you played the Lego Harry Potter games, or any other Lego games? What did you think?


Thoughts #11: Why I Love Video Games


To me, video games come second only to books. But there are some cases where I actually prefer them over reading (gasp!), and today I just want to chat a bit about why I love them, and why I spend quite a lot of my time playing them. No matter whether you play video games regularly or not, I’d love to hear your thoughts!


They are incredibly immersive.

My favourite sorts of games are the ones that pull you right into the story: Dragon Age and Mass Effect are great examples. I think I actually get more attached to video game characters than book characters, because I feel more personally involved in their story through my character. For example, in Mass Effect I spent ages talking to my squadmates, helping them out, forming relationships with them and learning their back stories. So naturally I grew quite attached to these beautifully crafted characters – and if you know Bioware games or the Mass Effect series, you know one of the main features of the games. The decisions and choices you make can have huge effects on the lives of other characters, and when I lost a couple of them throughout the three games it actually hurt. And I’m not going to lie – the last scene between Commander Shepard and whichever love interest you pick (for me, it’s always Garrus) makes me cry. I actually care about the welfare of these fictional characters – a lot.

Commander Shepard

Plus there are games that are immersive for totally different reasons – games like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, which to me didn’t have an amazing story, but is completely and utterly stunning. It is the only game I ever play with headphones on – there is so much detail to the sound and the landscape, combine that with first person mode and I can get totally lost in Skyrim for hours on end, just wondering around, not even doing quests.


They are beautiful.

Video games are forms of art. As I mentioned above, Skyrim draws me in with its amazing design and landscape. Bioshock Infinite, a game which I completed only recently, is one of the most gorgeous games I’ve played. The beautiful city (at least in appearance…) of Columbia, floating in the sky, is the main setting of the game and is one of the most stunning game settings I’ve ever seen. So much work goes into designing a gameLeanne @ Literary Excursion has a feature where she discusses concept art – imagine doing that sort of thing for every character and setting in a game.

Bioshock Infinite

There are so many different art styles to video games too. Realism, like Skyrim, cell-shaded like Borderlands or Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker, a gorgeous hand-painted look like Bastion, or an alternate take on a typical 2D side-scroller like Fez.


They tell their own stories.

The story-telling and writing in some video games can be just as good as one of your favourite novels. In fact, sometimes it’s like you’re part of this amazing novel and you get to take a much more active role. One of the most recent games I’ve played with a wonderful story is Gone Home, which is rather like a visual novel. You play a young girl, home from travelling after a year – but when she gets home, no-one is there. You have to wonder around the house (in the middle of the night, during a thunderstorm), putting the pieces together to work out where everyone is. The house was really creepy at first, but as I discovered more of the story, it became a lot less frightening – and very sad. The finale made me cry.

Gone Home

With other games, like Skyrim, you can create your own stories. The player has total freedom to do what they want, which means they can create a detailed back story for their character and act it out, making decisions that their character would make, if that’s what they want to do. And then there’s games like L.A. Noire – a brilliant crime noir story that has the player identifying clues, investigating crime scenes and solving mysteries. All these small stories weave together to make up the main plot.


It’s fun being able to reinvent yourself.

One of my favourite things about video games? The character create screen! I can spend hours and hours making a character (even though they tend to all look pretty similar, but I have to get things just right). Detailed character creation gives me very mixed feelings – I’m happy because it means I can make a character just as I want, but also it means I have to make the character just as I want, which takes forever, or I’m not happy. Yeah. Here’s a selection of my characters from various games:

Video games allow you to redesign yourself, add things that might not be possible in this world! Want elf ears? No problem. Want to be a hobbit? Of course! Whether you play as a super stealthy assassin, a peace loving merchant, a diplomat or something completely different, it’s up to you. For example, when I play Mass Effect I often pick the choices that I myself would never make, which generally results in hilarious consequences and a badass Commander Shepard. In Skyrim I love being able to play a sneaky assassin, dispatching enemies before they even catch sight of me. In Dragon Age II my Hawke is a rogue, teleporting across the battlefield and using tactics to deal damage and then disappear. And in Saints Row III & IV – although I can’t make many choices for my character, I like to imagine her reactions to things. She dresses in a practical way (practical for things like robbing banks, massacring aliens, taking out rival gangs… you know, the usual) yet with a feminine touch, I like to imagine that she’s a woman in control of a gang who completely respect her and are perhaps a little afraid of her. Apart from her closest buds like Pierce or Shaundi. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that it’s really fun to be able to invent all these characters, with their different back stories and personalities.

Oh, and you know what else? Video game romances! Forget book boyfriends, video game boyfriends are where it’s at. You may have seen me and Paola fangirling over someone called Alistair, and occasionally Anders. No, these are not real men – they’re superhotandcoolandawesome characters from the Dragon Age series. I also absolutely love Garrus from Mass Effect


They are humorous.

This isn’t applicable to every game of course, but some are just crazy, wacky and totally over the top. The Saints Row series has some of the most hilarious games I’ve ever played – just take a look at these screenshots (NSFW!) –

saints row 2013-12-28_00001 2013-11-30_00008 2013-12-01_00003

Top left, was part of the Christmas DLC. You could go the easy way, or spend ages licking through the candy cane door and unlock an achievement. So of course I went for the candy cane door! Top right, you better get that reference. Bottom left, I don’t even know… and bottom right, there are twenty photo opportunities around the city of Steelport – I just happened to be streaking when I found this one, and the photographer didn’t seem to mind. The Dragon Age series also has some pretty brilliant quotes, and if you’re looking for a humorous game you can’t really go wrong with any of the Lego games out there!


You can socialise.

MMOs have, or more aptly were, a big part of my life for several years. I really can’t write a post about why I love video games and not include them, because they got me through a really rough patch of my life. Between the ages of sixteen and eighteen I suffered from depression, and my only happy moments were spending time with my guild on an MMO called Dream Of Mirror Online, which sadly shut down in 2009. I made some fantastic friends through the game, and although we’ve not managed to find an MMO we all like since, we’re still in contact in various ways. I even regularly play co-op games like Borderlands, Sanctum 2 (shown below) and Orcs Must Die! 2 with them on Steam. I’m super excited for the end of this year, when I’ll be FINALLY meeting up with a couple of them after seven years of friendship.



And finally, the crazy statement… sometimes I just don’t feel like reading! Are you a lover of video games? Why do you think they’re so awesome?