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Summer's 4 hottest games

”Lego Harry Potter” and ”NCAA Football 11” are among the games we’ll be playing over the next few months

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Lego Harry Potter: Years 1 — 4

If Lego videogames are just for kids, we never want to grow up. The franchise has defined the state of the art in madcap digital fun by reimagining Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman as whimsical Lego wonderlands. The games turn signature scenes into levels stuffed with treasure to discover and delightfully superfluous detail to relish. Potter is the most magical yet. You play as a cute mini-figure, fighting and code-cracking your way through Harry’s epic school year. Dreary and dangerous classwork — potions with Professor Snape, broomstick flying with Professor Hooch — becomes lavishly designed puzzle mazes. (Out now)

NCAA Football 11

This series has long been overshadowed by the Madden pro-football juggernaut. But NCAA Football 11 is a major breakthrough thanks to improved technical specs and an ESPN-branded presentation. It even lets you participate in schools’ pregame rituals, from slapping Notre Dame’s ”Play Like a Champion Today” sign to rubbing ”Howard’s Rock” at Clemson. (July 13)


Summer’s dark-horse videogame sensation — emphasis on dark. Limbo (available only via download at Xbox LIVE Arcade) is a side-scrolling adventure that tracks a mysterious boy as he traverses a postapocalyptic landscape filled with puzzles, traps, and giant spiders. It’s like an art-house Super Mario Bros. (Late summer)

Mafia II

August will see two much-anticipated titles targeting mature audiences. The Godfather-esque Mafia II gets our vote over Kane & Lynch II: Dog Days (movie analogue: Heat) for its detailed ’40s milieu, intense tommy-gun firefights, and car chases in vintage vehicles that replicate the physics of cumbersome midcentury jalopies. (Aug. 24)

My Must List
Shaun White
The Olympic snowboarder, 23, will introduce a new skateboarding game this fall

Must Gadget
”The iPhones are ridiculous. I can basically turn my Jacuzzi on from my phone. We are in the future.”

Must Tunes
”I love (defunct British metal revivalists) the Darkness. I like the lead singer’s style. They don’t care — it sounds good, like this guy is on another level.”

Must Vacation Spot
”I try to duck out to Hawaii if I can. I surf as well.”

Must TV
”I just finished Lost. I am so confused. So confused. I’m sitting there losing my mind.”