The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Video Game Review

By Marc Hollinshead, 2 months ago
The core LEGO formula has remained relatively unchanged throughout the franchise's conception. In recent years, the model has been refined further to consist of a specific number of levels, large hub worlds and a vast array of characters with varying abilities. The latest title of the long running series is The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Video Game. Tying into the movie of the same name, one may think that this is a throwaway title that doesn't deserve a second chance. However, TT Games is still taking this opportunity to further expand upon the series' fundamental mechanics, resulting in a game that isn't afraid to try something slightly different.

Logo

Don't be misinformed; LEGO NINJAGO is still another brick-smashing adventure through and through. While it strictly needs to follow its source material, the developer has kept to their signature style so it doesn't detract from the original LEGO formula. Enemies will be defeated, obstacles will be traversed and a multitude of structures will be built and destroyed in order to gain more of those shiny gold bricks and other goodies. With this in mind, the game still has a few unique quirks of its own to hook in both veterans and newcomers of the franchise.

As many fans will know, hub worlds and levels have regularly remained separate from each other, the former offering a giant, explorable location whenever you have downtime between the story. LEGO NINJAGO has flipped that around. There are just eight levels in total, but each of them take place in a different hub and consist of a couple of chapters. Whenever one of these longer levels is completed, the hub to which it's connected will become free to explore at your leisure. These hub worlds make up the bulk of Ninjago Island, offering diverse locations with which to satiate your desire for gold bricks. This obviously means they aren't huge (we aren't talking LEGO Marvel Super Heroes size), but they also aren't minuscule either like The LEGO Movie Videogame.

What may be a relief for some returning LEGO fans (or may not for some collectors) is that this new approach to the story means that playing twice through every level is no longer a requirement due to the fact that the hubs are the levels themselves. Simply play through the story at your own pace and clean up whatever is left afterwards. This streamlining of content makes going for the 100% completion a much quicker affair.

From cities, to jungles and ice mountains, the variety is welcome in <i>LEGO NINJAGO</i>.From cities, to jungles and ice mountains, the variety is welcome in LEGO NINJAGO.

Another aspect that makes up the bread and butter of the LEGO series is the combat. While it has always remained simplistic in its design, newer titles have aimed to spruce things up just enough to keep players entertained. LEGO NINJAGO has upped the ante even more. True to their ninja routes, the heroes of Ninjago are equipped with a number of flashy moves. Dashing kicks, whirlwind sword swings and flying somersaults help to raise your combo meter, therefore rewarding you with more and more of those sought after LEGO studs as enemies fall to pieces. Each of these moves even has their own name, allowing yourself to gloat at whoever's watching that you just managed to pull off the art of the skyward dragon and stinging bee in a matter of seconds.

As you progress through the story, you will be awarded Ninjanuity tokens. These tokens are used to purchase upgrades for combat moves, helping to make you stronger, more agile and gain more studs along the way. That's right, LEGO games now have a character upgrade system. It's nothing drastic, but what it successfully does is add a well needed element of depth to combat. Gone is the lazy punching of older games — now we get to create a shockwave to annihilate enemies and fling them in the air while slashing at them a hundred times in the process. It still comes down to a lot of spamming of the X button, but it sure looks a heck of a lot better.

Combat is a lot better in <i>LEGO</i> games, but we haven't quite mastered the art of explosions just yet.Combat is a lot better in LEGO games, but we haven't quite mastered the art of explosions just yet.

LEGO NINJAGO continues to try something new with the introduction of Battle Arenas. These mini-games let you take a break from saving the city and play against friends or the AI in competitive game modes. Three modes are on offer, and while multiplayer games are no stranger to these, LEGO NINJAGO's own take on them is an enjoyable addition. Don't expect innovation here; however, there is a surprising amount of fun to be had if you bring a bunch of friends along. Samurai Showdown is a classic capture-the-flag mode. Four players will have their own flag and the aim is to beat up everyone else and steal their flags. You will rack up points as you hold flags, so it's a simple case of smashing the opposition to pieces and enjoying the loot. The AI can put up a fight, but otherwise they're no threat.

The second mode is Mystic Bounty. Here you need to collect as many of the orbs scattered around as possible to acquire points, but you are also encouraged to smack another player to pieces and steal their points, too. The third and final mode is Ultimate Ultimate Weapon. This is similar to Samurai Showdown but instead there is just one object to capture and defend. Beat up the opposition, run away with the ultimate ultimate weapon (it's just a box) and enjoy your victory. It's refreshing to see the series heading into this territory as it works well, even when it's extremely simple in design. If you're going alone, though, expect the Battle Arenas to only act as a small distraction before heading back to the collectathon.

Take in some of the tranquil scenery before recommencing the hunt to smash up your friends on the battlefield.Take in some of the tranquil scenery before recommencing the hunt to smash up your friends on the battlefield.

There is a lot of praise to be given to LEGO NINJAGO, but old trends have still managed to creep in. Some technical issues still linger, the most notable of which is the loading screens. You'll regularly find that loading screens go on for much longer than you'd like, almost to the point where you'll wonder if the game has crashed altogether. They are at their worst when loading up another hub world, so prepare to enjoy LEGO scenery ad nauseam. The other issues, while less of a consistent nuisance, can be frustrating. The occasional bout of lag can spring up out of nowhere and persist through a level, slowing down the action, or an unwanted game freeze can occur, although these are fairly rare. There have also been reports of a particular gold brick activity glitching on players, sothe game isn't without its hiccups.

TT Games has clearly evolved the formula to revitalise the years old franchise, but LEGO NINJAGO is definitely one of the shorter titles and it's just not quite as deep as past games. There isn't as much variety in the activities in which you can partake, and with the level and hub world tweaks, the completion percentage increases rather rapidly. Oddly enough, much of the charm and success of LEGO games has been garnered from the sheer scope of what you can physically do and collect. These "collectathon" games unleash player's inner hoarder, so when it feels like there isn't as much of it to do, one may feel a little let down. Your studs also feel rather useless as well as they are only useful for the "Tornado of Creation" builds, so collecting currency is almost there just for the sake of it.

It's not the smoothest of rides in Ninjago, much to the surprise of players.It's not the smoothest of rides in Ninjago, much to the "surprise" of players.

If there is one aspect of LEGO titles that never changes, it's the achievements. Once again you will be coming to LEGO NINJAGO with the requirement of acquiring 100% completion, which brings a whole bunch of other achievements with it. There aren't quite as many random character related achievements here, but story related ones make a return to fill in the gaps. Completing levels and activities at a healthy pace will see you raking in the points in the bucket load, so all 50 achievements and 1,000G should be yours in no time.

Summary

The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Video Game introduces a decent number of new features to keep the tried and tested LEGO formula up to date. Combat has received another overhaul, adding in an extra layer of depth with upgrades and extravagant attack moves, so it looks much slicker than previous entries. These moves can be put to the test in the enjoyable distraction of the Battle Arenas, which are best experienced with friends. The change in level design may feel unusual at first, but it is refreshing nonetheless even if it does also mean that the game is a short one. Technical issues, most notably loading screens, do also hinder the experience somewhat, but it shouldn't put too much of a dampener on your playthrough as a whole. LEGO fans will no doubt find another fun adventure within, even if it may be over in a flash.
3.5 / 5
Positives
  • Exciting new additions to combat
  • Battle Arenas provide quick fun with friends
Negatives
  • Feels shorter than previous instalments
  • A few technical hiccups
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent 12 hours battling his way across Ninjago Island while gaining 42 of the game's achievements along the way. A physical copy of the title was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Marc Hollinshead
Written by Marc Hollinshead
To summarize Marc in two words, it would be "Christian Gamer." You will usually find him getting stuck into story heavy action-adventure games, RPG's and the odd quirky title when he isn't raving about Dark Souls and Mass Effect. Outside the world of gaming, Marc attends and helps out in his church on a regular basis and has a not-so thrilling job in a supermarket.