With the success of The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie, it was only a matter of time before the studios decided to take the plunge and bring one of their own properties to the big screen. Enter The LEGO Ninjago Movie.
While the Ninjago series of toys might not be as well-known as LEGO Star Wars or LEGO Marvel Heroes, it does have quite a following and has even spawned its own TV series. Featuring a group of mech riding ninjas, The LEGO Ninjago Movie game follows the narrative of the film very closely. The Ninjas have to stop the evil Garmadon from destroying Ninjago city. While it did make sense for the game to follow the film’s plot, I found it quite frustrating that some of the cut scenes (pulled straight from the film) were put together in a way that felt disjointed and out of place. This, coupled with the sometimes-terrible voice acting, made me care less about the narrative.
Luckily, most of us don’t play the LEGO games for their deep engaging storylines but rather because of the promise of finding heaps of collectables, unlockable characters, and studs (oh, so many studs). In that area, The LEGO Ninjago Movie Game does not disappoint.
By now, most of us have become accustomed to the classic LEGO games formula of running around, smashing a few buttons, solving a puzzle, building something and scouring the environments for anything collectable. While this is still the case here, it does mix up the formula just enough to make it feel fresh.
One of the biggest changes in The LEGO Ninjago Movie Game is the combat system. There is now more to combat than just randomly mashing buttons. While players will find themselves still mostly mashing the same buttons in order to make their enemies explode into little pieces, TT Games have added a new combo system that feels a lot like a shallower version of the Arkham titles (which isn’t a bad thing).
Channing together combo moves, such as the Floating Butterfly and Rushing Boar, rewards players with even more precious studs. What came as a surprise to me was how my enemies quickly began blocking certain attacks forcing me to adapt and make use of different combos. Although The LEGO Ninjago Movie Game’s combat system might still be relatively simple, I found that it made combat much more fun and rewarding than in some of the previous games.
As the game progresses, players will also unlock each Ninja’s Spinjitsu special move to add to their combat repertoire. Where combat in other LEGO games tends to feel monotonous, this had me a little more excited for each new combat encounter against Garmadon’s fishy forces. As any true Ninja would know, practice makes perfect, and thanks to the game’s Ninjanuity Tokens players are able to upgrade their various combo moves, increasing their damage or causing more studs to erupt from their enemies’ lifeless plastic bodies.
Another big change is in the way that the hub world is implemented. There is no more central hub world. Instead, the game’s open world is segmented into various areas within which the story missions take place. Once a story mission is completed, players are free to quickly return to the specific area to collect any remaining items they might have previously missed. Now, quickly might actually be a bit misleading as loading up these areas is painfully slow. However, once a map is loaded players are free to explore at their own leisure.
While exploring these areas, you will still come across the obligatory puzzle or two. These mostly include selecting the character with the corresponding ability to unlock a new area or building items using bricks from destroyed objects to aid you in overcoming an obstacle. Scouring each area for collectables is just as fun as it was in previous games, although I did find myself fighting the camera more often than not. This wasn’t necessarily such a big problem when exploring an area in peace but the camera did tend to become uncooperative at times.
As mentioned, although the story and cut-scenes felt a bit disjointed at times, the in-game cut-scenes, in contrast, are still just as light-hearted and humorous as we have come to expect from the franchise, and while the story might not reach the highs of some of the previous games, it’s once you’ve completed the main story mission that the game truly shines.
Visually, The LEGO Ninjago Movie Game is just as brightly coloured and filled with plastic as one would expect. It’s quite amazing how TT Games are able to make simple brick pieces look so good. This is especially apparent when viewing them up close as each has their own scuff, dirt and chip marks, which add a bit of realism (or as much realism as one can expect from a game featuring yellow minifigures). That said, I did experience some framerate drops when too many things were happening on-screen. This isn’t game breaking but did become bothersome over time.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie Game also includes multiplayer battle arenas, a first for the franchise, where you and three other players can battle it out to see who is the ultimate ninja. These areas consist of series of competitive games such as capture the flag or collecting artefacts. While not the most engaging competitive multiplayer out there, it’s still loads of light-hearted fun.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie Game doesn’t stray too far from the much-loved LEGO games formula. You will still be collecting, fighting and building. However, it is able to add some significant changes to the formula. These might not be groundbreaking but it mixes the gameplay up just enough to make the game feel different from the slew of games that came before.