It’s become something of a ritual for me, covering a new LEGO title for this site. Since LEGO Jurassic World in 2015, I’ve dipped my toes into all sorts of strange places – from superhero skirmishes (LEGO Marvel’s Avengers) to the great void of the galaxy (LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens). Now I arrive at perhaps the first entry to the franchise I know absolutely nothing about: the LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game.
Game Name: The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game
Platform(s): Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Switch, PC
Publisher(s): Warner Bros
Developer(s): Traveller’s Tales
Release Date: October 6th, 2017
Price: £49.99 (Amazon)
I’m a ninja, yo, my life is like a video game…
LNM:TVG is based off, you guessed it, the LEGO Ninjago Movie – which in turn is based off the LEGO toy line of the same name (I have Wikipedia to thank for that). The games’ plot follows the narrative of the movie very loyally, with cut scenes lifted straight from the film to help guide gamers on their 7(ish)-hour adventure. I have no problem with this; I’m now at an age where I rarely encounter games that use film clips for their continuity. It takes me back to a pleasant bygone era, where I properly bunked off a day of school with ‘the flu’ to rinse through 2004’s The Incredibles Movie Video Game.
You primarily play as the Green Ninja, although as this is a LEGO game – the option to flit between a vast band of characters is always at your disposal. A comical yet sinister threat is emerging from the evil Garmadon, who is planning to use his shark army to take over the city. Cue insane hackin’ and slashin’ in perhaps LEGO’s most refined canon-entry yet.
As the years pass by, Traveller’s Tales have honed their LEGO formula to what many would consider near perfection. There’s always enough meat on the bones to make each game a standout experience and even when the games haven’t been as exciting (i.e LEGO The Hobbit) the quality doesn’t drop that dramatically anyway. The Force Awakens took huge steps forward by making a conscious effort to not solely rely on the rinse-and-repeat structure of ‘smash some objects, build them again and progress’. It immediately threw you into the cockpit of an X-Wing in the midst of battle – and it more or less does that again here with a wonderful on-the-rails shooter sequence straight out of an 80’s arcade right in the first mission. It’s the mixing of gameplay styles and set-pieces which keeps a franchise like this alive.
By far the biggest advancement TT have made this year is by addressing the limited combat options we’ve been used to stomaching for the past decade. In hindsight, it’d be sacrilege to create a ninja-based videogame and reduce the entire spectrum of martial arts to one button, repeatedly spammed over and over. It’s refreshing that while the execution is still very basic and simple for its young target audience, the fighting and combat play is actually very enjoyable. You can Fruit Ninja the hell out of your enemies – throwing them up into the sky and slicing them to kingdom come (although don’t worry, you never see any LEGO bodies dismembered – that’ll probably come in 10 years’ time when they release LEGO Dead Space…)
There’s a rudimentary levelling up system that has been borrowed from 80% of other titles out there at the moment, but it’s refreshing to see it in a LEGO game. The better you play, the more studs and tokens you can collect to add more damage to your moves, create bigger areas of effect etc. As it’s designed to be a children’s game, upgrades are fairly frequent throughout the run-time – and within a few hours you’ll feel supercharged up to the max.
Another interesting route TT have taken is the way they’ve addressed collecting LEGO minifigures. Usually you’d buy these little guys with your studs and collect the entire cast of Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter etc. Here, they’re presented in blind bags – similar to EA’s FIFA Ultimate Team ‘trading card’ approach – and with a nice in-game animation, the bag opens and a mysterious random character falls out. The presentation is designed to be addictive – and it is. What worries me is that I think this is a test by TT – they’re going to head into micro-transaction territory very soon, you just know it. And when your child looks up at you with their beady little puppydog eyes and ask for a fiver to spend on packs, you know you’re screwed…
The game stays true to its roots and is still playable in local co-op, allowing your friends to drop in and out at any time. There’s also eight new battle maps (similar to those from LEGO Dimensions) which are accessible from the map, offering a four-player co-op experience of capture the flag, head to head’s etc.
Aside from all of these factors, the game remains largely unchanged from the LEGO games of the past. One of my concluding points last year was that graphically the game has nowhere else really to go. They could start to look into the realms of photorealism but I suppose that’d detract from the sense of childish fun and may hinder sales with their key demographic. As we are now, in 2017, this is a fine entry to the LEGO videogame franchise – with plenty of new mechanics and set pieces to keep families entertained for another few months.
LEGO Ninjago The Movie Video Game Review
Overall, I’m more than happy with LNM:TVG. I’ve never been disappointed by a LEGO game to date; often I’m not in the mood for them – but I can remember how excited I was when I first played LEGO Star Wars in 2005. The game still retains that sense of excitement and wonder, particularly using the martial arts ninja-combat as a gameplay device, although I’d be excited to see what they can achieve next before this runs stale. Looking back over LEGO’s discography, I’m reminded of games such as LEGO Racers and LEGO Island. Time to start properly diversifying the game types now and the future will remain bright for these brick-based gaming juggernauts.