Title: The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game
Developer: TT Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Genre: Action Adventure
Official Site: LEGO
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Where To Buy It: Retail, Xbox Games Store, PlayStation Store, Steam, Nintendo Game Store
It is no secret that LEGO has seen a meteoric rise in popularity ever since it began licensing partnerships with some of pop-culture’s most esteemed brands. Star Wars, Batman, The Avengers and Harry Potter all saw LEGO releases on the toy shelves and then in subsequent LEGO video games. Ninjago is a little different as the intellectual property was developed by LEGO itself and since 2011 has spun off from the toys into books, a TV show, and a new big-budget theatrical release, The LEGO Ninjago Movie. It, therefore, had to come to no one’s surprise that TT Games would go back to the well once again and release a video game to coincide with the film. Thus the teenage ninjas from Ninjago City star in the titular mouthful The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game to compliment their movie debut.
The Ninjago Movie Video Game follows the same formula of other film based LEGO games where levels are loosely based on scenes from the movie with actual film cutscenes interspersed to bookend levels. The action starts with series bad guy, Lord Garmadon, attacking Ninjago City with his shark army. Ninjas Cole, Kai, Zane, Jay, Lloyd, and Nya are quickly pressed into action at the behest of their wise mentor Sensei Wu. Levels typically consist of a pair of heroes solving light puzzles, exploring for hidden items, and fighting the bad guys. Breaking with LEGO game tradition though, some levels include up to six playable characters.
As this is a game about Ninjas it is the fighting that sits from and center and is the most rewarding portion of the game. The ninja in the Ninjago Movie Video Game has a far more diverse set of attacks than in any other LEGO game I have played before. With names such as The Swooping Hawk and The Rushing Boar, the combat is the core to the experience and it does not disappoint. Enemies are far tougher and varied than in other LEGO games with some blocking and switching up their attacks. Because some of the ninja’s moves are so dynamic and devastating, you can expect your hit combo meter to enter the triple digits regularly. The other appeal of the combat is that each ninja plays very differently due in large part to their distinct weapons Zane’s bow attacks are completely unique from Cole’s hammer strikes and Lloyds swift swordsmanship. As a result, playing with the different characters keeps the combat fresh and interesting. Combat is by no means at the God of War level or depth but it is excellent and deserving a praise, not for just a LEGO game, but for an action game in general.
Hand to hand fighting is not the only way to keep Lord Garmadon’s forces at bay. Some levels have the ninjas mounting their giant dragons for an on-rails shooter experience and others see them in mechs. The ninja also have the ability to run up and across certain walls which greatly opens up the territory in each level that can be explored and utilized to complete a mission. It also brings a level of verticality to the game that is typically missing from most LEGO titles that don’t have Iron Man in them. One combat misstep though is the use of Spinjitsu. This unique skill in the Ninjago universe sees the ninjas spin with tornado-like force as an attack. In the game, it is relegated to lame spinning air that can be used to hit targets and levers and not to actually fight an enemy. This is a missed opportunity as it would have been another feather in the combat system’s cap. Overall though this is certainly the most action-packed LEGO game period yet the substance also has a whole lot of style as I would argue it is also the prettiest.
Portions of the game have a beautiful older film filter to them like an old kung-fu movie from the 1970s. The world in each level is brimming with activity and is highly detailed indicating that there is no way that the game was a rushed movie tie-in video game that is such common practice in the industry. While I often find the environments in most LEGO games to appear sterile and plastic the Ninjago Movie Video Game is vibrant and stylized. The presentation kudos also translate down to the witty banter between characters during levels. I even caught a Guns N Roses reference in a joke which is the last thing I would have expected in a game like this although it was greatly appreciated.
My biggest issue with the Ninjago Movie Video Game when it is all said and done has to be its difficulty. It is the easiest LEGO game I can recall, although perhaps I am just getting really good as these titles. You never have to wonder where to go as there is an ever-present marker destination every dozen meters or so. This means you take a few steps to get to a marker and upon arrival, a new marker appears slightly further ahead just in case you didn’t know that you were supposed to continue running in the direction you were going. Puzzles are also too easy and there seems to be everything but a big red flashing light to point gamers towards bricks they need to smash or ones they need to build into a new contraption.
Verdict: The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game could have been safe and hit all the marks of a typical LEGO game and it likely would have still been good. Instead, TT Games has pushed the combat system and created a cornucopia of great visuals and play styles that brings it near the top of the dozens of highly successful LEGO games. I had a compulsion to keep playing through the story and enjoyed my time with the free play open world options. More importantly, my 7 and 9-year-olds loved it and were pretty disappointed when Dad got to keep playing after they had to go to bed.
- Best combat in a LEGO game
- Best visuals in a LEGO game
- Characters all play differently
- You get to fly dragons and shoot fire
- Too much hand holding
- Spinjitsu skills a missed opportunity