The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game
TT Games have made a strong reputation at making Lego games. Their breakthrough success with Lego Star Wars have paved the way of over 30 different Lego games of around 10 years. Not only they are making original Lego games, but they still remain doing movie tie-ins now that Lego movies are a thing.
Enter The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game. The Ninjago line of Lego products have seen mainstray success, which warrants it seasons of animated TV series and now a full movie with a touch of the formula established in the first Lego movie. The video game follows the movie’s plot, bringing the classic 3D platforming with some new additions to the formula.
Overall it is a decent game, but I find it a bit hard to recommend to everyone.
Graphics & Sound
The Ninjago Game blends the classic Lego games look. Most buildings are looks intentionally plastic-like and blocky. The minifigs are a bit more detailed, some with visible weathering effects to simulate the realistic, stop-motion look that the movie has. Some of the minfigs have stop-motion-like animations, which is lovely to see replicated into the game, but it’s not consistent- your main Ninjago heroes don’t have those animations for the most part.
One thing I love seeing these Lego games is how lovingly they are treating the Lego brand. All those buildings and props you see can technically be recreated with real Lego parts. Even better, items that are based on real Lego sets, like the various mechs each Ninjago hero has, is replicated pretty closely. I looked up some videos of Zane’s Ice Tank and compared it with its in-game depiction. It’s pretty close, even its wreckage reveals some similar part layouts.
A lot of the Ninjago Game takes place during the main villain Garmadon’s invasion of Ninjago City, so the typical destruction of Lego blocks are being cranked really high this time. Maybe too high. I’ve experienced some heavy framerate drops in the earlier levels due to them being very busy. A lot explosions, a lot of enemies, and many visual details that makes the city feel in peril.
The movie has a star-studded cast, but the unique dialogues for the game can fall flat a lot of times. Don’t expect it to be as witty as the writing in the movie, but it is at least bearable. The soundtrack however, is a bit disappointing. The early levels feel like a bore to explore after the story because I feel like it was the same song being played over and over.
New to the Ninjago Game is an improved combat system. In most Lego games, you just mash square to hit enemies over and over. It’s mostly the same here, but now you have very flashy animations fit for a character-action game.
Your moveset is rather limited however- a normal attack with square (which can be stringed for long combos), a direction + square attack for a lunge, an aerial attack that can be chained to attack other enemies while in mid-air, and a super move that launches your enemy upward so you could mash square over and over to rack up hits (with each hit pushing you higher in the air).
The spectacle is amazing at first, but at the end of the day it is still just mashing square. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun as it is, but don’t expect any depth to the combat. Over time you would accrue Ninjanuity Tokens to upgrade your moves, but by the end of the game you’ll get enough to unlock all of them eventually.
At its core it’s still a 3D platformer. You jump, you attack, you collect things. It has all the elements of a decent platformer bar one: a really good camera. The camera is fine when it is fixed, but I wish it was more fluid to control manually when it’s not.
The game is broken into 10 levels, each punctuated with scenes from the movie as well as in-game cutscenes. During the story sections it’s a linear affair. You just follow the path available. The cast of Ninjago heroes you will be playing rotates in each level- each with their own unique weapon and ability. Which means you will likely to see a lot of inaccessible locations throughout the story mode.
Of course, like most Lego games, after the story is done for that level, you can go back and explore in free play mode. In this mode you can switch to any of the unlocked characters- about 101 of minifigs to choose from- and utilise their unique abilities to open up locations previously unreachable. After unlocking a few shortcuts then you will see that these linear levels are technically small sandboxes. There are quests to take, races to be completed and a dojo arena.
The dojo arenas are levels purely based in combat. Mostly it is set up so that you would face waves and waves of enemies before a boss appears. Some of these levels have environmental hazards to spice things up a bit. They are enjoyable and well thought out. While optional, it’s a good change of pace if you need it- which you really need it from my my experience.
Content & Longevity
There are 10 levels, all following close to the movie. So expect a very impressive opening and relaxing middle chapters. The last level feels a bit rushed, which leaves a lot hanging- you better see the movie to understand why. Thankfully the developers know it’s weak, so there’s an epilouge that fixes that. That was a pleasant surprise, and without spoiling anything, it highlights the best thing to do in a Lego game, turned up to 11.
Don’t expect this to be a long game. You can easily breeze through the game in around 7 hours. I finished my playthrough for this review at 60% completion after eight hours. My issue has to be how repetitive the game feels when played in long sessions. Repetitive even, especially the early levels. Sure, there are neat diversions like the on-rails shooting sections, but due to its movie tie-in nature they can’t add much diversions at the later sections of the game.
For me, it’s too much of doing the same thing over and over again. The many abilities that you each minifig can have feels less and less special now. Take the Spinjitsu ability the main Ninjago heroes have. They are all tuned to specific elements, but in reality they feel more like switch activators, for different switches. I would love to see the elemental abilities are more fleshed out, such as multiple solutions to the same problem.
A new addition to the Lego games are the four-player multiplayer modes. You can play solo against AI or up to four players in three modes. The modes are of course combat-focused but each have objectives- like capture flags or hold on to items the longest like king of the hill. It’s fun if you have a few spare controllers, and it’s simple enough to let kids play with, if the trademark drop-in drop-out co-op in the main game was not enough.
The big question before considering getting the Ninjago Game is a simple one: do you want to play another Lego game, with all of the similar features the series has done, but with some new additions? If the answer is no, then most of the game feels like a retread. The new changes in combat are good but it’s not enough of a pull. If you are expecting a major change in the core gameplay and is not fond of the 3D platforming collect-a-thon these games usually have, give this a skip.
If you enjoy all the Lego games so far, a fan of the Ninjago line, or just saw that movie, the game will be highly entertaining to you. Plus points if you have kids around, this would be perfect for them, especially the new competitive four-player mode. It’s still a decent game and collecting all the collectibles are still fun like you used to see before.
I may not thoroughly enjoy the game as much as I would expect, but it did made me want to buy some new Lego sets, especially Zane’s Ice Tank. That thing looks rad.
Review is based on version 1.01 of the game, played on a regular PS4
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Simple, but fun combat mechanics
Enjoyable 4-player modes
A lot of extra content to find and collect
Nasty framerate drops in early levels
Action gets repetitive over time
Camera can be a bit clunky
A lot of abilities that are basically the same