You know what you’re getting with a LEGO videogame. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame tries to refine that tried-and-tested formula a little bit, but it’s still a LEGO game in every sense of the word.
That’s no bad thing, mind.
As one of LEGO’s own IPs, Ninjago is largely overlooked in favour of Batman, Marvel or any other of its named franchises – especially in terms of videogames. Up until now, it’s been solely marketed at children — its LEGO sets purely playsets and the previous games solely releasing on handheld formats to capture the young userbase of the 3DS. With the release of The LEGO Ninjago Movie, though, LEGO hopes to capture the hearts of the young and old alike, in the same way it managed with The LEGO Movie and The LEGO Batman Movie. If the game is anything to go by, I’d say that it has been largely successful.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Ninjago franchise, it doesn’t matter. The story is as crazy and out-there as any LEGO narrative, and no background knowledge is needed to enjoy it. A group of young ninjas form together to battle against the evil Garmadon who, along with Meowthra — an actual cat — is hellbent on destroying Ninjago city. Cue the adventures of minifigs across action-packed and varied levels.
The setup of the game is very similar to the numerous LEGO games that have come before it: a series of set levels interspersed with open world segments. Rather than being a separate open world, however, this time the open areas are the same environments as the levels themselves. It makes for more fluid end-game gameplay, and, with the addition of a fast-travel map, means you can jump to any level or area with the click of a button rather than needing to search an area to find the relevant access point.
There are a couple of other gameplay tweaks that Traveller’s Tales has added to this latest LEGO game, too. There’s no longer a per-level target for studs collected; instead, your total stacks across the entire game, with 20 incremental targets offering you rewards. The stackable much-loved (at least by me) red multiplier bricks are also gone bar a single x2, so no more ridiculous multipliers into the thousands. Instead, larger multipliers come from chaining attacks in combat — the element of The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame that’s been most changed from previous titles.
While I do miss the ability to amass a billion studs in a matter of minutes, the refreshed combat makes for a very welcome change. In previous LEGO games, the combat was mostly a necessary evil; a soulless button-bashing activity that generally served no purpose other than pushing forward the narrative. In The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame though, combat is fast-paced, rewarding and, dare I say it, enjoyable. Combos aren’t entirely new, but here, several new moves combined with attack chains make for a much more engaging experience. We’re still not on, say, the level of Batman Arkham games, but attacks have more weight to them, and at the very least, the promise of stud multipliers means that every fight you get into feels meaningful and worthwhile.
As always, The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame is a completionist’s dream. Outside of finishing the story — which will take you to around 50% completion — there’s a wealth of collectibles to grab and side missions to complete. There are gold bricks to collect, NPCs with mini quests, structures to build, characters to unlock, minikits to find… well, you know the drill. The world is a great one to explore, which helps make the grind to find everything more enjoyable. Levels are varied, spreading from the metropolis of Ninjago City, out onto the beach, into the jungle and up into the snowy mountains. Every area is much bigger than a usual level, with plenty of hidden nooks and crannies to explore.
You always know exactly where you are with a LEGO game, and if you’ve enjoyed any of Traveller’s Tales’ other offerings, then you’ll definitely enjoy The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame. The change to stud collection means it’s always worth amassing studs as you play, rather than waiting until ‘free play’ once you’ve unlocked a couple of multipliers. And having the levels themselves be the open world makes for more fluid gameplay, allowing you the freedom to explore without needing to replay the level in the traditional sense. But most of all, the change to combat makes a massive difference. Rather than trying to avoid combat, you’ll likely want to seek it out at every opportunity.
It’s a LEGO game alright, and these small but meaningful changes make it one of the better titles in the collection. Even if the Ninjago franchise doesn’t interest you as much as Batman or Marvel Superheroes might, the gameplay and signature LEGO humour makes The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame well worth jumping into.