LEGO’s latest film has just released in cinemas, and with it comes the companion video game. The LEGO Ninjago Movie seems to be struggling at the box office, which is a pity as it’s a fun flick filled with reference for fans of kung fu movies. However, it doesn’t quite measure up to the LEGO Movie and the LEGO Batman Movie. The game, on the other hand, gives a perhaps much needed facelift to the LEGO video game formula.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game follows the story of the movie, which is told through short clips from the film. Like most LEGO games, it’s enough for you to get the gist of things, but you might get a bit lost if you haven’t seen the film. Certainly, most of the best jokes and character moments remain in the film itself. This use of film cutscenes is new, however, and addresses one of the biggest weaknesses I felt the LEGO Batman Movie Dimensions Game Pack had: trying to recreate already entertaining scenes with the in-game engine, resulting in less funny versions of the jokes. The LEGO Ninjago Movie Game solves this and still manages to tell the story. I did feel a lot of the LEGO humour I’ve come to expect in their video games was mostly absent, but I think this is a challenge that comes with making a game of a film that already contains LEGO humour.
I did feel a lot of the LEGO humour I’ve come to expect in their video games was mostly absent, but I think this is a challenge that comes with making a game of a film that already contains LEGO humour.
Sadly the voice actors from the film were not used for the game – apart from the cutscenes taken directly from the film – which can be a bit jarring at times, especially when the pronunciation of names varies. This and some long load times and frame rate drops take away from an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Upgraded Kung Fu
Gameplay wise, the game delivers what you’d expect from a LEGO game: action and platforming. The Ninjago Movie game gives the formula a fresh coat of paint. The first change you will probably notice is the ‘true ninja’ bar, which is present throughout the game and carries over between levels and the open world. For the first time, we can see the stud count we’re trying to reach, and each time you reach a milestone, you move to the next tier and unlock some minifig parts as well. I loved this change, as it gave me a clear goal to work towards, as well as giving me an idea of my overall progress in the stud collection game.
The next major change is in the way character abilities work. In the film, the ninja heroes unlock their special ‘spinjitsu’ powers as they progress on their journey, and the game does a similar thing by gradually giving you access to each character’s special powers. On top of that, ninjas have a host of fighting combo moves, which you can improve with ‘ninjuity’ tokens. There’s a combo counter which multiplies the number of studs you collect for a short while, leading to some frenetic combat sequences where you’ll want to get the highest multiplier possible. Enemies now block and may wear armour, meaning you won’t always be able to simply spam the same attack moves over and over. Enemies (and some objects) now highlight when targeted, making it easier for you to see where you’re aiming, which helps for moves that home in or dash at distant enemies.
Enemies now block and may wear armour, meaning you won’t always be able to simply spam the same attack moves over and over. Enemies (and some objects) now highlight when targeted, making it easier for you to see where you’re aiming, which helps for moves that home in or dash at distant enemies. Combat feels much more engaging and rewarding with the various move sets. Up close you can punch, kick and slash as normal, but you can dash between enemies, rain down flying kicks or hit the ground with a shockwave. There is also a pummeling super move that has you and your enemy flying into the air, combo counter soaring, before smashing them back down to the ground. It looks great and feels rewarding every time.
Ninjas also have other special moves, as you might expect, like wall running, rope swinging, and balancing on impossibly small surfaces. Each of the hero characters also wields a different set of weapons, changing their fighting style and allowing them to complete certain puzzles. Characters now have icons under their health bars indicating what abilities they have. You can also filter the free play character roster by ability, making it really easy to find a character with a particular skill.
A new approach to levels
Progress through the story is quite seamless, with more, shorter chapters than most previous LEGO games. I found this kept things moving at a good pace and reduced the likelihood of me getting distracted by the open world between missions. There’s even a little something extra at the end that makes finishing the story worthwhile. The open world is huge, as we’ve come to expect, and there is plenty to explore and unlock. There are numerous challenge dojos in addition to the usual sort of missions, races and secrets in the open world.
There’s even a little something extra at the end that makes finishing the story worthwhile.
The open world is where the puzzles open up a bit more because the main story is done with a group of double-jumping acrobatic ninjas meaning that the puzzles for new things aren’t about jumping around as much as they are about finding the correct weapon or character to use for a special door.
Overall, I feel the improvements made in this game to the LEGO game formula outweigh the somewhat lacklustre story. I hope this sets a new standard for future LEGO games.