Licenced video games based on films seem to have largely gone the way of the dodo, but there’s one developer that’s keeping the tradition alive. Traveller’s Tales has been making brickified LEGO licenced versions of blockbuster films for what seems like forever, and they’re at it again. This time, it’s something that has its genesis within the LEGO universe, making the transition from celluloid to digital bricks a little easier.
It’s the very mouthy The LEGO Ninjago Movie Videogame, the game of the movie of the TV show spinoff of the toy. It follows the plot of the movie, with its exposition delivered by carefully extracted excerpts from the film. It’s terribly disjointed, told in throwaway scenes that clumsily move from one excerpt to the next. Unfortunately, for those who haven’t seen the related movie or who have an invested interest in the series, it means that you have to fill in large chucks of story by extrapolation.
Given my entire history with Ninjago is my daughter asking if we can watch it and me saying “No,” I went in blind. From what I’ve ascertained, it’s about a group of young ninjas, mentored by a bearded old Asian kung fu master who ably fills in all of the associated tropes. He has a wicked, if muted sense of humour, he speaks in riddles and his lessons all lead, eventually, to the Ninjas unlocking the latent ability within themselves to overcome the challenges ahead. Those challenges typically involve Lord Garmadon, an evil villain hell-bent on taking the city of Ninjago for himself. A spanner in the works here is that one of the ninjas – and protectors of Ninjago is his own son, leading to a bit of familial drama. In the way it’s presented in the game, its loosely stitched narrative does just enough to spoil the movie’s major plot points, so it’s best avoided unless you’ve seen said film.
As for how it plays? I went in expecting it to be just another LEGO game. For the most part, it is. It features all of the things you’d expect from a LEGO game: Mindless action sequences, platforming, mild puzzles involving building LEGO and collecting a million and one studs, hidden golden LEGO bricks and unlocking the myriad tangential characters from the established universe.
What differentiates it a little from games past is its combat system, which borrows heavily from (as most action games do these days) from the Arkham games. It’s been toned down for simplicity, of course, but there’s just enough to make walloping waves of blocky baddies a fun time. There’s nice variety to the combat, coupled with a combo meter. The higher your meter, the more of those precious studs you’ll collect when you dispatched of the bad guys. There are dodges and parries, aerial attacks and more, along with enemies who can actually block, forcing you to mix up your attacks to keep things fun. There’s even a simple skill tree. Earning Ninjanuity tokens lets you upgrade your skills, or at least add to their stud multipliers.
That is the least of the game’s terrible puns though. The dialogue that’s not directly pulled from the film (and even half of the dialogue that is) is filled with eye-rolling, head-desking puns, but I suppose that’s half the charm. When you’re not completing the mostly linear levels, you’re left to explore areas in a more free-form way, switching up characters and trying to find the game’s secrets in the quest for the ever-elusive 100%. The game’s open areas are broken up into areas though, so it’s not a real open world. Moving between said areas bring with it excruciatingly long load times, so be prepared for a wait between levels. The camera can also get a bit wonky, especially if you’ve got a co-op player.
Last Updated: October 3, 2017