Travellers Tales have been bringing us quality Lego titles for 12 years, and while some iterations have been nothing more than a face-lift, others have revolutionized the Lego genre by introducing new gameplay elements and franchises.
The Ninjago Movie is upon us and it seems set to pave the way to an even greater future of Lego games.
While Ninjago have had a sub-release on Nintendo DS, The Ninjago Movie see’s their first major release, which as you’d expect follows the story of the official movie.
Being a parent, I’m fluent in Lego games, I’ve lost count how many times my kids return to the Lego titles even after completion and collecting every spare character, TT games have a fantastic system in place which makes the game appealing to all ages, long past the average play through.
The Ninjago Movie doesn’t rest on the laurels of Lego games gone by, while refrained by the world of the movie, it still takes some bold steps forward, providing a fresh feeling and introducing a few elements I’m sure we’ll see more of in the future.
The game follows the story of the movie, with Lord Garmadon planning his annual quest for world domination, the various missions take you from one location to the next, each exploring areas from the movie ad introducing you to various characters from the Ninjago universe, as you’d expect there’s plenty of these to unlock as well as a create-a-character option.
This time round things have been done slightly differently, the grind for studs has been removed, and instead gameplay slowly fills a bar rewarding you with a golden brick each time, the more you play the more you’ll unlock, forget about replaying missions time and time again and instead explore various areas, it’s a fresh new approach which rewards people like my children who happily explore open world areas but have little interest in playing the same missions time and time again.
Another important change is the combat system, for many years the Lego franchise has been much more about platforms and puzzles, but finally (and perfectly so for a bunch of Ninja’s) Combat feels worthwhile, deliberate and fun as well as rewarding and at times a little challenging.
There’s no more spamming ground pounds and punches, enemies will block repeated attacks, and you’ll have to try various techniques, there’s also some impressive close-range combo’s which add to the visual appeal, and whether it’s the Lego mini-figures, mechs or vehicles, everything feels very well done across the board.
One more area that really caught my attention was a simple but effective change with unlocking characters, as mentioned before there’s no more studs to grind, instead once a new figure is unlocked it’s open to use straight away, and even more impressive is the ‘Blind Bag’, yep, those small overpriced bags of Lego Mini-figures at your local shopping centre have made their way into games, but you get all the fun of opening them, without having to pay £2-£3 each for the privilege.
You’ll get rewarded certain ones at the end of each mission, which follow the standard of new characters you’ve encountered, but throughout the world you’ll also discover these small blind bags, which are then opened to reveal another new mini-figure, It’s a subtle change, but its effective and once again rewards exploration and not grinding the same mission.
The disappointing story only scrapes the surface of the actual movie, and within only 3-4 hours you’ll have worked your way through to the anti-climatic end, thankfully like most great games, that’s where The Ninjago Movie starts to shine, with each mission unlocking it’s own free-roam area to explore.
I can completely understand that some people would rather see more story content, but limited to the tracks of the movie it’s nice to see the various (and some lengthily) cut-scenes capturing much of the humor from the movie.
Graphically, The Ninjago Movie looks very familiar, characters, location and the Lego charm is represented perfectly, and with the new combat system, there’s some new effects and sparks to make things look as impressive as they feel.
sometimes the switch between movie cut-scenes and in-game cut scenes there’s the uneasy reminder that there’s still a way to go yet, but it’s otherwise a very good showing.
As we’ve come to expect from Telltale games the sound is exemplary, character voices are movie quality, and while a few one-liners don’t come as a surprise, there’s plenty of sound effects and atmospherics to keep your ears busy.
Lego titles always have so much to offer after the story completion, so it feels a little harsh to be too judgmental on the length of the missions, but in comparison with so many others, Ninjago does feel short, thankfully the blind-bag character unlocks and open-world areas will still fill your time for many many hours, days and weeks.