The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game Review – Breaking the Mold (PS4)
There’s a new LEGO movie, so of course there is going to be a new LEGO movie video game tie-in! Can’t have one without the other, right? That’s just crazy talk, no matter how badly rushed a game might be because of it. The kids are huge fans of the LEGO Ninjago TV show, so we took them to see it on opening night. I’m so glad I did before the game arrived, because otherwise I might have found excuses to wait on seeing the movie for awhile. As much as I adore LEGO games, and I accept the fact that they will have glitches (I think at this point TT Games calls them “features”), The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game is such an incredibly rushed, unpolished job that I may not bother going after the Platinum trophy for it.
Oh who am I kidding; I totally will, no matter how many times the game crashes.
Path Toward True Potential
LEGO games have essentially had the same formula since their inception. There are so many levels all connected to one large hub world. In each level, you want to try to collect as many studs as it takes to make the “True Title,” find all of the character tokens, and collect all the minikit pieces. In the hub world, you try to unlock even more character tokens, gold bricks, and red bricks. To obtain all of the collectibles, players have to play the story levels at least twice—once in story mode and once in freeplay. TT Games has gotten creative with how they implement this formula over the years, but the formula has stayed the same. It’s rather fantastic that the developer has thrown that formula out the window.
For starters, there is no levels vs. hub world. There is no story mode vs. freeplay mode. The game is partitioned by regions. When you complete the story mode of a region, you can come back to it at any time to finish finding collectibles. How is that different from before? This time, you don’t replay the story at all; you visit the region as it is in the story mode and can go do whatever you want. After completing the story mode, extras unlock such as the races, side quests, and Master Builds. Not to mention, as per typical LEGO game, you’ll need characters outside of the story mode in order to find all the hidden collectibles.
Instead of collecting so many studs every level to possibly achieve a “True Ninja” (or probably “True Master”) status, all the studs you collect throughout your entire time with the game add up toward various levels of Ninja. It doesn’t mean anything other than, “Hey, you’re one step closer to another trophy,” but it’s nice that all of the studs you collect even in the hub world count toward your stud goals.
Since there is no true hub world, you can find the Ancient Scrolls (a/k/a Red Bricks) within story mode of the regions. You can even implement them during the story mode. Want to see all the collectibles you can’t get to now? No problem. Double the stud value in story mode? Go for it.
The lack of hub world makes the entire game more open than any LEGO game before it, no matter how large the hub worlds were. You’re no longer pushed down one path to get to your goal in the story mode; you’re free to explore and find various ways to get where you need to go. If this is the future of LEGO games, then sign me up.
On the other hand, I’ve always joked that I was too busy collecting studs to help people right at that very moment in LEGO games, and now, as you can see from the gameplay video below, I really am too busy collecting studs to save Ninjago from Lord Garmadon.
But Wait, There’s More!
For the first time, a LEGO game has additional versus modes players can play against one another in local couch co-op. Up to four people can play one of three versus modes together, and they did a pretty good job for their first versus addition. The modes don’t think outside the box—there’s your typical capture the flag, collect the most orbs and hold on to them, and pick up something heavy and hold onto it for as long as you can. Three maps are available for each, and players can pick any unlocked character they wish. The AI is actually smarter than the average bear; too many times one would hide and ambush me like a true ninja.
These aren’t the best versus modes by far, but kudos to TT Games for bringing in something extra for the whole LEGO game experience. These are a great starting block for future versus modes. Who knows, maybe we’ll eventually get online versus options!
Never Reaching Full Potential
I absolutely love all of the changes TT Games worked into The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game. Like I said earlier, this could be the future of LEGO games, and that would be amazing. That said, however, it’s completely a shame that this test drive was wasted on this particular LEGO game.
I’m used to the camera being flat terrible in LEGO games, but this time it has a split personality. Since the levels are more open, the camera is half locked in place per usual fare and half free. It’s an absolute joy to be able to turn the camera a full 360 degrees to try to figure out how to get that one gold brick, only to have it suddenly snap into a weird angle where I can only see Kai’s feet and a wall. Somehow, the camera becomes possessed at the absolute worst opportunities, like after taking a jump you carefully lined up or when trying to leap off a ninja wall run. Only thing more fun than that are the numerous game crashes, even after the day-one patch. Only thing more fun than the game crashes are the extremely long load times when moving from one region to another.
My biggest disappointment of the entire game was the poor voice acting. I understand that games like this can’t secure the movie voice actors for dialogue outside of what they rip from the film itself. However, I have no idea why the game’s voice actors also dubbed over the film cutscenes. Seeing the movie first may have made me more biased about this, but that was grossly disappointing, especially since the voice actors selected weren’t very good in the first place. They were obviously trying to mimic the film VAs, but they came up so short, which sounded forced and completely phoned in. Even if they couldn’t use the film’s audio, why not bring in the VAs from the TV show? Many of them are video game voice actors anyway, so they would be able to handle this kind of quick recording. Maybe they had a billion reasons why they couldn’t, but the ones who made the cut are sub-par at best. I turned on the game’s subtitles and lowered the volume, because the voices became nails on a blackboard after a time, especially Jay and Master Wu’s voices.
It’s always a shame when a game has such an incredible foundation and never becomes what it should. Fans of LEGO games and of the movie will have fun regardless, because we’re a bit crazy like that. But if you don’t fall in the crazy category, best bet is to wait for the next LEGO game that will hopefully feature this same innovation. TT Games has plenty of good ideas here. Please don’t let them die before they can be implemented in a truly great LEGO game.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.