LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame is an action adventure platform game available from retail stores and for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS4. LEGO Ninjago originated in 2011 with a pilot film and a range of LEGO sets which became so successful that it launched its own large scale LEGO brand with over 100 LEGO sets, multiple games including Summer 2014’s LEGO Ninjago: Nindroids and LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin on Vita in March 2015, while there are numerous graphic novels, a LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu TV series and films taking the franchise considerably further into the future to even greater success. Can the first-ever LEGO Ninjago home console game in the form of LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame ascend beyond the quality of its portable prequels, while successfully representing the film it is based upon?
The story is based upon LEGO Ninjago: The Movie which revolves around a group of ninjas having to defend their home island of Ninjago from the evil Lord Garmadon who plans a hostile invasion while simultaneously attempting to overthrow the group of ninjas with the help of his fully equipped and prepared Shark Army.
The game includes 8 large-scale open-world chapters with classic LEGO gameplay such as multi-builds in which particular obstacles can be destroyed, then constructed, deconstructed and reconstructed in the style of LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens to fix two separate components of a fire engine or to create multi-component objects and machinery in general that is capable of being utilised to reach the next area.
Free play mode allows players to revisit each completed level in any order in an attempt to utilise the skills of each unlocked character by switching to characters that cannot be used during story mode, therefore exploring to find which character’s abilities hold the key to progressing beyond a tricky puzzle and finding out if a gold brick, ancient scroll or character token is hidden beyond it.
There are lots of additional activities beyond completing the levels comprising of 21 races available in free play mode with participation available via on-foot characters running through a series of gates that dictate the boundaries of the course; unlocking 102 characters; collecting 220 gold bricks; ancient scrolls are the equivalent of red bricks including a collectable detector, stud magnet, old movie mode, invincibility, disco mode and much more besides; 9 Dojo challenges; mastering Ninjagility and Spinjitzu by reaching ninja level 20 from collecting lots of LEGO studs and performing just as many combos on enemies; and more besides.
Ninjanuity tokens grant Ninjanuity powers with the first unlockable power being the Skyward Dragon which allows players to launch their enemies into the air before unleashing a barrage of attacks. Unlocking a Ninjanuity power provides a path to unlocking specific powers when next attaining the required Ninjanuity tokens. Further powers include longer stun time, twice the amount of studs from defeated enemies following the Stinging Bee attack, extended dash range to be able to rush distant enemies and much more besides.
The character design is excellent as it is quite faithful to the core group of ninjas in LEGO Ninjago and the antagonist Lord Garmadon that provokes them into action. It is exactly what you would anticipate from a LEGO game albeit not in a predictable fashion; as every character has their own unique personality in the sense of how they approach situations and how serious or sarcastic they are, alongside a range of melee weapons, punches, kicks, powers and much more besides. Character creator effectively allows players to mix and match components from gradually unlocked characters; comprising of 7 categories including head, hats, hair, neck, torso, legs and weapons as well as a name, the ability to randomise a character and entering or sharing a share code in order to utilise another player’s created character or vice versa.
In the same way that LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin reflected the environment design of the LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu TV series; LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame is inspired by its cinematic counterpart as it includes 8 vast locations in addition to a unique challenge Dojo in each location, while there are even some areas which can be explored on vehicles across land or air with dragons and ships.
LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame will not be ported to Vita; however LEGO Ninjago fans looking for a Vita native portable experience set in the world of LEGO Ninjago can find exactly what they are looking for in LEGO Ninjago: Nindroids and LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin which are both available at retail or via download. LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame’s remote play performance is excellent as it produces the quality of graphics, audio and general performance from the PS4 version. As with previous LEGO games such as LEGO Worlds and LEGO City Undercover; split-screen multiplayer is displayed in split-screen during remote play, although it would have been much better to have the player using remote play to have their own full Vita screen with the other player having a full television screen. Controls have not been appropriately optimised as performing a dodge roll has moved to the top left and right of the rear touch pad and centring the camera when on-foot is re-mapped to the bottom right of the rear touch pad when it would have been better to alternate dodge rolling and cycling through characters by having dodge rolling re-mapped to R and cycling through characters mapped to L. However, it does not detract from a comfortable and enjoyable remote play experience.
The controls are appropriately mapped to the DualShock 4 controller with the control scheme consisting of pressing X to jump or double tapping X quickly to double jump; pressing O to build LEGO objects or interact with an object or holding O to perform a Spinjitzu attack; pressing triangle to switch from controlling one character to a nearby character or holding triangle to enter the character wheel; pressing square to perform an attack or holding square to perform a ranged attack; pressing R1 or L1 to cycle through to the next or previous character; pressing L2 or R2 to perform a dodge roll; changing the direction of the left analogue stick or alternatively pressing up, down, left or right on the d-pad to move your selected character; changing the direction of the right analogue stick to pan the camera or pressing R3 to centre the camera; pressing the share button takes you to the share feature menu; and pressing the options button to display the pause menu. Tapping the touch pad displays a fully 3D map of the island your character is currently situated on, while vibration occurs when firing Zane’s crossbow or performing certain attacks, explosions, collecting purple studs and gold bricks, alongside the light bar that remains a standard tone of blue during story mode gameplay, but produces a light shade of blue throughout battle arena matches.
Graphically, LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame possesses excellent animations of everything within the large, open-world environments as well as character and ship models having a charming appeal to them; not only as they are all constructed entirely from LEGO but also as they are incredibly faithful recreations of characters, ships and environments from the LEGO Ninjago universe.
The presentation of the game is solid with a great user interface across various menus such as the title menu, main menu, options menu and gameplay menus with support for navigation via the left analogue stick, directional pad and face buttons, although it does not include support for navigation via the right analogue stick and touch pad. The background of the menu screens immediately sets the comedic tone as a variety of objects are unexpectedly thrown at a gardener, while ancient scrolls and lettering adorn the menus in the foreground, alongside a classic kung-fu movie style film grain.
The characters have rather positively retained their quirky sense of humour from previous LEGO Ninjago games with their personalities brought to life by a talented voice-over cast, while the same can be stated for battle arena mode as it contains a genuinely entertaining commentary of all the action throughout every match. Sound effects include your character running, jumping, climbing, punching, firing a grappling hook, driving vehicles or piloting dragons and ships, building and collecting LEGO studs, ninjas performing attacks against their enemies and Lord Gardemon’s Shark Army attacking the ninjas which is complimented by a soundtrack of ancient Chinese music with a hint of rock music here and there. There is no DualShock 4 speaker implementation which is surprising as it could have produced particular sound effects such as unlocking a new character and earning an ancient scroll or gold brick.
The trophy list includes 51 trophies with 38 bronze trophies, 11 silver trophies, 1 gold trophy and 1 platinum trophy. Over a third of the trophies can be earned naturally during the first playthrough by completing all story locations and defeating every Dojo master. Harder trophies include the Master of the Golden Art silver trophy for collecting 200 gold bricks and the Master of Completion gold trophy for achieving 100% completion. It is estimated that depending upon skill and a good trophy guide to provide some helpful tips that it would take between 25 to 35 hours to platinum the trophy list.
There are no difficulty levels, although characters will immediately respawn after dying in combat and there are some puzzles that require changing to another character in order to gain access to certain areas or generally progress. These gameplay elements result in the difficulty curve for the story missions, side quests and Dojo challenges being only as hard as the player would find the puzzles, exploration and combat. It is most probable that players would generally find LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame relatively easy to progress through, although achieving 100% completion is hard given the scale of the environments that need to be explored to find character tokens, ancient scrolls, gold bricks and much more besides; which is rather appropriate given the appeal of LEGO to a wide audience and age range from young children to adults.
Split-screen multiplayer allows a second player to join in at any given moment via drop-in/drop-out multiplayer and play co-operatively, while each of the levels see both players working together within the same environment to figure out puzzles and overcome obstacles. The co-operative multiplayer is presented in vertical split-screen which works exceptionally well; allowing players to usually explore two completely separate areas of the same level or hub area without restriction to their location, movements or actions, unless there is a requirement to be within a certain area before progressing on with the story.
A major new split-screen multiplayer that has been introduced within LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame is battle arenas which unlocks shortly after starting the story mode. Battle arenas supports anywhere from 2 to 4 players, although a single player can also play against 3 A.I. controlled opponents, but if you have 2 or 3 players, then A.I. controlled opponents will fill the available players. Battle arena comprises of 3 modes including Samurai Showdown in which a player must defeat other players in order to steal their flags with the gameplay twist being the more flags that a player carries earns the player more points, but slows their character’s movement. Mystic Bounty involves collecting powerful artefacts scattered throughout the arena to earn more points than your opponents with different colours representing varying points values such as 5 points for collecting a green artefact, 15 points for a blue artefact or 30 points for a purple artefact. Ultimate Ultimate Weapon tasks players with finding and holding a chest that contains the weapon to score points. Before starting a competitive multiplayer match; each player can select any of the unlocked and created characters, while there are a total of 3 arenas to choose from as the surrounding environments that are littered with power-ups throughout each arena such as frostbite which makes it harder for other players to see what is happening as their screen is covered in a sheet of ice. When playing battle arena in single player; you can choose to play within a 4 player split-screen or a full screen presentation, although 2 player split-screen has to be played in 4 player split-screen which is a bit of an oversight.
LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame’s replayability includes replaying levels to collect ancient scrolls, gold bricks, character tokens and more besides which you may have been unable to do so during the first playthrough without having access to a certain character’s unique ability. Revisiting levels in free play mode as different characters you have unlocked with unique abilities in an attempt to find which character can solve a puzzle and unlock whatever may lay beyond it, while there are huge quantities of challenges for specific characters to participate in. There is a natural satisfaction of creating your own characters and collecting LEGO studs as well as deconstructing particular objects and constructing multiple items that are of use to reach the next area of the chapter. Split-screen co-operative multiplayer is always fun to play with a friend, especially as both players are able to independently explore the vast open-world environments, while the introduction of split-screen competitive multiplayer for 2 to 4 players in battle arenas is amazing fun. LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame represents exceptional value as it collectively contains more than enough replay value throughout every feature to keep players returning for many story mode playthroughs or continuous exploration as unlocked characters for dozens of hours.
• Title: LEGO Ninjago: The Movie Videogame
• Developer: Travellers Tales
• Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment
• System: PS4
• Format: Blu-Ray Disc/PSN Download
• Cross-Buy: No
• Cross-Play: No
• Players: 1-2 (Local Co-operative Multiplayer)/1-4 (Local Competitive Multiplayer in battle arena)
• Hard-Drive Space Required: 17.99GB