Lego Ninjago is a huge property, though I’d have been hard pressed to tell you that before they decided to make a movie about it, and then a game about the movie. Coming from the same creative team behind the amazing Lego Movie and Lego Batman Movie, the film charts the escapades of the Ninjago Ninja’s, along with their Master Wu, as they go up against the dastardly – and shark obsessed – Garmadon. The game then follows the plot of the film, and like the Lego Movie Videogame before it, the action is bookended by clips from the movie itself, making this a perfect, and hilarious, companion piece for fans to get stuck into.
At this stage it feels almost rude explaining the gameplay of one of TT Games Lego titles, but for those hermits who’ve been under a geologically indiscriminate piece of igneous material, on a secluded island, and away from all forms of modern communication then here goes. You take a parade of themed versions of the little yellow plastic people from Denmark through an array of light puzzles, whose general solution is “have you broken everything in sight?” followed by “have you tried putting things together differently?”
There is plenty of building things, achieved by holding one button, as well as a lot of combat, and Ninjago does play well with its license in that regard, allowing you to rack up massive combo smackdowns which in turn boost your score multiplier – though you’re generally only really hammering away with one button even if you have to press a different one every so often.
Lego games are massively accessible, and Lego Ninjago is no different in that regard. It dresses combat up further with some light RPG-esque levelling up, which grants you access to enhanced moves, or increases their damage or range. It’s a nice little addition, though it doesn’t explain itself incredibly well, with the moves being called fancy ninja names which I instantly forgot, and in the end I just began to hope I was levelling up the right thing.
There’s more of a free-flowing feel here than in some of the mainline Lego games, and golden bricks are scattered around the levels in a way that doesn’t always force you to come back once you’ve unlocked a new character ability. Platforming and traversals feel vastly improved, and while you’ll still undoubtedly make the odd misstep, it feels as though it’s more your own fault rather than the game’s. Signposting is also very good, so you’ll never be unsure of where you’re going, though for some it may hold your hand a little too much as it funnels you through the levels.
Multiplayer has always been a touchstone of the Lego franchise, but here it’s expanded to some competitive modes alongside the standard co-op shenanigans. The Battle Arena plays host to various modes, including Samurai Showdown’s capture the flag fun, while Mystic Bounty sees you trying to collect orbs faster than your opponents. In a nice touch you can populate your games with computer AI if you don’t have enough friends, but it’s at its best with three others. Overall it can be a lot of fun, though the arenas can feel a bit too large at times.
Sadly Lego Ninjago has some of the worst loading times we’ve seen from the franchise since the Wii U’s Lego City Undercover. We’re generally talking longer than a minute, and if you enter areas within levels the game will need to load back in once you’re done, causing the excruciating pain of accidentally going into the wrong place and then being stuck with a huge wait the moment you turn back around.
Part of the problem is likely because the game is often loading in the assets for Ninjago City itself, which is a huge, and very attractive location, or another similarly large area. TT Fusion have really gone to town – or is that city – on making this a living, breathing place, and it’s easily amongst the Lego franchise’s best looking games with some great lighting and depth of field effects. This seems to have come at a cost, and that includes one that I haven’t seen in a Lego game since the last console generation: screen tearing.
Screen tearing is probably my most hated graphical fault, as it really disrupts my concentration, and it’s a massive shame to see it here, particularly when I thought it had largely been consigned to games of the past. I’m not sure if that’s TT Fusion pushing the engine too hard, as there are also points with some serious slowdown, but I’m hoping that this is something they can remedy in the near future.
The Lego Ninjago Movie Game does a great job of bringing the full film experience to your console and wrapping it up with the next step in Lego gameplay . It’s fantastic to see a return to the style of the Lego Movie Videogame, as opposed to the Lego Batman Movie’s half-accurate Lego Dimensions pack, but it’s bittersweet when all of that good work is somewhat undone by last-gen technical flaws which have somehow found their way back in.
Version Tested: PlayStation 4 Pro