BUILDING A FIGHT AGAINST YOUR ENEMIES
Ninjas. The silent killers among Japan are revered for their infiltration, espionage, and assassination skills. They are feared among the world for their reach and power. However, Lego Ninjago: Nindroids breaks that mindset down with a fun, action-packed, and whimsical type of ninja (along with an equally fun, action-packed, and whimsical game).
Hellbent Games, in partnership with Traveller’s Tales Games paired up once again to develop the game. Their other joint-projects are LEGO Battles (Nintendo DS), LEGO Battles Ninjago (Nintendo DS) and LEGO Friends (Nintendo DS/ 3DS/ iOS). Hellbent Games is also no stranger to the LEGO franchise since they developed many of the games which include LEGO The Hobbit, LEGO MARVEL Super Heroes, and LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga. Needless to say, these companies are no strangers to the LEGO franchise.
The game takes place in the Ninjago Universe, where the player needs to defend New Ninjago City from the evil Overlord and his robotic army of Nindroids. The beginning cut scenes before the actual gameplay does a great job setting up the events prior to this game, just in case players forgot what happened or are hearing it for the first time. With this, the storyline is extremely similar to the episodes that have aired thus far for animated series LEGO Ninjago Rebooted. For fans of the show, this is a fun play-by-play of the actions that occurred through the animated story. For players who haven’t seen the new series, there might be some jumps in the storyline that could lose some people. These kinds of jumps aren’t entirely a deal-breaker but can confuse players who have not seen the series yet.
There seems to be three types of art styles throughout the game. The vast majority of the game is in typical gameplay graphics, which is clean and on point. Some of the cutscenes are done in this style so it offers very fluid transitions between playing and watching. The second style is that of the animated series. The developers appropriately and purposefully placed clips from the animated series to push the storyline forward, while also engaging the player to take a step back and enjoy the show. The third graphic style, to me, was the most abstract, yet fitting style among the three. The style features graphic novel images that do not alter, but instead move along the screen. This one was by far my favorite type of illustration within the game. It was simple yet stunning: I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. My one issue was that they didn’t use this style nearly as much as they should have. Overall, the combination of the three styles kept the presentation fresh, instead of me rolling my eyes for a cut scene.
The narration and voice over for the characters are the same as the animated series, further weaving the two together. At first I was confused because what was being voiced was audio only. This annoyed me because certain characters, robots for example, do not speak as clearly as humans. This was quickly resolved when I enabled the text in the Settings menu. Having the option is great, but having to figure out that it exists, then having to turn it on, not great. The developers should have known or realized that certain characters don’t speak clearly and allowed for the subtitles to be enabled from the beginning.
Going along with this, I felt that the music was almost nonexistent. The sounds of fighting, pedestrians, and robots were on point. For some reason the sound was so overpowering that I had to lower my volume in fear that the speakers were going to blow (they were that aggressive). However, I never had to do that for the music in the game, which was much more subdued when you actually heard it.
The locations themselves were dynamic and creative. When you are in a new location, you clearly know that you are someplace else. This was nice to see that the developers purposefully wanted to make each area (Borg Tower, Garbage Dump, etc.) its own without lowering their visual standards.
The actual gameplay is similar to other games from the LEGO franchise. The player is put into a level and based on the previous level or recent footage must complete certain tasks, actions, or sequences, to progress through the game. Many of the levels are exploratory, meaning that you need to figure out what you need to do within the level. To break this up, the game also has some varying levels, such as driving a Kai Fighter (battle jet), saving all the citizens in the area, flying a Ninjacopter (helicopter) while destroying missiles, and others that you can discover on your own. You can also collect LEGO studs and blocks that you can trade in to unlock new characters and mini-games, as well as hearts that can help you stay alive in the level.
The fighting sequences in this game is actually very polished. By combining the action button (B) and the analog, you’re able to position where your character will attack and drive up a combo score. I instantly had a flashback to Batman: Arkham City with its simplistically effective fighting mechanics. This was, to me, the 3DS equivalent of it. The added flavor to this game is that there is a Ninja Bar- when the bar is full, certain characters can unleash special Ninja powers, turn into a whirlwind, and critically damage opponents- a staple to the Ninjago universe.
The bottom screen for the Nintendo 3DS shows the characters that are available to you in that level, maxing of eight characters. In addition it provides the main menu where you can exit a level, start a level, or see a list of certain “Challenges” within the level you are playing.
Each level has ten “Challenges” that players are encouraged to complete. Some challenges are self explanatory and might not require any additional forethought; “Minigame” for example, is achieved when you activate and complete the minigame in the level. Others like “Skeleton”, requires that you complete the level as a Skeleton character (which may or may not be possible the first time around). The more challenges you complete the more Gold Blocks you get, the more characters and bonuses you can unlock, and the more the LEGO Ninjago universe opens up for the player.
Once you’ve completed a level, you can then replay it in “Free Mode”, where you are able to use any characters that you have unlocked, regardless of the players who you were originally limited to in the level. This instantly opens up more and more replayability to the game and each level. Whether it’s trying to complete all the Challenges or just having the urge to cause some wreckage to get some more LEGO studs, you’ll want to use different characters to see what happens.
Aside from the actual storyline, players are able to visit a local neighborhood in New Ninjago City. There, players can access levels from the Noodle Bar, complete some challenges in the Ninjago Dojo, or unlock special power-ups and characters at the Comic Store. The Ninjago Dojo is perfect if you want smash a bunch of Nindroids out of existence!
The Verdict: 7.6 out of 10
LEGO Ninjago: Nindroids is a good, fun, and fluid adventure. There is a nice storyline, steady progression with the gameplay, and plenty of butt kicking like any other LEGO game. Though there are some issues with sound and the actual storyline is from the animated series, fans of the show or game series should certainly check it out. Gamers who aren’t fans of the series could still enjoy the game, but might miss out on the full storyline. Regardless, I’m excited to unlock all the hidden treasures and continue to fight those Nindroids!
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.