A BLOCKY NINJA EXPERIENCE
LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin is a faithful companion to the Ninjago film and television series, but does it translate to another fun video game experience?
For fans of the series, Shadow of Ronin is sure to delight. Developer Traveller’s Tales presents a new, original story for the familiar characters of the Ninjago world that fits in the series’ canon. However, without previous knowledge of the extensive Ninjago world, it’s easy to get lost in the game’s references and backstory.
In Shadow of Ronin, four ninjas named Kai, Jay, Cole and Zane, trained in the art of Spinjitzu, must retrieve powerful Obsidian weapons to reclaim their signature elemental powers stolen early in the game by the villainous Ronin. You take turns controlling each of the four ninjas and at times ancillary characters such as Senseis Wu and Dareth, among others.
After each of the four main characters have recovered their powers, a final showdown against Ronin is imminent. It’s not a revolutionary plotline, but I don’t expect many to play LEGO games for a rich, original story.
Gameplay-wise, Shadow of Ronin presents few changes from previous LEGO handheld experiences. The majority of the game is comprised of entering a level, destroying nearly everything in sight to collect studs, navigating standard platforming sections with the use of a jump mechanic and some light puzzle solving, usually consisting of collecting materials spread across a compact map.
Combat consists of stun attack, a standard weapon attack, a jumping weapon attack, a ranged elemental attack and a Spinjitzu tornado attack. The variety helps it feel fresh, but the tornado attack stands head-and-shoulders above the rest as the most efficient way to dispatch enemies.
Some of the most unique levels take the action mobile, replacing the on-foot experience with a ride on elemental dragons, planes and bikes. These high-speed sequences move swiftly enough to break up the typical level, but slowly enough to remain relatively easy.
On average, a level takes anywhere from 8-12 minutes depending on how thorough you are with challenges and collecting hidden items. With 30 linear levels across 10 chapters, the game is roughly a 6-8 hour journey. However, like every LEGO game, many levels must be played at least twice to approach full completion.
The previously-mentioned studs are used to unlock additional characters for replaying levels. However, to make characters and costumes available for purchase, you must achieve in-game, level-specific goals like surviving particular sections without taking damage or defeating a certain amount of enemies in a particular fashion. Most of these challenges present little, ahem, challenge.
The game allows players to utilize the Vita’s touchscreen to navigate levels and interact with puzzle pieces and enemies, but controlling characters this way instead of using the buttons and left stick presented a noticeable lack of control and movement accuracy. The option is there, however. Because of the fixed camera, depth is occasionally difficult to judge and may lead to fatal plunges while traversing platforming sections.
From a technical standpoint, Shadow of Ronin is extremely solid. Load times are brief and the signature LEGO visuals move along at a steady pace with few stutters. The game did freeze early on for me, but this may have been a result of the overuse of the Vita’s suspend/resume feature. After suspending and resuming play a handful of times in a 10-minute span, the game froze as soon as I opened up the character selection wheel. This was a one-time occurrence, though.
The Verdict: 6.8 out of 10.0
LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin is a lighthearted, enjoyable handheld experience with most of the hallmarks of the LEGO games. However, the depth of the backstory in the Ninjago world may be too much for newcomers to the series to latch on to the tale of these Spinjitzu Masters. For those simply looking for the next LEGO journey, the well-trodden plot is suitable enough as a backdrop to the constant destruction and ensuing creation in the game.
For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
Brian Hoerst is an Associate Editor for MONG and co-hosts the More Than The Score podcast. Follow him on Twitter.