LEGO recently created a new franchise, LEGO Ninjago. Set in feudal Japan, the storyline is centered on a noble group of ninjas and their wise master. Lord Garmagon is hell bent on uniting the four golden weapons of Spinjitzu and ruling the world. Of course, you can’t let that happen. Spin and fight your way through eight acts and a plethora of stages to save the world.
With a TV show and supporting merchandise, a new title was released for DS but does it do justice for the hugely popular LEGO video game franchise.
In a word, no.
If you are expecting to sit down and play a LEGO game like Star Wars or Batman, think again. Ninjago has abandoned its traditional 3D style and has adopted a 2D RTS style. While I’m a huge fan of 2D and RTS games, this game fell short from the beginning.
Implementing an RTS style at first seemed like a smart way to go. A top-down view with touch controls seemed like a perfect fit for the DS. Sadly, it wasn’t. Most of the time touches were not recognized or were slow causing some frustrating moments during the game. I found myself having to touch pretty hard to get a response. At first I though it could be the device and put in a few other games to try. It wasn’t the device.
I also felt that the gameplay was too simplified. Tap a character to select him them tap a location to move. Press and drag a rectangle to select a group. When characters are selected, tap an enemy or object to attack. That is pretty much it. After destroying hordes of skeletons in the first couple stages, you get bored pretty quick. Different challenges and mini games were added to help give depth to the game but failed to make it interesting.
The graphics are really low quality, think 8 bit Nintendo circa 1987. The character movements were also a big disappointment with slow choppy animation. I was getting flashbacks of playing Duck Hunt as a kid. This “retro” style would have been OK if the animation was improved. Thankfully, the audio effects were better than the graphics and had LEGO’s signature style. Both my son and I found that using head phones enhanced the audio experience.
On the bright side
For younger gamers just beginning to learn to play, LEGO Ninjago would be a good choice. It’s a LEGO game that a four or five year old can pick up and play. The controls are super easy to learn and the gameplay is simple. And if they are a fan of the show and toys, they will enjoy adding this to their collection.
I thought that including all the traditional LEGO objects: studs, hidden treasures and audio effects made this feel like a LEGO game. My son and I would search through each stage looking for hidden treasures and destroying everything. The battle arena was also a nice addition to the game. If you have watched the show, the ninjas start spinning turning them into mini-tornadoes as they battle. In the arena you get to battle foes in this manor which is a pleasant distraction from the weak gameplay of story mode.
Now this game felt rushed. It seemed like it was quickly thrown together to complement the toy line a TV show. Most gamers will find this game to be boring and the poor graphics do not help. My son usually finds most games fun but Ninjago was one of the few he didn’t like. The very poor graphics and bad gameplay really did this game in. Also, the fact that this release took a huge departure from the established style, fans will find themselves scratching their heads.
For the price, leave LEGO Ninjago on the shelf and pick up another LEGO game.