The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game (PS4, Xbox One, Switch)

Ninjago is a popular toy line from the building block giants at LEGO.  It features a group of heroic teen ninjas as they battle all sorts of bad guys to defend Ninjago City.  Ninjago has spawned a massive toy line, a TV cartoon series, and now a full-length animated feature film now in theaters!  And now you can play as the characters and relive the action of the new movie with The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game.  It’s available for nearly all the current home video game consoles, but reviewed on PS4 here.

At heart, this game is like any other in the block building series. Sock enemies, bash blocks and build new LEGO structures, drive vehicles, use teamwork, and solve puzzles. Collect LEGO studs to build new things, and find hidden red and gold LEGO bricks to unlock cheats and other goodies. Just like the others, a second player can join in and hop out at any time for some co-op fun.  You can also find extra goodies in each stage in Free Play, and other activities and side quests in the hub worlds.

There are a few new things here and here in this LEGO game, though.  They’ve brought back the “Multi-Build System” from LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens, where you can choose multiple things to build from a pile of bricks.  Since you play as mostly all ninjas, they’re all a bit more nimble than most playable LEGO characters in past games.  Everyone here can double jump, run up walls, swing on ropes, and perform all sorts of combo moves.  Each character wields a different weapon that can activate certain switches, and later on they’ll learn special elemental powers to help bypass even more obstacles.

But the new ideas just don’t end there.  In past LEGO games, you could collect a certain number of LEGO studs in a stage to earn a gold brick.  Here you can continue to collect studs to level up your rank in a stage even more!  As you play, you’ll also earn special tokens that can unlock “Ninja-gility” moves and perks, like giving out more damage with certain moves, getting double studs by using certain attacks, and much more.  You can also find special hidden scrolls that can give you even more powers, like being able to detect nearby secrets!  Between levels in the hub worlds you can take on side quests and even find dojos where you can battle bad guys from the movie and others in the Ninjago universe!  Try to get a high score and earn a gold medal!  So even though the main story mode is a bit shorter than other LEGO titles, there is still plenty of things to do.

The main problem I had with this game is that goals and objectives were sometimes a little unclear.  In past LEGO titles, you could follow a trail of clear LEGO studs to where you need to go next.  Here you must follow a tiny little arrow that’s not always there, or even helpful when it is.  Plus the game (and the movie, too) lacks a lot of the humor that past titles have had.  It’s like they got the “B Team” to work on this one while the rest worked on the more popular LEGO games.  But that doesn’t mean the game (or the movie) is bad.  It’s just designed specifically for the Ninjago fans out there.  And that’s perfectly OK.  So if you like Ninjago and the new movie, you’ll want to check out this game, too.

Kid Factor:

The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game is rated E-10 with an ESRB descriptor of Cartoon Violence.  You can punch, kick, slice, and smack bad guys, but they just fall down or go to pieces when defeated. They make it perfectly clear that everything is made out of LEGOs, so violence isn’t really that bad.  I’d be OK letting any kid play any of the LEGO games, personally. If you’re comfortable with your kids watching the Ninjago movie and cartoon, they’ll be OK with this game, too. If you are defeated, you just appear right back where you were with a minimal loss of studs, so it’s not too frustrating. Even though the game has tons of spoken voice, reading skill is still helpful for the menus and tips. If a younger player does need assistance, another can join in at any time. Which is always recommended, as LEGO games are more fun with a friend anyway.   Finally, I’d like to say that I’ve been fortunate enough to review most of the LEGO games out there, thanks to WB Games sending me them for review purposes, including this game as well.  So thanks a bunch, folks.

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