LEGO Ninjago Nindroids Review

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Title: LEGO Ninjago Nindroids
Developer: TT Games, Traveler’s Tales
Game Type: PlayStation Vita
Download: 1.4 GB
NA Availability: 
Digital Download | Retail

EU Availability: Digital Download | Retail
PSTV Support: Yes

LEGO games in handheld form have become a different type of game than their console counterparts.  TT Games have made a habit of developing the handheld versions of their games to have a different feel than the console games, and many people have criticized the games for it.  This began with LEGO Marvel Super Heroes and has gone through LEGO: The Hobbit.  The games are still fun, but they’re not the same as the console versions of the same game.

However, not all LEGO games release on every system.  While many of the big, license-based like LEGO: The Hobbit and LEGO: Batman have come out on every system around, there are some that are more exclusive to certain types of systems.  One of the more recent LEGO games has released only on handheld systems, bringing the newest LEGO adventure only to the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.

Seeing games come out like this is interesting, but also brings about certain elements.  Since the new game is only on handheld platforms, there is no console version to compare it to.  Has the gameplay engine for these handheld games improved since LEGO: The Hobbit?  Let’s find out.  Based on the LEGO Ninjago TV Series, here is our official review of LEGO Ninjago Nindroids!

Story

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The story of LEGO Ninjago Nindroids follows the events of Season 3 of the LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu TV Show that is shown on Cartoon Network.  Long after the evil Overlord that brought chaos to the land of Ninjago is defeated, the city of Ninjago has been reborn into a great city full of technological advancements.

Four ninjas visit Cyrus Borg, the head of the city, whom gives them new weapons known as Elemental Techno-Blades.  Having realized that the evil Overlord has been reborn as a Computer Virus, the Ninja are tasked with finding a way to reboot their system and destroy the reborn Overlord.

You will be a little lost if you haven’t watched any of the TV Series, but the beginning of the game explained the events of the first two seasons as best they could.  Once you start playing and get used to the characters, the game’s story gets entertaining, but it is more entertaining if you’ve already watched the show beforehand.

Gameplay

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Like all of the LEGO games that have come before it, LEGO Ninjago is a platformer with combat elements.  I would say it is a 3D Platformer, but some may not believe so with the angle of the gameplay.  This is because the game incorporates an Isometric style of gameplay, much like many of the previous handheld LEGO titles.  But as it stands, the game is a platformer with combat elements.

The game has various stages and levels for you to play through.  Each of these has you traversing walls, platforms, buildings, and more as you also solve puzzles, fight off enemies, and destroy everything in your path to collect the LEGO Studs currency that is used to buy and unlock extra features and characters for when you replay the levels and stages of the game.  This has been the staple gameplay of the LEGO franchise from the very beginning, though LEGO Ninjago has changed a few things.

Each level consists of bite-sized bits of gameplay, as you explore the different areas, each episode of the TV series divided into many levels.  These won’t take long to finish, but you will have several Challenges to complete as you play through each one, which will allow you to unlock new content as well as trophies for the game.  Some unlockable characters, for example, can only be unlocked by performing certain challenges in certain levels, be it finishing the level in a certain amount of time or finding hidden Red Bricks or Minikits.

As you play through the game, there are many actions you can take, and some of those directly reflect positive changes that Traveler’s Tales has made with this new handheld LEGO game, making it much more fun than the previous games.  First of all, characters can jump and double-jump, as well as dodge incoming attacks.  This is a big deal, as there was no real “jumping” mechanics in the past few handheld LEGO games.  But in this game, there are jumping mechanics much like the mechanics from the previous console LEGO titles.

Another enhancement that the game has made is what happens when you run out of health.  In previous games, if your health hit zero, the level ended and you had to restart it from the very beginning.  In LEGO Ninjago, you will simple respawn where you were before.  This is also something taken from the console LEGO games.  These two things were big complaints with the handheld titles, and greatly increases the fun of the game.

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Whenever you’re not in the middle of a level to proceed with the story or replaying the game with unlocked characters in Free Play, you will be at your Home Base called the Ninjago Hub.  Here, you can wander around various facilities and fend off enemies that are in the area.  You can also use the few facilities that are available to you.  There is an area where you can go into the Story Missions, and another facility that houses the Game’s Shop.  Here, you can spend the studs you have collected as you’ve played the game to purchase playable characters as well as bonuses based on the Red Bricks you’ve collected throughout the game for in-game bonuses.

While each of the game’s levels doesn’t take long to beat, they are plentiful.  Averaging about 8-10 minutes per level, the 31 levels of the game should make the game last about 6 hours, assuming you don’t replay any parts of the game or go back to unlock everything.  This is relatively short, but is about on part with the recent LEGO handheld games.  With a lower price tag than a normal Vita title, it fits with the game’s length.

Controls

Controlling LEGO Ninjago Nendroids may not be as simple or what you may be expecting, especially if you’ve played any of the recent handheld LEGO titles.  While there are some controls that are similar, it makes its own controls in some sections of the game.  First of all, there are touch controls, though they are not required outside of mini-games for puzzles.  You will not be forced to use touch controls to move around and fight off enemies.

Moving your character around is done with the Left Analog Stick or the D-Pad.  The Right Analog Stick will not be used for this game.   The Face Buttons are used a lot, though.  The X Button is used for jumping and double-jumping, and the Square Button is used for attacks, both melee and ranged.  The Circle Button is used for interacting with objects as well as building LEGO objects and the Triangle Button is used for switching which character in your party you are currently using.

The L and R Buttons are also used here.  While in previous titles, these were used for switching characters, the L Button is used to unleash a charged Special Attack that can be used once you fight enough, transforming you into a special Spinjitsu Form.  The R Button will used for dodging incoming attacks.  Most of these controls do have alternative forms with the touch screen, though I felt more comfortable using the buttons.

The control scheme isn’t a hard one to learn, but it won’t be something that handheld LEGO fans will already know from the get-go.

Presentation

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The presentation of this game isn’t a bad one.  One thing that the Isometric perspective of these LEGO games does to help is that it really helps the visuals look crisp and smooth.  While the character models certainly are not perfect, they are done well and the Isometric view makes the blemishes and jagged edges in each model hard to see if you’re not looking for them.  For all intents and purposes, it looks very polished, from the character models to the environments.

The game plays well, overall.  There were no areas where the frames slowed down very much, but there were a couple situations where the frame-rate did slow down a bit.  Each of these areas only lasted a few seconds, but they were still there.  To add onto this, the load times for each area are fairly length.  When you are returning to the Hub or loading a Story Level, expect to wait about 15-20 seconds for each one to load.

Overall

LEGO Ninjago Nindroids is proof that Traveler’s Tales and TT Games are working on bringing their handheld games back up to the same caliber as their console games.  While the story is confusing without prior knowledge of the TV show and there are some lengthy load times for the game, LEGO Ninjago offers LEGO fans a fan and casual experience on-the-go that you won’t find on consoles.  Fans of the show should definitely check this one out.

The PlayStation Vita Review Network Rates LEGO Ninjago Nindroids a 7/10