LEGO Ninjago: Nindroids (3DS) Review
My very brief review of the original LEGO Ninjago game was pretty happy with how it turned out. Releasing at a time when I was growing tired of the countless LEGO games, Lego Ninjago presented a new kind of Lego game within a new genre. As time went by, other LEGO games, while not as devious as Ninjago, also attempted to shake up their formula a bit. Being the resident “LEGO Guy” for the site, I was thankful for this. Now, with the second game in the NInjago series, is this franchise as different as other games? Not really, in fact, it’s quite similar to previous LEGO games of yore but there’s a few things different here and there. In fact, it feels like the Frankenstein’s monster of LEGO games, with both the positives and negatives that come with it.
Nindroids is based on the new animated TV series, titled LEGO Ninjago Rebooted. The game takes place in a much different time to the previous LEGO Ninjago game – where robots and cybernetic soldiers roam the lands and the people of New Ninjago City wield elementally charged blades, powerful exoskeletons and vehicles to take down their enemies. Players step into the square feet of the Spinjitsu Master, tasked to defend the city from the invading Nindroid army, led by the sinister and mysterious Overlord. As you’d expect with any game based off of a children’s animated television series, the story is packed to the brim with clichés and doesn’t really do much to remain interesting for older players. There’s no-where near as much humour or witty charm as seen in LEGO City: Undercover, either.
LEGO games, and to a certain extent this review, are always quite formulaic in their approach. Unlike the game that Nindroids shares a name with, this game is much like other LEGO games appearing on the 3DS. You have an open world hub, which connects several levels and can be explored. Each level has you running through an environment, beating up thugs, building things and solving puzzles. It’s all pretty standardised across this franchise, but I guess if it isn’t broke, there’s no point in attempting to fix it.
Unfortunately, there are some areas that feel like they’ve been seriously dumbed down, especially compared to previous LEGO games. The hub world itself is pretty shallow – there’s not many places or nooks to explore and it just feels….dead all around. And considering how terrible the load times for this “open world hub” is, it’s so surprising to find that it feels so empty and generally lifeless with little to no challenges to attempt outside of the main story and the gold brick challenges (which we’ll touch on later). It just makes no sense as to why they would have such a small hub world when the previous original game, LEGO Chima, had such a wide one that encouraged exploration.
The things that Nindroids does carry over from previous games are pretty good additions. As with other LEGO games, every character has their own unique abilities to use to get through the levels, or to use in combat. Combat is as simplistic as previous LEGO games, but thankfully it doesn’t feel like the focus here unlike other titles like LEGO: Marvel Super heroes. Also carrying over from some other games, there is a selection of vehicle levels that attempt to break up the monotony of the main, action-adventure style levels. These vehicle levels are enjoyable, fast paced and do a great job at breaking things up and they even look good too.
As with all LEGO games, there’s heaps of collectibles to find scattered throughout the levels, but the challenges to obtain the Gold Brick collectibles return. Many of these require players to run through a level using only a certain character, without being damaged or a simple time attack to win a gold brick. Personally, I’d rather just find them scattered throughout levels, rather than play some tacked on challenges that aim to artificially inflate the game’s length. Of course, other items and characters can be purchased through a shop interface too, as with other LEGO games. In tradition with other LEGO games, those looking to finish the game will probably put in anywhere between seven and ten hours, though the quest for a 100% completion file would easily move into the fifteen hour time range.
On a presentation level, LEGO Ninjago: Nindroids feels like a very well-polished title. The cutscenes that bookend the levels themselves look fantastic and really pop in 3D, while the voices that come from the characters fit their roles perfectly. Doing some research, it’s not surprising to see that the team got the voice actors who played the characters in the animated series to reprise their roles in the game. There is a level of authenticity to their performances that feels just right and gives it an appropriate Saturday-morning cartoon feel.
All in all, LEGO Ninjago: Nindroids is yet another LEGO game. It takes a franchise or intellectual property (in this case, the LEGO Ninjago television series) and throws it, like a skin, over a formula many would have experienced before. Those who were growing tired of the LEGO franchise, should probably subtract a point from this score. Those who were expecting a follow-up to Lego Battles: Ninjago should also adjust their expectations accordingly. This is, at its core, yet another LEGO game. And while the cyberpunk-esque presentation sounds like it might change things up, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before. But despite this all, it’s still a very competent action-adventure / puzzle-platformer hybrid. It’s just not for those who might be starting to grow weary of the tried and true LEGO formula.