Developer: Hellbent Games, Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive
Release Date: July 29th, 2014
Available On: Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita
Reviewer’s Note: I played this game on the PlayStation Vita. There may be differences between versions.
The Lego game’s continued rise in popularity isn’t much of a surprise, and the success of its Lego Ninjago TV series probably isn’t much of one either. Lego Ninjago: Nindroids attempts to combine the two, but does this game manage to be nearly as entertaining as Lego games that have already been released?
For the most part, Nindroids follows the events of the third season of the TV show. Ninjago City is rebuilt into the more futuristic New Ninjago City after it is destroyed, and one of the biggest companies in it is Borg Industries. Unfortunately, the Overlord is still alive and he takes control of Borg Industries and turns its peacekeeping robots evil. It’s up to the Ninjas to stop the Overlord and save New Ninjago City. It’s a mostly harmless plot meant for a younger audience, but unlike other Lego games with similarly simpler plots, I never found Nindroids to be all that funny. It felt like the game wasn’t particularly trying much with its jokes, and so they all ended up falling flat.
Nindroids isn’t too different from your usual Lego game, if toned down some to fit with the smaller system. The game consists of 31 levels that are about 2-5 minutes each. While you play the first five or so levels back-to-back after that you unlock a (disappointingly small) hub world that you visit between levels. There’s really very little to do in this hub world though, besides run between the level select screen and the shop. There’s also a challenge arena, but all it offers is “defeat 50/100/150” enemies so it’s pointless beyond a single visit.
One thing I can say is that Nindroids does have one of the surprisingly deepest combat systems I’ve seen in a Lego game. Oh sure, it’s still not much, but it’s leagues ahead of past games. You still only have one attack button, but now you also have a dodge roll by pressing the right bumper which allows me to get out of the way of enemy attacks with far greater ease. Several characters can grapple with enemies as well, allowing you to either rack up some bonus money by hitting them while you hang onto them, or throw them into other enemies/environmental hazards. Each time you defeat an enemy you’ll build your special attack bar, and once it’s full you can use it to take out several enemies at once. It’s still overly easy, these games are aimed at a younger audience after all, but it’s a nice improvement over a system that has been lagging behind for a while.
It’s a good thing the combat system has been improved as well, since the game’s puzzles are practically nonexistent. Like other Lego games, each character has a unique set of skills that can be applied to items. One can melt ice, another can hack computers, and so on. Yet I rarely ever found opportunities to do this in the game. Part of this is probably because of the nearly complete removal of collectibles: each level has a hidden minikit and sometimes a red brick, but without the usual Lego swarm of collectibles in every level then there’s not many reasons to replay the levels with different characters, so the puzzles they normally got are gone. Replacing the collectibles is a challenge system. Each level has 10 challenges to complete and each one awards you with a gold brick. Challenges range from completing the level with a certain character, to destroying a certain object, to defeating enemies. It’s supposed to encourage replaying levels, but I found the challenges to be rather tedious. Especially when some challenges were contradictory (one says do one thing, one says don’t) and required me to play a stage 4+ times.
Occasional boss fights feel far less well made than past Lego games, and often boiled down to little more than “walk up to an overpowered enemy, smash square until they jump somewhere, do it again” which is a shame. There are occasional on-rail shooter missions which are a nice enough change of pace. Otherwise, there’s not much else that sets Nindroids apart from early games in the series, and it does feels like a downgrade from current games.
As a fan of the Lego games, Lego Ninjago: Nindroids is a disappointment. It’s not a terrible game, but it feels like its taken way too many steps backwards from the Lego formula. I would suggest just sticking to the ports of the console games if you must have a Lego game on your handheld.