Lego Ninjago: Nindroids is the second hand-held video game based off the ongoing popular Ninjago TV series and Lego toy line. Unlike the first game, Lego Ninjago: Battles, it closely follows a select group of TV episodes and feels more like an extension of the brand rather than slapping the brand on the “Battles” game type. While Nindroids is loaded with familiar characters, vehicles and settings, its simplified play mechanics are an insult to even the youngest players the game is ultimately geared toward.
Nindroids begins roughly where Season 3, Lego Ninjago: Rebooted, of the TV series picks up in the Ninjago saga. The Overlord has been defeated by the Gold Ninja, Garmadon is saved, and the ninjas: Kai, Jay, Zane, Cole and Lloyd have “retired” to help teach a school with Sensei Wu. All is not as it seems when the Overlord returns in a digital form and infects New Ninjago City, the high-tech creation of Cyrus Borg constructed in the aftermath of when Garmadon defeated the Great Devourer.
If you don’t follow the Ninjago TV series than none of what I just wrote will make a lick of sense. Developer Hellbent Games has constructed Nindroids for players who follow the Ninjago story. Anyone else coming in blindly will gloss over the story and be none the wiser.
Hellbent Games has a dubious record with the Lego franchise after the debacle that was Lego Friends and does no favors to that perception with Nindroids load times topping 20 seconds per level and extensive frame-rate stuttering issues evident on the 3DS version. On the flip side, there’s a lot of voice acting in the game and several characters, like Zane, sound identical to their animated counterparts. Sensei Wu, however, is way off the mark.
Nindroids is split up into 30 extremely short chapters designed for the quick play mobile crowd. The majority of these chapters are classic Lego gaming where you take control of one of the ninjas, or later on other characters like Nya and the Snakes, and hack-and-slash your way to the goal. Apart from triggering an event marker every now and then, these levels are basic button-mashing that will numb the brain and bruise the thumb.
Hellbent Games attempted to integrate Ninjago’s fantastic use of exotic vehicles into the game with mixed results. The on-the-rail shooter levels offer adequate enjoyment and the most challenging segments to play. Other vehicle missions, like piloting Cole’s mech through the streets of New Ninjago City to fight scores of Nindroids, is nothing more than additional button mashing — only with longer arms to attack with.
It takes little effort and skill to play through the entire game and face the Overlord to conclude the first four of eight episodes worth of story from Rebooted. To beef up the replay value for more advanced players, a series of 10 challenges are built into each level. They range from finding red bricks to shooting accuracy to beating a countdown clock, i.e. the usual suspects.
These challenges add a pinch of extra incentive to button mash through each level apart from one: the timed challenge. An annoying countdown clock ticks down on every level with a blaring sound to mark the final seconds until that challenge is failed. Even if the challenge was already beaten in a previous run, the omnipresent clock won’t go away.
Lego Ninjago is entering Season 4 of its TV show in January 2015 and will arrive in the big screen in September 2016. There’s enough character, heart and humor in the story for TT Games to make a proper Lego Ninjago console game in the vein of Lego Batman. Lego Ninjago: Nindroids is a step in the right direction by acknowledging the characters and story, but gameplay, depth and polish have a ways to go.
Lego Ninjago: Nindroids was reviewed on 3DS and furnished by WB Games for the purposes of this review. It was released for Nintendo 3DS and Sony PS Vita on July 29, 2014.
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