Yesterday, WB Games released a new trailer for the upcoming The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Video Game. This one focuses a bit more on combat moves and the visual changes when upgrading weapons. I got a chance to play through the short demo of the game while at SDCC and here are my impressions.
It’s good. But before we get to why I think it’s a good game, there is something I have to confess: I never finished a LEGO video game in my life. I think for me, the hack’n’slash format isn’t a very compelling gameplay format to keep my interest piqued long enough to see a game through to the final end. When I first played the first LEGO Star Wars game, there was a certain charm to seeing minifigs come to life, wielding lightsabers, mowing down enemies, and even deflecting blaster shots. But that charm didn’t last long as the slash-slash-slah formula couldn’t diminish the repetitiveness of traversing through the levels. TT Games tried to mix up the formula a bit by adding new gameplay elements but there wasn’t anything truly innovative in their games that could really set games apart. It was a slow evolution to get to where we are today.
I’d like to think that that has all changed when it comes to The LEGO NINJAGO Movie Video Game. At its core, it has the same basic features that is signature to all LEGO video games that they’ve made: hack’n’slash your way from one end of the level to the other, build some things along the way, defeat enemies, and collect studs. That much hasn’t changed and why should it? It’s part of the series DNA. And like previous games, it follows the plot of the movie. Its the new elements that’s got me excited: customizable characters, new combat system, and wallrunning to name just a few.
Characters are now customizable. There are attributes you can unlock that can make certain attacks more powerful, different finishing moves, get more studs, etc. This leans towards more of an RPG-style of character customization. And if you select a particular attribute and want to change it to something else, you can. The token you used to activate a skill is refunded to you so you can select another.
The combat system is vastly different too. In previous LEGO games you can tap the attack button three times for a three-hit combo, or do a jump attack to mix things up a little. I played Luhloyd (I think) in the demo and he has the Skyward Dragon move and I gotta say, the combat experience was quite satisfying in a way that I’ve never felt or witnessed before in any other LEGO game. I’m told that each character has their own signature move set and LEGO games are all about options when it comes to characters. You’ll have your choice of a multitude of characters, even different versions of the same character, to find the one that’s right for you.
One of the features of the game that really caught my attention from the first trailer was when it showed a character doing a wall run. This harkens back to the old Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time GameCube game where wallrunning was fundamental skill in puzzle-solving and platforming. In the demo, there was only one area where it was used and like the Skyward Dragon combat move, it too was quite satisfying. Players will have to use wallrunning to progress through levels, solve puzzles, and access secret areas.
In the demo, there was a flying stage where you get to pilot a flying mech through the city. The mechs fly on rails so there’s little you can really do besides try and kill stuff. I had no idea what I was doing or what the point was but in short order I reached the end and was finally able to run around and hit stuff. Whether or not that flying level was tuned for the demo is unkonwn; they are still doing some gameplay tweaks at this point but no matter, it’s not a huge focus of the game, at least I hope it isn’t.
The LEGO games library from TT Games isn’t really my cup of tea. I mostly get it for any pre-order bonuses that are attached, like Giant-Man in the upcoming LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 Deluxe Edition Video Game, and GameStop seems to have an exclusive Luhloyd figure that comes with your pre-order for Xbox One, PS4, or Nintendo Switch. Amazon has no bonus but offers free shipping and if you’re a Prime member, a 20% discount on top of that. There is no 3DS or Vita versions as they are simply underpowered for this game. Even without the bonus figure, this is one game I will be picking up.