The last time that TT Games translated one of the new Lego movies into video game form, The Lego Batman Movie to be precise, it was decided that it would best fit into the Lego Dimensions family, and thus a new starter pack was born. It was pretty good too, despite being quite brief in the grand scheme things of all things TT-Lego. The new Ninjago movie adaptation, however, is an altogether grander affair. If you're either a huge fan of Lego cartoons or if you've got children living in your house (boys in particular), then you'll probably be aware of Ninjago. It's Lego does ninjas, right, but you already knew that.
As a parent of two young boys, we get a lot of Lego-flavoured assignments, and it was with that in mind that we visited the Warner booth at Gamescom to check out a multitude of new and upcoming titles, but it was The Lego Ninjago Movie adaptation that really caught our eye. During a short demo, we sampled a couple of new features that really sets the game apart from its peers, with more expansive combat alongside ninja-tastic wall running and traversal, and we also got a glimpse of some truly eye-catching visuals too, accentuated by the new free camera that can be used throughout the game.
Many of these new and improved features are possible because TT Games has finally waved goodbye to the old gen consoles. It might have been a decision that came a little later than most other big budget franchises, and given the circumstances we completely understand why they stuck with Xbox 360 and PS3 for so long, but the studio has taken the plunge and finally cut the old-gen loose, and the result is a Lego game (two actually, Lego Marvel Superheroes 2 is also current-gen only, and you could add Lego Worlds to that list, although that feels like a slightly different proposition what with its PC-led development) that looks the part. As producer Tim Wileman told us, "it's given us a lot more scope, in terms of not only the look and feel of it [...] we've got improved lighting, improved reflections, improved frame-rates [...] we've got more enemies on the screen, and it's allowed us to build much larger environments as well".
There are some noticeable tweaks to the Lego formula, mainly the combo system that TT has added to the combat, making it a much more engaging and fitting the Ninjago movie (and series) upon which the game is based. Thanks to the fast-paced movements the action felt more fluid than any Lego game we've played before, and while it's not a complicated system if you were to compare it other games where combat is core, it's still a step in the right direction. Combos usually involved hitting buttons when prompted, before then tap-tap-tapping while your opponent is sent flying into the air with a dash of theatrical flair in true wire fu fashion. "We've pulled out all the stops to make [the combat] as fun, as interesting, and as intuitive as possible," Wileman told us.
We didn't get to try out the mechs that will feature in the game, but we know for sure that they'll feature as our demo ended with our heroes climbing into their respective mechanical suits, but a characterful cutscene kicked in before the hands-on concluded, and we never got to control them. We did, however, get to try out a bit of parkour, with certain platforming sections requiring you to have your character run across walls and hopping between precarious ledges.
The game itself is going to be quite chunky, with Wileman promising a rough running time of at least 20 hours, but this is Lego so you know that there's going to be dozens of characters to unlock and plenty of replayability. The action will take place over several chapters and eight locations, and we won't just be running around on foot, as there are the mechs we saw in the aforementioned cutscene, and we also piloted a jet-powered craft and blasted away at enemies in a scene that evoked the spirit of Panzer Dragoon, here with kid-friendly soft-lock and lots of targets to aim at.
We only got to see a small slice of The Lego Ninjago Movie Video Game, but it certainly points to a faithful adaptation of the upcoming movie, and fans of the TV series will no doubt be very interested in picking it up when it lands on PC, PS4, Switch, and Xbox One alongside the movie in September.