Review: Lego Battles: Ninjago (Nintendo DS)

Lego Battles: Ninjago
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Hellbent Games (Produced by TT Games)
Genre: Adventure/Strategy
Release Date: 4/12/2011

Let’s Review

Lego Battle: Ninjago is the follow up to 2009’s Lego Battles, an attempt at real time strategy whose gameplay bears little resemblance to the popular Lego [insert popular film franchise] games. As such, I’m sure it disappointed a bunch of little kids who didn’t have the patience to build virtual Lego bases and develop virtual Lego armies. This is especially true considering that you can achieve this effect with actual Legos and friends.

(Then again, playing RTS games and having friends might be mutually exclusive. )

Ninjago seems to cross-breed the style of its predecessor with the Star Wars/Indiana Jones/ Batman style Lego games. It features a lot of random object smashing, widget collecting, red bricks, and a home base to hang out between missions.

Does this game provide wholesome Lego fun for the whole family?

1. Story

The main story here seems to be cribbed from common tropes of both fantasy and ninja fantasy. A powerful father figure makes a bunch of magic stuff. His older son uses the stuff and it corrupts him. His younger brother defeats him in some nebulous fashion despite the older brother having these powerful boons.

Older brother gets banished to some other realm, but is mischievously lurking.

Younger brother, now an old man, assembles a team to get these boons to fight the brother who may or may not still be banished. It involves a lot of fighting skeletons.

Oh and somebody’s girlfriend or sister or something is kidnapped.

The story isn’t particularly intriguing, and I didn’t get much in terms of characterization.

That being said, the cut scenes are fairly cute, and the presentation of the story is good enough for what it is.

2. Graphics

The cutscenes look pretty good, but suffer from a bit of blurring. Other than that it looks like the other Lego games. The main difference is that it sticks to a semi-overhead view.

It is easier to tell one ninja from another in the same way it is easy to tell Scorpion from Sub-Zero. (I.e. they are different colors!)

3. Sound

The aural presentation is heavily dependant on relatively standard Ninja music. It isn’t annoying, but isn’t terribly exciting. There really isn’t much else to say about it.

“Boy, this music sure is okay!”

“I really don’t hate this music!”

4. Control and Gameplay

Using a stylus and a touch screen would seem to be an ideal form for a real time strategy game. It almost works. Problems arise between the small screen and a less than accurate touch detection. Basically, it is hard to pick the right Lego dude or object on the first try if there is anyone or anything else by him or it.

The game also seems to spend forever teaching you how to play it, but when push comes to shove, it remains confusing. This is especially when seen through the eyes of a young kid (READ AS: the target audience).

The controls mostly work and aren’t the source of game’s problems.

The problem is that this game is not fun. Maybe it is just me, but I find this game dreadfully boring. I find RTS games either uninteresting or stressful. I find the DS versions of the popular Lego games somewhat tedious.

So it shouldn’t surprise me that this thing isn’t my cup of tea. Lego ninjas fighting Lego skeletons should be exciting? Right? No it’s not. It’s dull. Dull. Dull. My God it’s dull, it’s so desperately dull and tedious and stuffy and boring and des-per-ate-ly DULL.

Multiple missions are simply fetch quests wherein you must guide a group of slow moving characters through an uninteresting landscape.

The RTS style missions only let you create one of each style ninja, so it isn’t particularly customizable. It is basically a lot of creating the same five characters over and over.

Some missions start you off with all your ninjas, and other missions require you to rebuild them and re-evolve them to ninja form (they start in a sort of villager form). The whole thing seems random and sloppy.

I was downright giddy when the time came I got to fight a dragon. Actually doing it was underwhelming. Basically, the game started me with my ninjas and no ability to make anything else. The ninjas attack automatically.

Basically, the game fought the dragon for me.

It let me be in charge of when to use the ninjas “Spinjitzu” powers.

I still have no idea what some of these powers do.

After playing through enough missions, you get the option to play new missions using the skeletons. This is also less than fun, and the heroes and the villains seem to share some common antagonist.

Just whose side are the little blue blobby guys on anyway?

5. Replayability

There are a ton of missions to do. Training, story mode, multiplayer, skeleton story mode and so on. There are doodads to collect, red bricks to gather, “True Ninja” statuses to achieve, characters to unlock and so on.

There is a lot to do here. I imagine you will want to go back to this game a lot if you are an appallingly dull fellow, unimaginative, timid, lacking in initiative, spineless, easily dominated, no sense of humour, tedious company and irrepressibly drab and awful. And whereas in most games these would be considerable drawbacks, in Lego Battles: Ninjago they are a positive boon.

6. Balance

The game is all over the map in terms of Balance. It spends a long time explaining how to play this game, but leaves out many important details. Some levels seemingly play themselves, whereas others can be lost before you figure out how and why.

Still others I find myself quitting midway through because I have no desire to play.

7. Originality

This game is a sequel that uses elements from other franchises in service of a warmed over storyline and a watered down genre.

8. Addictiveness

I feel bad putting this game down. It seems competent. I wouldn’t call it poorly executed.

Here’s the thing, though: I would rather not play this game than play it.

Were I picking my daughter up for school and were I to arrive 30 minutes early with this game and the DS in my pocket, I would rather sit in the parking lot quietly for half an hour than power up the DS.

9. Appeal Factor

Ninjas! Skeletons! Lego! The game has MAGIC NUNCHUCKS!

Is there anything more appealing than magic nunchucks?

10. Miscellaneous

This game combines all the excitement of sitting in church with the exhilaration of filing taxes.

The Scores
Story: Mediocre
Graphics: Enjoyable
Sound: Mediocre
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Poor
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal Factor: Great
Miscellaneous: Bad

Short Attention Span Summary

Listen, this game isn’t terrible. I hate it. I don’t want to play it. I enjoy doing laundry more than this game. But it isn’t terrible. I’m sure there is somebody out there that loves this thing. I’m sure this is somebody’s favorite game.

But I think that person is a stupid head.



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