The Buffalo, New York, television stations used to be kid’s dream here in Toronto. Starting at noon every Sunday afternoon and continuing all the way until dinner time, they would air all manner of classic monster, adventure and kung fu movies.

It is how I first became fascinated with such stars as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Hwang Jang Lee and became a fan of such movies as Fist of Fury, King Boxer, Kung Fu Gold, Mad Monkey Kung Fu and Enter the Dragon.

Those movies had wall-to-wall action, an operatic nature that was sometimes goofy and sometimes inspiring but always featured some of the most skilled, artful and soulful martial artists the world has ever known.

As strange as it may sound, the Lego Ninjago Movie Game plays off a lot of those elements. From the stylized film credits introducing the game to the characters themselves, Ninjago is a quirky homage in many ways to those epic kung fu films.

The city of Ninjago is quite possibly the unluckiest place to live in the world next to perhaps Bangor, Maine or Tokyo, Japan. The despicable Lord Garmadon, ruler of the Underworld, continually tries to take over the city but is thwarted time and time again by his brother Master Wu and his elite team of ninja warriors.

Much like Power Rangers, the ninjas are divided by colour and by the elements they have mastered. There is Kai, the red Ninja of Fire, Nya, the silver Ninja of Water and Zane, a robot ninja of white and Ice.

You get the idea.

The leader of the ninja force is Lloyd Garmadon, the Green Ninja, who just happens to be the estranged son of Lord Garmadon.

Dun Dun Dun Duuuun!

Similarly to Power Rangers, each ninja has their own giant mechanized robot to defend Ninjago with. So, despite there not being a giant floating head alerting them to missions and giving them advice, the Lego ninjas might as well be defending Angel Grove.

Ninjago continues the welcome change Traveller’s Tales brought to the Lego game format starting with Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham. The focus is now on action, adventure rather than solving elaborate puzzles in one area after the next, after the next. It is a change that breaks up the monotony and keeps the momentum flowing.

Ninjago still has puzzles but they are really, really straight-forward such as using a ninja’s powers to open a specific portal or manoeuvring two ninjas to stand on pressure plates at the same time.

Traveller’s Tales has solved the problem of some players becoming lost and not knowing where to go or what to do next. Now, there is a hovering blue arrow always pointing and lighting the way to the next area and objective.

Also absent are the traditional, one-note Lego attacks. Since this is a ninja game and there are different kinds of enemies, there are combo attacks, leaping aerial attacks, armour breaking attacks and even weapons.

Yes, a Lego game with an upgradable attack arsenal. Who would have thunk it?

To further set itself apart from other Lego games, Ninjago includes some giant mech battles that are all sorts of crazy despite relaying on the obvious rail mechanics. I mean, who doesn’t want to fly a monstrous mechanical green dragon?

Ninjago also has more than its fair share of the notoriously dead-pan Lego humour, with characters often poking fun at each other or at the mess they find themselves in.

After years of the same recycled format no matter what the theme or intellectual property, Lego Ninjago Movie Game continues moving the franchise in the right direction with each release having its own distinct features and gameplay elements. As we see with Ninjago, Traveller’s Tales decision to rebuild the Lego game structure has rescued the entire series from the mediocrity and predictability it was mired in for so long.

Whether you are seven or 37, Ninjago is more fun than taking in a Jackie Chan movie on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

THE GOOD
Fun for all ages
Upgradable and diverse combat skills
That Lego sense of humour
Mech battles!
The focus is on action not puzzles
THE BAD
Lord Garmadon is more bumbling than threatening.
7.5
Good

Review Summary

Lego Ninjago is kung fu fighting for everyone

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