At the end of the year, various outlets talk about the best games to come out in that particular year. Xbox Enthusiast plans on making GOTY lists as well, but the staff also decided to take a look at some underrated games or “hidden gems” that Xbox One owners may have overlooked. Over the next few days, be on the lookout as we will be highlighting a handful of excellent, but not necessarily well known titles.
2017 has been a pretty great year if you are a fan of LEGO games. LEGO City Undercover was remastered and released on Xbox One, LEGO World, a Minecraft-like, hit all platforms over the summer, LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 dropped (which I reviewed), and even though LEGO Dimensions was canceled, there was a new Goonies Level Pack released along with Character Packs for The Powerpuff Girls and Teen Titans GO!. If that wasn’t enough, TT Games also released a movie tie-in game for The LEGO Ninjago Movie, titled “The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game”.
The LEGO Ninjago Movie Video Game (LEGO Ninjago from here on) was released in September just after the movie was released in theaters. As a direct tie-in, the game retells the story of the film in which the Ninjago heroes must find the Ultimate Ultimate weapon to defeat Lord Garmadon and save Ninjago City. The story is broken up into 13 Chapters that start with Garmadon’s attack on the City and ends with the ninja returning to save the city. The game does a good job of offering enough variety in content that you won’t feel like you’ve seen everything even if you’ve watched the film. In the same way, if you’ve decided not to see the film, the game does a good job of tying everything together into a complete story. They both compliment each other very nicely while not feeling like a shot for shot rehash.
The reason I wanted to highlight LEGO Ninjago is because I think of all the LEGO games released this year, it might be the most under appreciated. LEGO Ninjago does what so many other LEGO games fail to do…it evolves. I love the LEGO games. I play all of them and enjoy most of them. A few months ago I even ranking them all for Xbox Enthusiast. The one consistent complaint that I hear with the LEGO games is that they are all basically the same game with different characters. LEGO Ninjago tried to shake things up a bit and I personally think the game gets more right than wrong.
Instantly, the most noticeable change is that the per-level Stud Counter is gone. If you aren’t familiar with LEGO games, since LEGO Star Wars in 2005 players would collect a set number of studs per level to fill a stud counter and unlock a gold brick. LEGO Ninjago changes this formula by adding a persistent stud counter. As you fill the counter you are awarded an upgrade point which is used to unlock a new ability in your character’s skill tree. Examples of ability includes things like getting bonus studs when defeating enemies or a longer spinjitzu time. These ability directly affect the way you play the game.
Another very distinct change is the Character unlock system. For years now, players would unlock a character by completing levels and then have to spend studs to buy access to that character. In the more recent games TT Games added another layer by forcing players to find hidden tokens within levels to unlock the characters which then have to be purchased. LEGO Ninjago changes this up by allowing players to find the characters hidden in levels, however once the character is discovered they are unlocked and available to play in Free Play, no need to purchase. While not as big of a change as the stud counter or skill tree, it does change the way the unlocks work. The best part of the new character system is that instead of finding discs with the character’s face on it, you actually find a blind bag which then shows an animation of the bag being opened and the character being revealed. It’s subtle, but makes finding a new character that much more rewarding and fits with the brand so much better.
Not to be mislead, while LEGO Ninjago does change a few staples, the game is still pretty much what you would expect. It’s action based ninja fighting. Rather than a huge open world, the game is broken up into smaller open world hubs which can be visited again once unlocked to find new secrets. The game still focuses on the humor that all LEGO games are known for and also offers fantastic co-op, especially for families. If you are a fan of LEGO games and decided to skip Ninjago, I would just encourage you to give it another look. You might find, as I do, that it’s one of the better LEGO games to be released in the last few years.
Is there a game in 2017 that you loved but no one is talking about? Let us know about it in the comments.