LEGO video games have been around long enough that one expects certain attributes, e.g., game play in which one destroys on-screen items to collect Lego studs, a family-friendly sense of humor, etc. Meanwhile, those who played LEGO Ninjago: Nindroids (also reviewed on this site) got to enjoy switching between on-screen characters to utilize their different abilities, as well as different modes of game play, including 3-D flying/shooter, and the occasional puzzle-game-within-the-game. LEGO Ninjago: Shadow of Ronin is more of the same on both counts, but that should please fans of either the LEGO or LEGO Ninjago titles.
Based on characters from the animated series, LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitsu, the plot centers on a new villain, Ronin, who uses a weapon called the Obsidian Glaive to steal to the Ninja heroes’ powers and memories. In order to recover them, the Ninjas embark on a mission that takes them through locations drawn the TV series, and pits them against familiar adversaries, such as the Serpentine and Nindroids. Shadow of Ronin features lots of three-quarters-down perspective, hand-to-hand fighting, and at certain moments, it becomes important to utilize the right character: For example, the female ninja, Niya, has a grappling hook and cable, so she either latch onto and pull down objects, or pull herself up to hard-to-reach places. Meanwhile, the super-strong Cole is often called upon to pick up large objects and hurl them at other objects and walls.
As far as when to use one of the Ninja’s special talents—and exactly which Ninja to use—the game offers several prompts: There are blue circles indicating where a Ninja should stand, for example, and the game itself actually states which button to press. In addition, a red aura around an object indicates that one of the Ninjas needs to manipulate it, and that aura becomes green when the right character is selected.
Shadow of Ronin has a recommended age range of 10 and up, which makes sense, since the action can get pretty intense. From early on, the flying/shooting games that the narrative segues into are fairly fast-paced, though I wouldn’t call them difficult—during one such sequence involving high-speed vehicles, I managed to complete it despite crashing into just about every possible object on the road. While my demo did not cover the entire game, I came away with the impression that Shadow of Ronin is not intended to drive players to frustration, but to provide enough challenge to make the ending all the more sweet. And that’s a good thing, because a fun experience overall is something that players of all LEGO video games should expect by now.