Multiple playable characters with unique abilities, basic puzzles are mildly entertaining.
Cut scenes have atrocious quality, frame rate noticeably drops frequently, music sounds fuzzy and loops unexpectedly, repetitive combat, experience feels rushed overall.
Before I played LEGO Legends of Chima: Laval’s Journey on Nintendo DS, I had an idea of what I was going to experience due to the similarities found within every LEGO game. These games haven’t changed much since the concept was introduced eight years ago, but they generally are well produced and still hold up fairly well. Each LEGO game is praised for its solid action adventure gameplay, so I was expecting to have a familiar, yet entertaining experience with Laval’s Journey.
However, what I wasn’t expecting was a shoddy version of the established formula that suffers due to a sub-par porting job from TT Games, which is the unfortunate reality of this game.
The bad porting is immediately recognizable as soon as you start the game, as you are greeted to a cut scene featuring murky and unclear LEGO animals in its presentation. Both the audio and video are compressed horribly, and it quickly becomes clear that DS hardware was never meant to run these cut scenes. They run properly on the other versions of Laval’s Journey, since they were originally made for Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita, but they do not work on Nintendo DS at all. Despite the fact that they look and sound horrible, Laval’s Journey on DS tells almost the entirety of its story through these cut scenes in every level. While the game doesn’t tell the most original tale, as the story focuses on a corrupt crocodile trying to obtain artifacts that grant immense power, it’s a shame that these cut scenes don’t function properly since they are integral to the experience.
This photo exemplifies the lack of clarity you’ll find in each cut scene.
Almost every LEGO game plays exactly the same and hasn’t evolved much since we were first introduced to LEGO Star Wars: The Video Game in 2005. Laval’s Journey isn’t an exception, as it never strays too far away from the established formula of basic platforming, combat, and puzzle solving. This can be a good thing, as the LEGO formula still holds up fairly well in some aspects. The ability to switch between multiple characters at will remains one of the best staples of the LEGO series. Every character has different abilities that make them special, such as eagle tribe members being able to glide over gaps and wolf tribe members that are able to dig into the ground. Being able to switch between multiple characters and use their unique abilities to solve basic puzzles is still pretty entertaining, making for some of the most enjoyable moments I’ve had with the game.
Unfortunately, everything else about the gameplay falls apart. The battle system is dull and doesn’t demand much from the player, as most battles can be won by mashing the attack button over and over again. There are a few other ways to attack, such as a charge attack or a ranged attack, but mashing the attack button for melee moves kills foes in three hits, making other attacks unnecessary to use in most instances. The combat gets boring quickly, and I wish this portion of the LEGO gameplay was reworked to be a little more engaging. Unleashing the power of Chi, which powers up the attack and speed of your character after collecting enough blue orbs, helped add a little variety to the combat, but it wasn’t enough to hold my interest.
The effects of the porting are also widely apparent in the gameplay as well. As soon as you enter combat, the framerate drops significantly, even if it’s just against a single enemy. This, coupled with the already mind numbing combat system, makes battles a complete chore to play. There were also many instances where I was progressing through a level and the game would abruptly cut to a black screen to load the rest of the world. Not only does this completely take me out of the experience, it’s annoying because these loading screens always force you to start playing as Laval. So, if I wanted to play through the majority of a level as someone else, I would have to constantly change back to that character every time I hit one of these loading screens. Also, the quality of the music suffered through the port, sounding fuzzy and looping unexpectedly during the middle of a track. I can somehow tell that the soundtrack, which is fully orchestrated, is really good from what I can make out, but it’s hard to appreciate when the quality is horrible.
The gameplay has potential to be fun, but technical limitations hold it back.
There are many things that are wrong with how TT Games ported Laval’s Journey to DS, and they all culminate to create a very jarring experience. I’m sure that the other versions of the game do not suffer from these issues and are actually fun to play, since the game was made to run on Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita hardware. However, the experience just doesn’t work on Nintendo DS as it is, and feels like it was completely rushed for the platform in an attempt to make more money before Laval’s Journey inevitably fades into obscurity.
Nintendojo was provided a copy of this game for review by a third party, though that does not affect our recommendation. For every review, Nintendojo uses a standard criteria.