Legoland reinvents interactive gameplay with Ninjago The Ride
April 28, 2016, 4:47 PM ·
Legoland California this morning previewed its new controller-free interactive dark ride, for reporters and invited guests.
Themed to Lego's popular Ninja franchise, Ninjago The Ride challenges visitors to train to become ninjas by learning "Spinjitzu." The first time I walked through the dojo queue to sit in my ride vehicle, I caught myself reaching for a gun that wasn't there. Instead of using a controller to shoot at targets, on Ninjago, you use your hands like a ninja — to launch a variety of blasts at your enemies.
This "Maestro" technology, developed by Triotech, gives Ninjago a different feel than other theme park shooters. There's a gentle flow of air up from the lap bar that helps you to feel the "hot zone" through which you must push your hand forward to launch your blasts. It takes some practice to coordinate your hand motion with the results on the screen, and frankly, for my first couple of rides, my target strategy was pretty much "spray and pray." That won me a score of 185,000 on my first go — along with two burning forearms.
You wave your arms in front you nonstop for four minutes and then tell me if you don't end up with enough lactic acid to burn through the floor. I went to a theme park, and ended up in the gym.
But if it's the unique gameplay that gets the headlines, it will be the imagery that keeps people talking about Ninjago after they exit. As Pixar discovered two decades ago, plastic toys make for the most realistic computer-animation subjects, and Lego's ninja minifigs work beautifully on screen here, complemented by well-decorated practical sets framing the screens. Beyond that, though, Ninjago The Ride employs what might be the best installation of 3D imagery in an interactive ride to date.
Heck, this might be the best use of 3D in any theme park attraction. Using fog blasts and curved screens, Ninjago appears to free its targets from the confines of any two-dimensional "box," floating them in the visual space away from the screen backgrounds where you expected the targets to be.
Pay good attention to those spiders dropping off the screen, for example — not only are they an amazing sight, a couple of them delivered ridiculously high scores for me when I blasted them away.
A ride-through POV video can't replicate Ninjago's 3D effects, but it can show you how lively and engaging this ride can be.
Ninjago: The Ride takes the next step for Triotech, delivering an experience even more impressive that its Voyage to the Iron Reef, which debuted last year at Knott's Berry Farm. While Ninjago can't match the story and doesn't try to deliver the animatronics of Six Flags' Justice League: Battle for Metropolis, the hand-motion gameplay and outstanding use of 3D clearly place Legoland's Ninjago The Ride among the world's best interactive theme park attractions.
Ninjago The Ride is part of a new Ninjago World land that also includes four other, smaller play experiences themed to ninja training: Zane’s Temple Build, Kai’s Spinners, Cole’s Rock Climb, and Jay’s Lightning Drill. Ninjago World opens officially to the public on May 5.