Lego City Undercover: An Excellent Game, Especially for Lego Game Fans

Nintendo. Lego City Undercover, Lego video games
Screencap from the prison in Lego City Undercover. Image courtesy Nintendo.

When we received a review copy of Lego City Undercover for the Wii U, I immediately turned it over to my eldest son, Joseph, age 17, for evaluation. He’s been a big fan of the Lego Star Wars games and this is the first he’s played on the Wii U. I asked him to compare it to previous games he’s enjoyed and whether the Wii U features added to the gaming experience.

His review:
TT Games has finally created a Lego game that isn’t loosely adapted from some franchise. And, for the most part, they’ve pulled it off pretty well with a delightful sandbox game that’s sure to delight Lego fans.
You play through the game as police officer Chase McCain, who must stop an old nemesis recently escaped from prison, Rex Fury. Yes, it’s as cheesy as it sounds, most likely more so. The game is intensely aware of this, and wears the cheesiness with a child-like glee as you go from undercover criminal watching Shawshank Redemption parodies to riding a robotic T-Rex.

Police Officer Chase McCain, the hero of Lego City Undercover
Police Officer Chase McCain, the hero of Lego City Undercover.

The characters are all laughably enjoyable in an extremely corny manner, having a rather blatant disregard for police procedure or the general laws of physics. What makes it enjoyable is how much fun the game is having with the world, story, mechanics, and general silliness that comes with any 70s cop flick. The jokes don’t even feel forced. There’s so much glee to them you can’t help but laugh. Despite it playing like Grand Theft Auto sometimes, it’s still child friendly, in addition to including references adults are more likely to get, such as including parody characters Studski and Clutch.

A lot of the fun comes from simply discovering the things you can do in the game. While the story takes a bunch of odd twists and turns, it’s only about a 1/5 of the actual game. There are enough side quests to keep you occupied for dozens of hours in addition to the Easter eggs and entertaining mechanics.

I meant what I said above when I said sandbox. It is a huge game, and you can jump in and out of the story at your leisure, exploring a bonus area or trying out a different one of the hundreds of vehicles available. The driving mechanics themselves are also pretty interesting. You actually need to decelerate before making turns like a real driver but the studs you pick up while driving frequently involve driving into other vehicles or pedestrians. It’s a bit of a mixed message, Nintendo.

A car chase from the game.
A car chase from the game. Image courtesy Nintendo.

There is plenty of old and new mixed together. While the missions are similarly formulaic and the camera panning present in previous Lego games is also there, the world the developers have created is so expansive it dwarfs previous Lego games in variety. You can go from a San Francisco-esque city to Chinatown to forests to jail to mines and a bunch of other areas.

There are some cons though. The loading screens between cut scenes and missions are long and annoying, but they don’t bother you while you’re in the sandbox, so it’s only a minor nuisance. The biggest problem people might have with it though is that there is no multi-player. While casual co-op was a staple of previous Lego games, it’s conspicuously absent here. It’s easy to overlook, though, with so much stuff to do in the game.

Lego City Undercover has avoided driving Lego games into a rut and TT Fusion is continuing to try to successfully implement new things. I kinda wonder what’s next.

With the developers getting better and better, I wonder if there will soon be a game where the players can construct the environments and play it partially like a Sims game. Whichever way they go, I hope it’s as enthralling as this game is.

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Writer, Mom, Geek and Superhero. though usually not all four on the same day. Author of the award-winning Phoenix Institute Superhero series and the steampunk novel, The Curse of the Brimstone Contract.