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If there was one toy that I resonated with throughout my childhood, it was LEGOs. I remember getting into phases with their different themes like Castle, Pirates and my favorite, Town (rebranded today as City). They taught me the value of a dollar when I saved up for weeks to get certain police sets and months to earn enough to get an electric train set they released. Throughout my fandom with the bricks, my family moved a couple of times, and with each move I lost real estate for my LEGOs until I had nearly nothing left. My old sets are currently miles away from me, stuffed in a huge airtight plastic bin in my parents’ attic. Hopefully there will be a day where I can crack that bin open and enjoy them once more.
The only way I could enjoy anything LEGO-related today would be to play the LEGO video games, but I was never a fan because they only graced consoles by merging them with another IP. We got LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Indiana Jones, LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean, LEGO Batman and more, but TT Games has never brought the regular LEGO themes into the limelight... until now.
LEGO City Undercover takes the City theme it is named after and creates an all-new story with all-new characters, and it really shows off the creativity that TT Games are capable of. The game focuses on police officer Chase McCain and his return to LEGO City to thwart Rex Fury, his nemesis from a case two years ago (which will be told in the 3DS game, LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins). Throughout the humor-packed campaign, which can last about twelve hours, Chase will meet colorful and lovably corny characters, infiltrate multiple gangs and explore a detailed and diverse city.
Just saying that the city of LEGO City is detailed and diverse would be insulting the folks who constructed it because there was a lot of love put into it. Each district has their own personality and landmarks, so it’s really fun free-roaming each of these areas. Fresco is a Little Italy, Cherry Tree Hills have San Francisco-like traits, Pagoda is their Chinatown and you can explore outside the city at Bluebell National Park. These areas are also full of many well-designed and diverse cars, boats and helicopters you can “borrow” or unlock, each performing differently than the other. Like the orbs in Crackdown, there are tons of small objectives to find such as finding lost pigs, catching car thieves or even taking coffee breaks. Sadly there are no story-based side quests to do, but hunting these hidden objectives will definitely keep you going much longer than the campaign itself.
If you played a LEGO game in the past, you’ll feel comfortable with Undercover. TT Games didn’t stray too far from the gameplay formula, which isn’t as much of a compliment as it sounds. You’ll be collecting studs to unlock costumes, switching between abilities extremely often and beating up foes with extreme ease. With such a new type of LEGO experience, I was hoping that the developers would at least raise the bar on the combat.
Undercover uses the Gamepad for many different functions such as your phone or the map, but the most important use of the Gamepad is the scanner functionality. Like in Zombi eU or Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition, the player will sometimes have to point the Gamepad at the screen to scan areas for criminals or to eavesdrop on people to get clues. While gimmicky, it’s used very sparingly. Plus eavesdropping on the wrong people usually rewards you with some funny conversations.
The only real gripe I have with the game is the platforming. There are times where you have to free run, much like Mirror’s Edge. While most of it works, there are narrow blue bricks that are supposed to lock you in place so you don’t fall over. The problem is that they rarely work; making you fall and having you start over. This can get really irritating when you’re roof-hopping and you need to start over by climbing all the way back up. It never helps when the camera decides to work against you too. Luckily these are few and far between, but it is a glaring, nagging flaw that disrupts a very fun gaming experience.
While the platforming was my only true problem with Undercover, I want to mention that there are some smaller issues as well. The game has some long load times, but if you ever played any Grand Theft Auto or Red Dead Redemption, loading a huge city does take time. It’s more frequent in Undercover versus Rockstar’s games because you enter and exit stages within the city, so it needs to be reloaded each time you go back. Lastly there are some minor bugs within the game, the most frequent being LEGO studs staying in the air after breakable objects disappear.
LEGO City Undercover is without doubt the best LEGO game ever made. With a lively cast, a grand city to explore and great production values, this isn’t just a good game for kids or LEGO fans – it’s great for everybody. It oozes with the creativity of developers who normally work within constraints of other IP’s. I truly hope that TT Games continue making more original content like this because for a freshman effort, they really did a great job. With of the popularity of LEGO games mixed with the fact that there has never been a free-roam game this good without an M-rating, I believe LEGO City Undercover is the first legitimate system-seller for Wii U.