GAME NAME: LEGO City Undercover
DEVELOPER(S): TT Fusion
PLATFORM(S): Wii U
GENRE(S): Open World
RELEASE DATE(S): 22 March 2013
Nintendo doesn’t have a great track record with sandbox games, once jokingly dismissing GTA by saying, “Mario would never start shooting hookers.” So don’t expect their first trip into an open world to be full of minifigs in fishnets and yellow plastic intestines spilling out into the pavements. LEGO City: Undercover is a family jaunt, but that does not mean that it offers nothing for graduates of Rockstar’s criminal classics.
Traveller’s Tales throw off their usual movie license shackles for a creation that pillages from all popular culture. Smarmy cop Chase McCain is a maverick Dirty Harry-alike, complete with waka-waka 70’s original music score and a blustering police chief that is always on his back for something. He’s out to get his nemesis Red Fury, who just recently escaped prison. Throw in nods to The Matrix, The Shawshank Redemption, Starsky and Hutch, Jaws and even Super Mario and the game works as a game of parody i-spy.
LEGO does take the edge off some familiar open world thrills, though, and the driving in particular is very tame. Traveller’s Tales have recreated LEGO’s weightless plastic vehicles a little too accurately. The poor little things pootle along slowly, with all the handling of a sports car engineered from plastic rectangles. Accurate, maybe, but it’s not very exciting. The promise of opening up over 100 other vehicles sounds like a great selling point, but every dinky car commandeered handles much the same. Thankfully there is the odd car that does stand out from the crowd and benefits from a nitro boost when pressing and holding the Y button. Once depleted it automatically fills up once again for you to use as you please. Cars and motorbikes are also not the only form of travel. Expect to take control of boats, helicopters, a UFO, horses, pigs and even a T-Rex!
Where LEGO City comes to life is in the world you explore, as well as boasting the macro scale of Grand Theft Auto (though I think it’s nowhere near as big as San Andreas). LEGO City benefits from the micro eye for detail. The city is dotted with chunks of level design you’d expect from a LEGO game. One puzzle had me building a sprinkler system in order to scale freshly grown vines, while rooftops are dotted with acrobatic platforming. The city also grants access to self-contained levels where the game really comes to life in the form of different character abilities.
As you progress through the story mode you’ll encounter obstacles that require new character abilities. The burglar outfit, Chase’s first new outfit, will allow you to crack safes and break in through doors by furiously tapping away at the A button as he pushes the door open using a handy crowbar. Later you’ll gain access to a miner’s outfit, used to chip away at boulders blocking your way or for blasting through walls with dynamite. Unlike games that have used these blueprints before it feels as if every ability plays a very important role. How about a farmer’s outfit? That makes no sense. No, actually it does. You use good ‘ol Farmer Brown to water plants so you have vines to climb up buildings and if you’re stuck at the top of a building and need to make your way across to the next rooftop he’s got a handy chicken that will fly you there. It all makes perfect sense… in a LEGO kind of way.
Your objective throughout the game is to collect LEGO blocks to build massive structures, such as the aforementioned T-Rex. You can collect these blocks by smashing into other cars and surrounding obstacles such as street poles, mail boxes and fences but what you’re really after is the Super Blocks. They come in two forms: The four-piece and eight-piece multi-coloured rainbow blocks. The four-piece will give you 1000 blocks when collected, but the eight-piece will grant you 10 000 block pieces which come in handy as the bigger structures require around 20 000 to 50 000 block pieces to be built from the ground up in record ‘LEGO-building’ time. To help you find these hidden gems you can use the trusty Police Communicator (otherwise known as the Gamepad in your hands) to scan your surroundings.
Tap the scanner icon on the Gamepad and hold the gamepad vertically aimed towards your TV and you can track Super Blocks, as well as track down suspects and other hidden items. Special areas will allow you to listen in to audio signals, perhaps catching the enemy red-handed. Furthermore the Gamepad can be used to take photographs that can be used as proof in a case or sent to your Miiverse Activity page. You can also receive incoming video calls that make it all the more realistic seeing that the sound will blare out of the Gamepad speakers and not those on your TV. Lastly the Gamepad permanently displays a map that you can glance at whenever required, freeing up some of the HUD space on your television. More important of all is the fact that you don’t have to pause every 10 seconds to confirm that you’re moving the right direction
Traveller’s Tales have done a grand job in building the living, breathing LEGO City game. There are areas that need fixing like when jumping into a vehicle and not being greeted with a soundtrack (it just feels weird), but in time you’ll grow fond of the sounds of the city. You’ll also find that the combat is very simplistic. Outside of that everything feels right. Jumping between costumes can be done with a press of the ZR or ZL buttons and the humour will keep you engrossed up to the very end of the game (after the credits too). Let’s hope that there are plans for LEGO City 2 as I’m already craving another block party of LEGO goodness.