Play
Please use a flash video capable browser to watch videos.
00:00:00
Sorry, but you can't access this content!
Please enter your date of birth to view this video

By clicking 'enter', you agree to GameSpot's
Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

Review

LEGO City Undercover Review

  • First Released
  • Reviewed:
  • WIIU

Lego City Undercover is a joyful open-world romp for players of all ages.

With Lego City Undercover, developer Traveller's Tales has distilled the concept of "fun" into its purest essence and poured it liberally over a city already overflowing with wit and charm. This open-world adventure is a happy-go-lucky delight with endless ways of making you grin. Imagine a giant playground in which your path to endless secrets is opened by hanging onto flapping chickens and riding a robotic dinosaur down the main thoroughfare. Imagine a carnage-free world in which you can jump into blocky cement trucks and mow down lampposts without fear of repercussion. Lego City is a silly, boisterous place busting at the seams with cute diversions.

The entertainment doesn't end with the jokes, but it certainly starts with them. You play as Chase McCain, a once-great cop called back to duty to find Lego City's greatest nemesis: Rex Fury. Chase McCain? Rex Fury? These classic cop-show names couldn't sound more generic, but that's the point: Lego City Undercover takes great joy in adopting and skewering pop culture tropes of all kinds. In his quest to put Rex back into the prison from which he escaped, Chase buddies up with the mafia, making Goodfellas references along the way. (Sometimes, mobsters really do look like clowns, as it turns out.) When Chase learns kung fu, The Matrix jokes come fast and furious. Turn the right corner, and you might find a block with a question mark hovering in the air, an apparent refugee from a Mario game. And you'll know exactly what to do with it, too.

Lego City Undercover doesn't rely on quotes and connections for its kid-safe humor, though they provide plenty of fodder for laughs, both verbal and visual. Witness, for example, how time slows down in true action-film fashion as your charming plastic avatar runs along a wall in a daring display of Lego parkour. Or how a close-up of a cackling madman turns into a canny, self-aware commentary on villain stereotypes. But the funniest moments come when the whimsy arises from the characters and their circumstances. One gut-busting scene reimagines ice cream as both a delicious treat and a torture device; another has you listening in on the secret lives of farm animals. Your scatterbrained cop buddy Frank Honey is also a frequent source of gags, from the hysterical way he pronounces "computer" as "com-pyooper" to his recounting of a horse ride gone terribly awry.

The goofiness permeates everything you do in Lego City Undercover. The game offers many of the possibilities associated with open-city games like Grand Theft Auto, but replaces the usual violence with lighthearted charm. You can leap into any driver's vehicle and speed off, but you aren't carjacking--you're just borrowing the ride for police business. If there's a passenger in that vehicle, she'll happily stick with you as you tear through the streets. As you zoom along, Chase merrily cries out that his car insurance rates are going to skyrocket as Lego citizens leap out of the way. You can't harm these citizens, and no blood is shed, though your vehicle might lose bricks as you bang against railings and walls. It's such a hoot to watch the plastic pieces fly and your vehicle diminish in size that you might drive even more carelessly just for the fun of it all.

Lego studs are everywhere. Take all you want; no one cares!

The police won't give chase either, unless the mission calls for it, so you're free to do as you choose. And what you choose depends on the disguise that's right for the occasion. Lego City Undercover's core feature is how Chase can immediately swap disguises from civilian, to construction worker, to farmer, and so on. What special actions you can perform depend on what costume you don. Functionally, this is similar to how Traveller's Tales' Lego games have always functioned, except that in most of those games, you don't swap disguises--you swap characters. Do you need to smash through the boulders getting in your way? Switch to your miner's disguise and smash them with your pickaxe. Need to break into a locked building? Put on your criminal outfit and pry open the door with your crowbar.

Everything you can interact with is marked with an icon that communicates what disguise is required. But you don't have access to every disguise at once: you earn new ones as you complete story missions. As you hop and zip through the streets, you spot all sorts of markers to activate, ledges to climb, and blocks to collect. As you scoot from mission to mission, it's hard to resist the lure of these secondary playthings. A plant that needs water grows into a vine that climbs up the wall, which takes you to a rooftop with a TNT dispenser. You then fly from a jump point to another rooftop, where there's a giant statue that you blow up with that stick of dynamite before gliding to safety by holding onto a furiously flapping chicken.

The city is loaded with these adorable flights of fancy. Their siren call is strong: there are costumes to collect and towers to climb--and besides, completing these tasks is a lot of fun. Any given thing you do may not be all that engaging (mashing a button to break down a door; pressing a button to grapple to a higher level), but these activities are strung into gleeful puzzles. The puzzles are never hard, but feel satisfying because they require so many costume changes. The glee is enhanced by the game's attitude. How can you not feel cheerful when a puzzle concludes with you firing a pig from a cannon?

Chase might be a city slicker, but that doesn't keep him from dressing like a farmer when necessary.

The Lego series' platforming has always been floaty, and Undercover is no different. Jumping isn't quite precise, and camera angles aren't always best suited to the action required. You might leap onto a rock that seems like a perfectly reasonable platform and slip right off, or not grab a ledge even when it looks like you are well within the required distance. Fortunately, Traveller's Tales wisely made much of the locomotion contextual. Jog onto a wall-running platform, and you automatically skim along buildings like that well-known Persian prince. Press the proper button as you approach hurdles, and you vault over them or slide underneath.

Inexactness may make certain jumps a hassle, but for the most part, leaping and soaring through Lego City is free and easy: you press the right buttons at the right time, and Chase shows off his smooth moves, perhaps making a wisecrack in the process. ("I hope my legs don't give out!") And once you have unlocked all the available methods of transportation, moving about becomes even more enjoyable. Some cars allow you a short speed boost, making it hard to resist the urge to hit a ramp and catch air. You might hop into various boats and take on speed challenges, which are fun (if rather forgiving), or fly a helicopter to your destination. The trail of Lego bits leading you to your destination isn't always reliable, but that's a minor gripe when half the joy is getting there.

How can you not fall in love with a grin that cheeky?

Almost everything you do rewards you with a constant supply of colorful little Lego studs. Studs are everywhere: covering the streets, pouring out of the doors you open, and sprinkling from above when you complete tasks. The Lego games have always excelled at drawing your attention with shiny baubles, and Undercover further hones the art of bling temptation. Studs are your fundamental currency, used to purchase goodies like new vehicles to summon, and if you don't spend them frequently, they could number into the millions over time. There is another kind of currency, too: Lego blocks, which you collect by solving environmental puzzles and, to a far lesser extent, by smashing everything in sight with your fists, your jackhammer, or the front end of a sports car.

Such blocks are your gateway to superbuilds. Superbuilds are larger structures and objects, like helipads and sand castles, that you build on predesignated platforms. Not only does crafting a superbuild grant you a convenience (Hey--a new place to summon a favorite police car!) or add to the fun (Hey--a big stunt ramp!), but it results in a dizzying and satisfying hyperspeed assembly of the object in question. It also results in a gratuitous shower of Lego pips to signal a job well done: a reward on top of a reward.

When it comes to boating, Chase really knows how to make a splash.

Superbuilds aren't just open-world comforts, however, but also the crux of many mission goals. While you can find the bricks required within self-contained mission environments, it's usually a good idea to go into a mission with currency to spare. Missions make excellent use of the same mechanics you fiddle with in the open world, but they also include optional side tasks you can't perform the first time through. Wonder what's underneath those jittery tiles? You won't find out unless you play the mission again once you've earned your construction worker disguise. What happens if you water that plant? You have to return once you're a farmer if you want to know. Lego City Undercover is constantly teasing you with the possibilities; it's just one clever carrot-and-stick after another.

Missions (and open-world puzzles, too) make great use of the Wii U's GamePad; you hold it up to the TV screen to scan for brick locations, eavesdrop on private conversations, and take photos of evidence. Lego City Undercover uses these mechanics sparingly, which keeps them from feeling gimmicky. The photography sequences are particularly enjoyable, since they allow you to admire the colorful city on the smaller screen, rather than the map that usually appears there. Unfortunately, the GamePad's screen spends too much time displaying a loading progress bar. Loading times don't intrude when you are exploring the open world, but the ones that occur between missions are frustratingly long.

Chase is remarkably light on his feet. Perhaps because he is made of plastic.

Oh yes--there's combat too. It's such an afterthought in Lego City Undercover that it doesn't often register. Taking a cue from Batman: Arkham Asylum, fisticuffs involve tapping an attack button to punch and a counter button when a particular icon appears above an enemy's noggin. You can also grab foes and throw them, but there's nothing deep or impactful about these slippery-feeling melee battles. The combat's best feature is its visual wit. A little bullet time and a few acrobatic moves give the final punches a bit of Jerry Bruckheimer flair, and then it's off to do something a lot more interesting.

By the time Lego City Undercover's story comes to an end, you have guided Chase through every action-movie circumstance imaginable, and have probably seen the "twists" coming a mile away. And that's perfectly OK. The game knows you know where it's going, and it has fun at its own expense. You can imagine the winks and nods of the voice actors as they deliver their lines; the comic relief is broad, Chase's line readings are beautifully, achingly sincere, and an Arnold Schwarzenegger soundalike sounds more like Arnie than Arnie ever did. There are bigger, more complex, more beautiful open-world games on the market. But none of them are this good at making you feel so young at heart.

The Good
Witty writing and characters keep you giggling throughout
The lure of Lego studs and collectables is hard to resist
Endlessly varied and entertaining missions and puzzles
Different disguises make for lots of diversity
Great use of the GamePad
The Bad
Inconsistent jumping
Unsatisfying combat
Exceptionally long load times
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

GameSpot senior editor Kevin VanOrd has a cat named Ollie who refuses to play Rock Band because he always gets stuck pla

Discussion

258 comments
snugglebear
snugglebear

I really enjoyed the hell out of this one. I hope there are more like it in the near future. 

TonyDanzaFan
TonyDanzaFan

I've played a few hours of this so far. I gotta say, this is one of the best written reviews I have ever read on GameSpot. Kevin was spot on, on just about everything. Only thing I disagree with, and he's not the only one to bring it up, is the load times. They really aren't that bad and don't occur that frequently, but they do take a while to load when you do encounter one. But great review, and the best WiiU game to date. Buy it for the wit alone.

the13stuff
the13stuff

Really enjoying this game. Hilarious writing and performances.

Mindlord90
Mindlord90

stop dreaming... this game  will never come out on ps3 pc or xbox 360!! this game is signed Nintendo have you ever seen a mario game on ps3 or a donkey kong game on xbox 360? or a the legend of Zelda game on pc? nah sorry to break your bubbles but this is the damm reality!

Justforvisit
Justforvisit

Hopefully this comes out fir PS3 as well sometime. Wait did I say hopefully? W're talking about WiiU here, right? So it WILL come oit for other systems after a while x)

gDamascus
gDamascus

Always enjoy seeing a well developed and reviewed E game. A break from the obscene is nice.

Erik Hicks
Erik Hicks

take crappy blocky graphics... market as LEGO... brilliant idea

64-bit
64-bit

its time to get a wii u ^ ^

Diego Parada Cajiga
Diego Parada Cajiga

lol, really??? Mortal Kombat. Picture a fatality, blocks blowing up everywhere.

menacedude
menacedude

This game looks awesome, just needs a pc release

Bodo Pfeifer
Bodo Pfeifer

I can't believe they call this LEGO style...

Giannis Orfanos
Giannis Orfanos

@David Menchaca i think i missed that, back then i was more into arcades, thanks for mentioning, although i meant it as a joke, like what you gonna do, creeper blows your stuff and you put it back together rapidly?

Lawrence Van Rijn
Lawrence Van Rijn

Perhaps a new change like Lego Hollywood. Getting on film lots into a dozen different movies from the old chaplin movie until the latest blockbuster. Unlocking movie stars with different abilities.

theblackfrog
theblackfrog

lego lord of the rings is the best lego game so far....maybe ill get this too one day....but next week monster hunter trii ultimate

Anghel Alexandru
Anghel Alexandru

Whoa..that Kevin guy really knows how to make a review..

David Menchaca
David Menchaca

@ Giannis Orfanos: back in the late 90s they had Lego Creator, which basically let you build whatever you want, and people could interact with vehicles, buildings, and even food.

Tunami99
Tunami99

in PC version will be awesome

Ollie Weaver
Ollie Weaver

Aliens Lego marines. Or fps, battle block 3. Call of duty black blocks.

Jeff R Hoover
Jeff R Hoover

There are already tons of Lego Halo toys, so why not make a Lego Halo game

Cirno Yousei
Cirno Yousei

FPS A Lego TF2 set that comes with a Steam key which gives you Lego versions of the same stock weapons you can find in botkiller weapons.

Steven Russell
Steven Russell

I agree sports. Lego Rugby. Every time a player gets tackled he collapses into tiny lego pieces.

Aria Kh
Aria Kh

Strategy of course !

Dean True
Dean True

Yeah..maybe a dog lead to, or a bird maybe...lol

Olex2011
Olex2011

@Mindlord90  But there are many other Lego games on other platforms, so...;)

Maybe the reason why they didn't make it on other platforms is because there are better alternatives on other platforms...

faizanhd
faizanhd

@Mindlord90  I have played every 3D Legend of Zelda on emulators. So technically I HAVE seen LOZ game on PC. Though they  were never released for it. ;)




Cillah187
Cillah187

@Erik Hicks Nice lack of observation. Most of it looks nothing like "crappy blocky graphics"

Cillah187
Cillah187

@Paul Tawagi Wouldn't it be Lego Suit Larry?

Grenadeh
Grenadeh

And then it became minecraft and Lego lost out on tons of money.

Mindlord90
Mindlord90

@Olex2011  yup i agree with you i saw better combat mode on other lego games than this one i admit

Mindlord90
Mindlord90

@faizanhd @Mindlord90  i understand your point of view .i play roms myself when i do not own the console but still  yes it is on emulators but it was never officialy released on pc  when i see Nintendo logo i do not hope to see the game elsewhere this is what i think ;)

LEGO City Undercover More Info

Follow
  • First Released
    • Wii U
    In LEGO City: Undercover, players assume the identity of Chase McCain, an undercover detective armed with clever disguises.
    8.3
    Average User RatingOut of 100 User Ratings
    Please Sign In to rate LEGO City Undercover
    Developed by:
    TT Games
    Published by:
    Nintendo
    Genres:
    Action, 3D, Open-World, Adventure
    Content is generally suitable for ages 10 and up. May contain more cartoon, fantasy or mild violence, mild language and/or minimal suggestive themes.
    Everyone 10+
    All Platforms
    Cartoon Violence, Crude Humor