Lego City Undercover for Nintendo Wii U has its roots buried in the 1997 PC title, Lego Island.
In that title, players were presented with sandbox, open world style gameplay with quirky characters and hundreds of puns. Oh, the puns. 16 years later, it’s easy to see how Lego City Undercover intends to be the spiritual successor of that game.
Much of the humor has been transplanted and updated. What was the 1997 punny references (with character names such as Pepper Roni, the pizza delivery man) is now today’s hilarious parodies of blockbuster movies such as Titanic and Top Gun, all displayed in delicious, fully voiced sequences. The humor is accessible for kids but older gamers will definitely get a kick out of the quick wit and parodies.
The story in Lego City Undercover on Wii U follows Chase McCain, an undercover cop who has become somewhat of a legend in Lego City for nabbing the villain Rex Fury who has since escaped captive and is running the crime wave that grips the city.
Chase, who the player controls through the game, has just returned to Lego City on the request of the police department to help clean up the city and get Fury back behind bars. After setting up at the police station, the hero gets word of a bank robbery in progress and races to the scene, where he finds a group of clowns fleeing the area.
This starts a car chase through the city. Players can obtain any car on the street by hitting the ‘X’ button on the Wii U GamePad, similar to how it works in Grand Theft Auto. Each vehicle feels different to control; take over a forklift and there’s no hope of catching the crook. A police car, on the other hand, is a lot faster and even has nitro.
But vehicles aren’t just limited to cars. There are over 100 vehicles to… “collect” from citizens including bikes, boats and helicopters. There’s even a ride-on lawn mower for the more adventurous types.
Lego City is a huge world to explore. On every corner of the massive city there’s a reason to laugh out loud and as you continue on your mission to get Rex Fury, you’ll discover many different side quests and hidden treasures. One such side quest involved the player finding a dock-worker’s sandwich.
In order to find the guy’s lunch, the player must use the Wii U GamePad and its built in motion sensors as a scanner, hunting around for clues such as footprints. The scanning function also locks onto bad guys, so that you can distinguish the crooks from the civillians.
Wii U’s GamePad is used in other ways, too, such as displaying a map and acting like a GPS which allows the player to easily navigate the huge city. It is also used as a communication device to receive mission updates and details from the characters you meet along the way.
Lego City Undercover gets its name from the fact that Chase McCain is an undercover cop. The way this element works is by allowing the player to switch costumes at any time to complete certain missions. Fans of the old Lego Island game will liken this to playing the various characters — only certain missions can be fulfilled using the right costumes.
Items and powerups also seem to be a big deal in Lego City Undercover. In our short time with the game, we collected over 20,000 “studs”, the typical Lego currency but also various unlocks and achievements. One of the items we encountered was the Grapple, which allows Chase to get to higher locations (such as rooftops) as well as pull certain objects down from ledges.
Lego is all about building and there seems to be plenty of opportunity to build stuff in Lego City Undercover. Many of the progression missions we played involved solving puzzles, such as destroying a piece of furniture and re-building it into a different object. This part of the game doesn’t seem as “sandboxy” as the rest, but there were plenty of puzzles for us to think our way through. I wouldn’t suggest that all these puzzles were overly challenging, however the missions we played were all from an early part of the game.
When you’re not playing through missions you’re exploring the massive Lego City itself. We’re were told it would take over ten minutes to drive around the entire city, and longer if you wanted to explore every street and secret off-road area. It’s a load of fun exploring, too. There are places to hurl your car over cliffs, secret buildings and caves to explore and lots of pedestrians to run over in comical ways.
Lego City Undercover launches on Nintendo Wii U in Australia on March 28, 2013 and will soon thereafter be supported by Downloadable Content. The game will eventually be complimented by a prequel tie-in on Nintendo 3DS called Lego City: The Chase Begins.