LEGO City Undercover (Wii U) Second Opinion Review

By Thomas Wrobel 12.03.2017

Review for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

Through many games and IPs, the LEGO games have established themselves as accessible, fun and of a reasonable quality. Traveller's Tales turned what could have been a throwaway cash grab into a very successful franchise. So successful, in fact, that some of the games were later made into TV and DVD movies. It's quite possible that The LEGO Movie itself wouldn't exist if these DVD features didn't test the waters first, but despite all that success, the games often have criticism for being too similar: smash; collect; use unique character abilities; watch funny cut-scene; unlock stuff. Everyone knows what to expect from them by now, regardless of IP. What happens, though, when the team makes a title not based on Star Wars or Batman? When it makes a LEGO game just based on… well… LEGO. Well, maybe expect slightly more. Introducing LEGO City Undercover

The LEGO games traditionally get most of their humour from seeing favourite scenes or characters subverted in some way. Sometimes it's merely the act of seeing a serious scene played out in LEGO that gets a laugh. However, with no famous IP to fall back on, LEGO City Undercover has to work harder for its comedy. Aside from some brick-based nostalgia, every aspect of the game's setting, characters, and story is completely new. It's somewhat of a relief it can still be very funny, with Naked-Gun-esque puns and sight gags throughout. While it might not ever reach the genius silliness of Frank Drebin's exploits, anyone that enjoys that sort of humour should find plenty of chuckles here.

The other main change as a result of not having an attached IP is complete freedom in regards to setting. Like LEGO Marvel, the game is set in a large open world city, giving the game a similar structure, and initially a similar feel. As fun as running around a comic book New York was, though, arguably LEGO City is more diverse and interesting - and that's mostly thanks to being unconstrained by any real world layouts. Indeed, the whole city is broken up by many bridges and surrounds a large body of water, in what if you think about it is a fairly implausible arrangement. It's also an interesting one, giving plenty of scope for different environments in close proximity: forests, farms, castles, beaches, and many unique city areas, each with their own architectural styles, all of which constantly maintain a nice balance between LEGO studdiness and realism.

Screenshot for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

Just running around exploring is a real pleasure, one added to considerably by the liveliness of the mini-fig civilians. The walk-cycles and ideal animations are absolutely stuffed with personality and charm. Just watching the citizens on the streets, how they go at different speeds, stopping to talk to each other or wave at you - it all contributes to a vibrant and alive world. For Nintendo fans, there is even a surprisingly large number of Mario references and tributes dotted about the world that gives a little bit of extra joy when you spot them.

Such a world would be pointless if there wasn't anything to do, though. Fortunately, this couldn't be further from the truth. The game is absolutely stuffed with activities. As the city is explored, players will encounter foot chases, car chases, puzzles, fights, surveillance sequences, and lots and lots and lots of what can only be described as light Prince-of-Persia-style platforming. This is all on top of the regular levels, where the major character abilities are unlocked - abilities letting you access even more to do in the city. The game embraces this Metrovania structure boldly. There is always stuff to come back to; for instance, players will constantly think, "What will that do?" or "How on Earth will I get there?", making each new ability a joy. Some can be quite surprising, too. Frequently it will leave people wondering what ability could possibly help the character reach a certain brick, only for it to be something completely unexpected when finally getting to it.

Screenshot for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

While these varying character abilities are commonplace in LEGO games, it feels like much more effort and creativity have gone into the ones used in Undercover. They feel 'bigger' with more potential uses than previous releases; for example, one of the first things unlocked is a special AR view using the Wii U GamePad. By panning the Wii U GamePad around, you can use it to highlight various hidden things, get clues for precious bricks, or, later, even overhear criminal activity.

It remains to be seen how well this feature can be ported to other systems without gyroscopic second screens, but on the Wii U it works well and is just one of the large selection of abilities in the game. It's important to note, however, that none of these activities provide much of an actual challenge. Even things traditionally hard in previous LEGO games won't slow people down here. If looking for even moderate difficulty, it's best to stay clear of this game as it is a strictly laid back experience.

Screenshot for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

Not that there is nothing to achieve or work towards. While previous LEGO outings relied mostly on 'studs' to buy everything, LEGO City Undercover has a second currency of 'Bricks.' These bricks are the primary reward for most activities in the city, and if you get enough it is possible to create "superbuilds" dotted about the landscape. While some are purely cosmetic, at other times these builds let you unlock new vehicles, or send those vehicles flying around loop the loops, or off large ramps. The superbuilds work well as a reward structure because, unlike studs, you can't simply unlock a few multipliers and unlock everything at once.

With lots to do, some nice humour, and (for Nintendo) at a budget price, is there anything bad about LEGO City Undercover? Sadly, yes. The game lacks the multiplayer co-op that has become standard in other LEGO entries. The upcoming port will apparently put that feature back as one of its main enhancements, but if you want to play the Wii U version, it's strictly a solo affair. Additionally, this version has horrible slow load times. While it's okay once in the adventure, you really should bring a good book to read while it starts up. Hopefully, this too will be fixed. Finally, the game's camera frequently, and bafflingly, restricts the view to certain angles. It almost feels like they are deliberately trying to railroad players to a linear path, which really doesn't work when the game is completely open world.

Screenshot for LEGO City Undercover on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

If smashing plastic people to bits counts as non-violent, then it's like a non-violent Grand Theft Auto, with added platforming chucked in. It's filled with charm and humour, and seemingly made with a lot of love. LEGO City Undercover is certainly a game worth getting regardless of if you go for the Wii U version or the upcoming port. While it is hard to say what exactly that multi-platform port will be like, it seems fairly certain the Nintendo references will be edited out (maybe even in the Switch version). If fans value Nintendo references and aren't worried about co-op multiplayer, the Wii U iteration might even be a better, cheaper purchase that gamers don't have to wait for.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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