Lego City Undercover (Wii U)

I’m a big fan of Lego games. A massive fan. I own nearly all of them, and of those I own I’ve 100%ed all bar two. People moan that they’re repetitive and shallow, but that really doesn’t matter as they’re fun, funny, and fantastic at rubbing the OCD Collector Receptors.

This game marks the first one I’ve bought on a console besides the Xbox 360. For several reasons – it’s nice to have new games on a new console, it uses the Wii U’s controller in interesting ways, but most importantly, it’s Wii U exclusive.

It’s also the only mainstream Lego game (of this style) not to have a major licence, aside from Lego itself, attached. No Star Wars or Batman or Indiana Jones here – it only has the Lego City sets to work with. You’d think that would be enough to put you off, but actually, it’s great. Instead of being restrictive, it’s freeing. It can be anything, without having to be structured around a film or comic. This adds variety, but also allows the story and dialogue to be completely new, unexpected, and bizarre. Which it is.

But that’s nothing compared to what Traveller’s Tales have done with the formula. Despite the different themes of each previous Lego game, they’re all pretty much the same – several levels per “chapter”, sometimes broken up with a boss fight or a vehicle sections, and usually with some sort of “hub” between levels. The hubs, Lego Batman 2 aside, were pretty small in scope. They had a few hidden items, characters, or bricks which you could find with some of your abilities, and in some cases had puzzles and stuff like bonus levels to complete too, but they hubs made up a tiny part of the overall game.

Lego City turns that upside down and makes the hub the focus, with levels more like short missions within it. I say short, but they’re not really. They just happen to be tiny in comparison to the open world of the rest of the game. Lego City itself is a huge GTA-in-Lego style area, with obvious nods to New York, San Francisco, Venice, London, and Miami (or should I say, Vice City!), with other areas in between, like a farm, some docks, and an airport. Oh yeah, this game got helicopters and ting.

Outside of the “normal” Lego levels, there’s so much to do. Places to explore, things to smash, cars to steal, bricks to collect, puzzles to solve, people to find, secrets to stumble across, conversations to overhear, Super Builds (big objects like ramps and stuff) to build, pigs to chase, and – oh yeah – criminals to catch. None of which is even part of the story.

The story! There’s a story! And, being all new, it’s not one you’ve heard. It’s silly, it’s all over the place, and it’s full of puns, lunacy, tropes, cliches and utter nonsense, and it’s all brilliant. Besides the game being more fun than it’s probably legal to have with your clothes still on (even when, or perhaps, especially if, you’re not playing it “properly”), the script is genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious. It’s frequently littered with groan-worthy (in a good way) jokes and film and TV references, and some of the set pieces – in particular those containing your sidekick Honey – are utterly ridiculous. If the game doesn’t win a BAFTA or something for the script and humour then something is wrong with the world.

At the moment, I’m 18 hours in, having played it almost every day for over a week, but am only 20% complete with everything necessary to do. Sure, I’m pretty close to the end in terms of the story (I assume, given the counters for things I need to collect), but frankly the story is incidental to the playground of Lego City and I’m probably having more fun find all its secrets than working through the levels and checkpoints.

Highlights so far have been Honey crashing the police truck (“Waffles?!”), Honey and the farmer talking about combine harvesters, the giant robot T-Rex skeleton ride, and building a rollercoaster.

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