Imagine climbing to the top of a tall tower, studded with Lego bricks. Upon finally reaching the top, you find a small Lego pig with wings and immediately hop on and ride it off the tower and into the town square, where a large cannon is conveniently waiting for you to load it in and as you fire the large, imposing looking weapon, you watch the Lego pig soar into the air like some kind of strange rocket, before getting smaller and smaller, and finally disappearing into the distance. If this sounds like something that you’d attempt in real life, were it not for the conventions of reality getting in the way, as they seem to do, then perhaps a visit to Lego City Undercover might just be up your alley.
Lego City Undercover has something of a storied history, for a Lego game. First released in 2013 on the Wii U, it was then remastered for PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4 and Xbox One in early 2017, before landing on PSN in late 2017. A prequel was released on 3DS in early 2013 as well, though it wasn’t terribly well received, generally due to hardware limitations.
Also interesting is the fact that rather than being based on a popular franchise, as most Lego games tend to be, Lego City Undercover is instead based on the Lego City brand, a popular Lego toy brand that specializes in city-based structures, such as police and fire stations. The Lego Space brand, which falls under the umbrella of Lego City, is a long running series of Lego as well, and is also featured prominently in the game.
In Lego City Undercover you play as rookie cop turned legendary investigator Chase McCain, once responsible for putting noted Lego City antagonist Rex Fury (presumably because he’s furious and likes to wreck things) behind bars. But Rex Fury has escaped, the city is in the grip of a crime wave, and it’s your job to go undercover in the various gangs and other criminal organizations to explore the seamy underbelly of Lego City in order to get to the truth behind it all (or as seamy as a Lego game can be, anyway).
The game itself features a plethora of often witty, sometimes hilarious dialogue between the main characters and as you progress through the story mode, you’ll zip through numerous pop culture references and parodies of movies like The Shawshank Redemption and GoodFellas. Most of it works pretty well and is genuinely funny, and this sense of humor and undeniable charm is one of the game’s strongest points, and keeps you wanting to see things through to the end.
In terms of weaknesses, the game shares many of the flaws of previously released Lego games, such as the fact that precision jumping isn’t always as precise as one would like, often due to the camera. Other little annoyances pop up from time to time as well, such as the waypoint from one area to another that can be set shows up in game as a series of lime green Lego studs. While these would be great if the game were set in a world of eternal darkness, in the bright sunlight of Lego City, these studs are often hard to see and difficult to follow, making timed driving events more of a challenge than they should be.
Gameplay is based around the familiar Lego premise of puzzle solving by constructing various Lego objects and unlocking a variety of items and skills to enable you to progress through the game. Unlike previous franchise games, you aren’t unlocking well known Marvel or Star Wars characters, rather, you are unlocking several different outfits worn by Lego City individuals. Each outfit contains a number of specific items that let you conquer different types of puzzles. For example, the robber outfit, which you unlock early in the game, comes with a handy crowbar that makes prying open doors and windows a piece of cake. It also features a stethoscope which allows you to break into safes and help yourself to the often valuable items within. Another good example of the multi-tiered outfit system is the firefighter outfit, which lets you put out Lego fires with your mini extinguisher, chop through wooden planks that bar certain doors with an axe, and even rescue Lego kittens from trees by pulling out a large fish to coax them down.
Lego City Undercover is an interesting entry in the series of Lego games. Boasting a whimsical charm and wonderful sense of humor that will keep you exploring Lego City long after you’ve captured all the criminals, solved all of the puzzles, and unlocked the 400+ vehicles and characters that reside in Lego City. If you find yourself in need of a break from the numerous franchise based Lego games, you might consider a vacation to Lego City.