Preview: LEGO City Undercover for Wii U

WiiU_LegoCU_char_ChaseMcCaiRecently, I had the opportunity and pleasure to experience a media preview of two upcoming games from Nintendo, LEGO City Undercover for the Wii U and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon for the Nintendo 3DS. I’ll get to Luigi’s Mansion soon, but we’re first going to go over some of my thoughts and impressions of what I played of the game at the event.

Full disclosure: I actually received my review copy of the game a couple of days ago and have been playing through it. The review will be up following the embargo date later this week, but for now, here’s what I took away from the event (tempered by my own experience playing it at home).

Incidentally, I didn’t get to play very much at the event– there were three kiosks available, and they were frequently occupied by players and onlookers alike. Once there was an opening, however, I did take advantage and just went from wherever the person who had been playing before me had left off.

As it turns out, they had gotten pretty far into it– well, for a preview event, anyway. The portion I found myself at was a mission into a mine, which is a few chapters/missions into the game. Without saying too much, LEGO City police officer Chase McCain is on the trail of the recently-escaped criminal Rex Fury, and the trail has led to this mine, where it’s suspected that one of the workers might have aided in his escape.

Your objective is to basically do some platforming, fight some enemies, and reach the end of the tunnels to find the miner. Common LEGO video game elements are in place, such as collecting LEGO studs to use for currency and blocks for “Super Builds,” which are preset constructions you put together automatically as you choose upon collecting enough blocks and going to the right place (such as a platform in the mine where a cable car would be boarded). You’ll also smash lots of objects to get those blocks, and in some instances, rearrange them to create items to help in your mission, such as springboards or dynamite vending machines.

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Ah, but one does not simply use dynamite: Only one authorized to use dynamite may do so, such as a miner. Fortunately, you collect various costumes along your adventure– hence the “undercover” in the title– allowing Chase to change his appearance and skill/item sets.

For instance, as I experienced in the demo, Officer Chase is best for fighting, as he is quickly able to slap handcuffs on the villains he takes down. As a burglar, Chase can use a crowbar to pry open different doors or a stethoscope to crack safes. Or, in the case of a miner’s outfit, he can use his pickaxe to destroy Lego boulders or purchase and use dynamite. More costumes become available as you play, and you can even take on other disguises for fun, even creating your own custom looks.

The whole disguise/function feature actually gave me a very Mega Man-like vibe, and definitely in a good way. Switching is easy with the shoulder buttons, and there is a definite sense of purpose to each of the main costumes– well, except for Chase’s civilian garb. If there’s a particular use for that, I’ve yet to find it.

The dialogue and voice acting were enjoyable as I went along; Chase doesn’t repeat himself very much, and his lines are funny. Some may take issue with the quality, but it fits with the cartoon-like style and humor the game presents. Unfortunately, some bystanders’ lines get a bit repetitive quickly, but you can walk away from them easily, as the dialogue simply plays as you draw near. It’s an overall enjoyably silly experience, and what more can you ask from LEGO?

Speaking to Nintendo of Canada’s Matt Ryan, I did learn some things about the game, including that it is actually based on an existing Lego toyline (I had previously thought that Undercover was something all-new). To that end, there are codes you can get from the LEGO City toyline which allow you to unlock new things in the game, such as new vehicles to try.

I didn’t get to spend any time outside of the mine during the demo, but Ryan informed me that the city is considerable in size, and can take a while for even an experienced driver to traverse. And, as in other sandbox games, there promises to be plenty of things to do outside of the main missions of the story mode.

Speaking of the story, LEGO City Undercover has a fairly involved one with a bit of a mysterious backstory behind Chase and Rex’s rivalry. Hence the Nintendo 3DS release of LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins next month, which acts as a prequel to this game, and will probably fill in some of the backstory spoken of here. Despite this, though, it seems that one doesn’t need to play them in order to enjoy the story; both sound like they’ll work well alone, but even better together.

And that’s pretty much everything I was able to take away from the event. Check back in, though, as I’ll have more LEGO City Undercover for you here on Mario’s Hat as we approach its March 18th release date.

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David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.