Next-Gen Gamers is a feature where I explore the world of gaming from the eyes of my kids – literally the next generation of gamers, raised in a house that promotes playing together and sharing our time! It’ll look at games that appeal to kids more than adults, as well as those that are great for both, either through cooperative play or controller sharing.
SO. The last time I did one of these, I looked at a terrible game that my kid loves. As much fun as it is to do that, I thought this time I’d look at something we enjoyed together, so I’m here to talk about the latest of the generally-pretty-great LEGO games by Traveller’s Tales Games, LEGO City: Undercover (Wii U). Our family has been playing a number of the LEGO games for some time now, from the Star Wars and Indiana Jones games through the more recent LEGO Batman 2: DC Super Heroes, and we’re big fans for a number of reasons.
The best thing about most of these, in my opinion, is the versatility. Each game has nice, simple gameplay and pretty straightforward objectives that are easy enough for, say, a six year old to figure out and play, and is very (very very) forgiving in terms of “death” and so forth — really, there’s no way to lose the game. At the same time though, there are challenges and side-objectives difficult enough to be engaging for older gamers, and enough ‘grown up’ humor to keep me interested and playing. That second one is vitally important to this game, because it’s taken a step away from the established-franchise setting of previous entries that could play on nostalgia and childhood memories I had of the films, comics, TV series, or other source material that gave the prior games their backbone.
The one drawback to Lego City: Undercover is that it’s the first game in its line to not feature simultaneous cooperative play for two players; rather than working together, as we did in preceding titles, the small one and I would have to swap back and forth, handing over the Wii U gamepad if things got too difficult for him, or if I got too into it and played too long for his liking (this came up a lot during our shared time with the game). The story follows Chase McCain, an undercover police officer called in to help the LEGO City PD hunt down and arrest the dangerous criminal mastermind Rex Fury. Along the way, a colourful cast of supporting characters – most of whom become playable with various discoveries and unlocks – help or hinder Chase in his pursuit of Rex.
My initial impression of the game is most simply put as, “It’s GTA for kids.” This was especially highlighted for me in one instance after we’d completed the game and unlocked the primary antagonist, when I turned to the TV and saw my sweet, psychopathic boy driving a garbage truck down the sidewalk, smashing through light posts and other obstacles as various costumed Lego-folk leapt aside in a desperate attempt to dodge the oncoming vehicle. “That’s not a very nice thing to do,” I said, to which he matter-of-factly replied, “I’m playing Rex Fury. He’s a bad guy. He’s not supposed to be nice.” Then he crashed the truck into an unbreakable barrier, hopped out, switched back to Chase, and set about making sure people nearby had escaped the carnage. Ah, youth.
In addition to the standard controls we’ve come to expect from the series, LEGO City: Undercover makes really, really good use of the Wii U gamepad. In addition to displaying a mini-map while you’re out and about or on a mission, the pad is used to represent the in-game police communicator and scanner. It can be used to receive incoming calls, displaying the face of the person calling, and using the internal speaker to deliver the audio, but the real strength shines through when it’s used to scan for objectives or take pictures, requiring the player to hold up the device and actually turn around, as if standing where Chase is in-game. It’s an awesome touch, and gives a level of immersion to what could otherwise be a mundane task shown as a blip on a player’s map.
The kid’s favorite thing about this one is the huge variety of characters and costumes, both from the supporting cast and the disguises Chase uses in his undercover work. From a crowbar-toting criminal who breaks into doors and cracks safes to a jetpack-sporting astronaut zooming around the city and able to open special teleporters, there’s a lot to do and to discover in this game. There are a ton of vehicles – including motorcycles, airplanes, boats, and more – and a wide open world to explore and hunt for goodies, unlockables, and additional characters.
All in all, we had a blast with this game, both while playing through the reasonably-long story together, and free-roaming through the world after completing it to find more of the hidden-away bonuses or replaying missions with our newfound abilities to search and collect more things. True to the legacy of its heritage, this is another great LEGO game that can keep gamers, young and old, entertained and engaged for hours; I think we put in a solid 30 or more the last time I checked. The only drawback is the lack of a second player, but I understand why that choice was made, and really, it didn’t detract from our ability to game together and enjoy the ride.