Price: £40 Developer: TT Fusion Publisher: Warner Brothers Interactive Platform(s): PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch Version Reviewed: Nintendo Switch
The fact Lego City Undercover exists is impressive. It feels anomalous, a Lego game standing on its own blocky feet without the reliance on a license for its biggest moments or a hulking Lego sculpture but one that instead relies on interesting new mechanics to make its mark.
That we have two games that fit that bill releasing within a month of each other is a cause for celebration, even if Lego Worlds sits wrapped in cellophane on my desk, desperately calling out for my attention in a quarter filled with strong games.
I should probably get down to playing Lego Worlds, because Lego City Undercover is a hell of a ride, and it has managed to get me excited about Lego video games again despite my general cynicism.
It has similarities with the rest of the Lego stable, of course, and you'll be doing the same three things you always do: destroying everything, grabbing studs to buy unlockables, and jumping around. Something that's aged particularly well here, though, is the humour, which in many places is genuinely funny and had me laughing out loud in a few places. The transition to Lego City and a more open-world vibe has served the game well, if only for the fact you can explore at your leisure, meaning there's less of a manic compulsion to try to smash/collect everything, allowing the focus to be solely on the story.
The story is somewhat nonsensical but in a way that works. Chase McCain is a disgraced cop that returns to Lego City to try to bring down Rex Fury, a criminal McCain put away and the reason McCain left. To get to him, Chase starts to work undercover, and that's where the shenanigans begin.
Each of the disguises you get (burglar, fireman, astronaut, to name just a few) have their abilities, giving the world something of a Metroidvania feel as you return to earlier locations with a new disguise in tow to try to unlock further items. I didn't feel the compulsion to do this with everything, but I often grinned as I drove past a long-inaccessible area and realised that I now have the power to get in there and have a look.
Lego City Undercover is quite empty by the standards set by modern open-world adventures, but I found this to work in its favour, as there's a certain type of charm to the open-world mainly serving as the home of the adventure. There are time trial races, a small mountain of collectables, and a few other ways to amuse yourself, but mostly I just followed the story through the game and found it refreshing. While the game is clearly suitable for kids, there are jokes and situations throughout the 12-hour story aimed at adults, with one of the early levels aping The Shawshank Redemption closely.