LEGO City: Undercover Nintendo Switch Review

By Pointus Blankus on 16th April 2017

LEGO City: Undercover was well received when it first released on the Wii U over three years ago. It seems like a very long time ago, but unfortunately not even LCU was considered as a system seller that eventually led to the demise of the Wii U. However if we fast forward to the present day, things are very different. Nintendo has released the Switch, which I consider to be a more appropriate console to enjoy a game like LCU. As someone who currently lives out of a suitcase, my Switch is my best traveling partner. I’ve had plenty of game time on Zelda, but I just couldn’t keep playing Zelda until the launch of Mario Kart. The launch of LCU however changed everything. Although LCU has also recently launched on PS4 and Xbox One, if you own a Switch, there’s no doubt that this game is better appreciated on the Switch, especially due to the lack of games the console currently has.

I grew up playing with LEGO and strangely, my favourite sets were the city ones. I loved building my own cities and role-playing with LEGO minifigures. Yes, I had an active imagination, but the moment I found out that LCU was coming to the Switch, I suddenly became more excited for that, than games like Mario Kart and Zelda. Fortunately, TT Games has not disappointed, since LCU is exactly what I had hoped for on the Switch. I think it helps that the developers had complete creative freedom to make the game how they wanted, as long as it incorporated the LEGO City theme well enough. By bringing the game onto Switch, LCU feels fresher than the LEGO games that I have played on consoles recently. This is truly an open-world game, where you can travel wherever you want and cause as much LEGO mayhem as you want. Think of GTA but made out of LEGO (although without the shooting and prostitution!). 

Within this open world, you play through a story mode and as you progress, you gain new abilities and access to brand new landmarks within the game. There are even time trials and puzzles scattered across the city, so if you ever feel like digressing from the story, there is still enough to do. Primarily, what you’re really doing is smashing the city up just to collect new stubs and bricks. There are even costumes to unlock and by using these costumes, other parts of the city become accessible. The 10+ story mode has you dressed up in a variety of outfits and carrying out missions specific to those outfits. For those who are looking for a light-hearted, borderline cute story mode, LCU has everything you can ask for.

The gameplay takes some time to get used to, but that’s only due to the fact that I am yet to get accustomed to the Switch console. I tried to even out my time as much as possible. Half of my game time was spent using the console with the JoyCons attached, and the other half was spent with the JoyCons detached and the screen sitting on my table. After about 3 hours, I was able to get used to the controls and the fiddly nature of the Switch. The hardest part is trying to get the camera looking where you want. This is actually a common issue with LEGO games, so I cannot entirely blame the console.

This isn’t a direct port of the Wii U version. The fact that this used to be exclusive to the Wii U meant that there were certain features that could only be appreciated on the Wii U, such as the dual screen. For the Switch version however, this isn’t really a problem, as the developers have simply compensated by allowing you to use the D-Pad to take phone calls. If you never played the game on the Wii U, you won’t even feel that a second screen is needed.

The biggest changes are the visuals. The Switch version clearly has better lighting effects. Although this might not seem like such a huge leap forward, lighting is very important in a game of this sort, and being able to enjoy LCU on a bright, portable screen is a game changer for me. Additionally, when you dock the Switch and enjoy it on your big screen, I personally feel that it looks much better than its Wii U counterpart. Having said that, I played the Wii U version on a 40” HDTV, whereas I have my Switch docked to a 130” 4K Sony projector!

LCU is by no means perfect. There are some rendering issues from time to time, and the same glitches do appear more often that I’d like. During my campaign, I also crashed out of the game three times. Whether that is just an issue that can be resolved with a software update or something more fundamentally wrong with the game, it nonetheless wasn’t pleasing. The console also heated up a fair amount whilst playing the game. It heated up more than when I played Zelda. Again, whether this is something that could be resolved as part of the game code, or just a limitation of the Switch console, I won’t be able to determine that until I have played many more games.

The biggest issue I have with the game is the co-op mode. Whilst I think it’s a brilliant idea and one that allows us to experience LCU similarly to other LEGO games published by Warner Bros, the issue is that the framerate makes the game practically unplayable in co-op mode. The game runs at around 30fps when played alone, but when another player joins in, it feels like it effectively halves. The difference between 30fps and 15fps is instantly noticeable, and I actually stopped playing it that way as I feared it would destroy my console. I refuse to believe that the console is not capable of allowing two gamers to play together in co-op mode without performance degradation, especially since Nintendo has often marketed its console as something that can be played with multiple gamers on the same screen (Mario Kart adverts come to mind). 

Despite the technical issues, LCU is the perfect game for any Switch owner who remotely enjoys anything LEGO-related. If anything, you get more out of the game on the Switch than if you purchased the game on Xbox One or PS4, simply because the Switch version can still be enjoyed on a big screen with excellent performance through the dock. If like me, you were looking to expand your Switch collection with proper games that don’t ask you to simulate milking cows, LEGO City: Undercover is a worthwhile pickup provided that you want to play an enjoyable solo campaign experience that doesn’t take itself seriously.

7

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