We're going to keep to the point in this review, because in terms of content, very little has changed since Lego City Undercover landed on Wii U as a console exclusive way back in 2013. While the game remains largely the same, much else has changed since then, most notably with the Wii U put out to pasture by Nintendo following lacklustre sales, replaced as it has been by the Switch.
But that doesn't change the fact that Lego City Undercover was one of the best games for Nintendo's outgoing system, and it still stands as one of the finest Lego games ever made, which, given the overall high quality of that series, is no easy feat. We liked it back then, and we like it still, although now, in 2017, performance issues have marred its return, shifting emphasis away from the quality of the game itself, and focusing our attention on the port. After just a few hours with the Switch version we had experienced a couple of bugs that forced a reload (and therefore a small loss of progress), one or two noticeable frame-rate drops, and load times so generous that one could easily make a snack in-between missions.
Beyond the less-than-stellar technical update, it looks good, plays great, and is full of funny, family friendly storytelling and intuitive game design that makes it enjoyable to play for both kids and big kids alike.
The story won't win any awards for originality, but it's a playful tale of crime and adventure that draws on a bunch of really quirky influences. From parodying the biggest open-world adventures, to poking fun at some of cinema's finest, TT Fusion has done a fantastic job of making this accessible and engaging for players of all ages, and in a number of different ways. The newly added co-op mode in particular makes it ideal for parent-child collaborations, and there are punchlines in there to please one and all, delivered in quick succession during an engaging and lighthearted story.
Like GTA before it (you won't be surprised to hear that it's regularly referred to as "Grand Theft Lego"), players have access to an open-world. Lego City isn't the biggest sandbox playground out there, but it's big enough for our purposes, and frankly if it was any larger it probably would have been too much for younger players. Exploring each and every corner won't take forever, but there are activities to distract you as you go around completing the missions. The side content will keep you busy for a time, but it's the main story that's the big draw here, and throughout the missions you'll find mechanics that we've seen elsewhere in the Lego games put to good use.
There are a couple of key differences when compared to the Wii U original, the most obvious being the lack of a GamePad. It actually makes very little difference to the experience, with the second-screen functionality mapped to the D-pad in this new version. Leading man Chase McCain still carries around a controller-like device which he uses to talk to key characters in the game, and there's no hiding the game's origins, but the new setup feels natural nonetheless. In fact, the relative ease with which they managed the transition away from the GamePad merely demonstrates how little they really used it in the first place.
The best new feature is definitely the integration of local co-op. The frame-rate stays relatively steady when played in split-screen, and players can easily jump into a game together and roam the city as they see fit (you're not tied together, and so you can head in opposite directions if you wish, with each others' positions clearly marked on the mini-map). We had a lot of fun chasing each other around, racing cars, collecting things, and generally wreaking havoc on the citizens and criminals of Lego City. The open-world style and freedom afforded players only magnifies the enjoyment, and there's never been a better Lego game to simply explore and have fun in (perhaps with the exception of the sandbox worlds in Lego Dimensions, but individually these are much smaller).
All told we enjoyed our return to Lego City Undercover, and this overlooked entry in the Lego universe will finally have the chance to reach the audience it deserves. It's not a perfect port by any means, and they could and should have done something to shorten the loading times (we played on Switch), and there's a few too many bugs in there all things considered. However, the rest of the experience is as good as it was back in 2013, and if you missed it the first time around (as many of you surely did), it's still worth taking a trip to Lego City.