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This week, Zero Punctuation reviews Lego City Undercover.

TranscriptEdit

Whether you think Bioshock: Infinite was good or failed to measure up to your ever-so-refined palate (fnerr fnerr aloof aloof), it at least provokes discussion and certainly seems to have been a bit of a watershed moment, and I find myself in a slightly melancholy mood because of it. Now everything that came out before it this year has kind of merged together into the pre-Bioshock: Infinite mass, where the mayor of SimCity is a cyborg ninja wearing two very skimpy vests and is diverting civic funds into bringing their dead Mum back to life. Now all I can think about is that a momentary peak has been reached, and things are gonna get real bland real fast. Especially now a new console generation seems determined to start, like an elderly relative who lacks the basic common courtesy to just die and get it out of the way. Ooh, Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel — when I take the disc out of the box, will I put it in the drive, or attempt to eat it? Decisions, decisions.

Wait, a new console generation; that rings a bell! Didn't I buy a new console late last year? What was it called? The Piss-Shit?

Yeah, the Wii U, remember that? Last week, I bought a game for it, for the very first time since the fucking thing came out, one of the very very few Wii U releases that isn't a port of a game that came out for everything else around the time that Happy Days went off the air. Do we think a console that insists on using a gimmicky, oversized Weetabix as a controller is proving a bit obnoxious to develop for? A Nintendo console being difficult for third-party development? Nooooo, that'd be like EA making a dodgy business decision.

The game in question is Lego City Undercover, which makes a lot of sense when you think about it — it could be that in Lego, Nintendo sees a kindred spirit, perhaps even a potential mentor, now that Nintendo is bent on being a company that only makes TOYS. Hey, they wanna do that, it's their business; so what if no-one is developing for the Wii U? No-one develops for the Speak & Spell much these days either.

It does mean, however, that all you thirty-year-old Nintendo fanboys will have to stop holding out for a new Metroid Prime, or anything with any emotional or cultural relevance. And maybe you could stop pretending to like New Super Mario Brothers Wii while we're at it. Sorry, post-Bioshock melancholy's talking again. Ooh, Lego City! Cheerful, colourful, charming plastic objects lodged in the sole of the foot-NO! Positive now!

This is the transfer of the classical Lego 'whatever pop-culture trend we licensed this week' gameplay into a sandbox city environment. And when I say classic-Lego-ungainly-sentence-gameplay, I mean STUDS. Collect the studs, collect all the fucking studs, except you will never collect all the studs; I tried to collect all the studs on the dock where you start the game, but the moment I turned around they'd all come back! I'm being taunted by studs! This is why I don't go to the gym any more!

Sandbox gameplay is a natural fit for Lego, 'cause that's basically what Lego-the-real-life-thing is. You can use a range of drivable Lego vehicles to hunt around for studs and gradually collect new abilities to allow you to reach more studs, so collecting studs and various other Lego products could best be described as the core gameplay. 'Cause it's not the combat, which is absolute bollocks. By the end of the game, I was just grabbing each enemy one-by-one and flinging them off a ledge so I wouldn't have to bother. It's about as involving as ladling rice pudding into several bowls placed randomly around a kitchen worktop.

So those scrounging wastrels at TT Fusion have had to come up with their own plot for once, and they went for a spoof. 'Cause when your entire cast are small yellow people with detachable body parts, then it's either that or "Tales from the Leper Colony ". I must say, previous Lego games have been quite reliably funny, usually because the characters never speak, and have to convey the plot of an existing film or property using only extravagant gestures. But in Lego City, we see what happens when Lego people do speak; it turns out they communicate entirely in pop-culture parodies and eye-rolling self-referential jokes that run on too long by an average of about three self-inflicted punches to the face. Well, I'm not too pround to admit that I laughed at a couple of lines, but that's a pretty small minority in a game that goes on long enough to pay lip service to the entire range of the Lego workforce.

"Oh, but Yahtzee,"—counter-point—"this is a kids' game, and more elegant comedy would be lost on the cringing little snotbags!" Counter-counter-point, asshole: What kind of kid would understand an extended parody of The Shawshank Redemption, or even the first Matrix film —  references from back when they would've been but a drunken glint in the eyes of one of several potential fathers? No, this is the DreamWorks line of thinking, that a fun-for-all-the-family experience has to put in some jokes for Dad that will fly over the sticky, misshapen heads of the spawn. But there's kind of an art to that, and Lego City's attempt is like a man doing helicopter impressions down a supermarket aisle, his flailing arms knocking countless packets of biscuits to the floor.

Actually, speaking of fun for all the family, I know this is going to sound weird coming from me, but don't Lego games usually have local multiplayer? It makes sense in this case, because it's the kind of game that divorced parents buy to play with their children during visitng times; they provide wholesome family fun while also having enough lulls in the action to allow for searching questions on Mother's new boyfriend, and what moments he leaves his flashy car undefended. And meanwhile, the numerous ways one can reduce one's playing partner to plastic giblets allow the child to express their impotent frustration at their inevitably-ruined life. Oh wait, I forgot the Wii U can only have one screen controller, 'cause if you have two of them in the same house then you risk buckling the foundations.

There's also what is becoming the token Wii U thing of holding the controller up to scan something, like we've developed a phobia of video games and are trying to cover our eyes, but there's no escape, it's still there! All of which entirely justifies the three-hour battery life that meant I had to stop right before the climactic story end and play Luigi's Mansion for a bit instead. And obnoxious loading times certainly don't help. I hope you're not loading the entire city every time we step outside, you silly game; I was only going to run over a bunch of lampposts, you don't need to dryclean every single fucking doiley!

Without a second player to brutalize, the appeal falls back on good old OCD a-hundred-percent completion, but you're kinda forced to go through the whole story mode before you can even start shooting for that. Since so many collectibles require late-game abilities to acquire, it's like being held hostage by a marathon of all the worst Simpsons episodes. Maybe if you like the Lego stud-centric gameplay enough, you could forgive a lot of this, but is Lego City Undercover what the Wii U needs right now? I wouldn't say so; I mean, it doesn't even resemble a pneumatic drill.

AddendaEdit

Constructed from multicoloured plastic.

It's very tragic that Lego characters can only either have hair or a hat, that's a choice no-one should have to make.

Now I'm wondering if the hat and hair people get along alright.

ScreenshotsEdit

Zero Punctuation - 293 - Lego City Undercover 1

In Lego, Nintendo sees a kindred spirit, perhaps even a potential mentor

Zero Punctuation - 293 - Lego City Undercover 2

I'm being taunted by studs! This is why I don't go to the gym any more!

Zero Punctuation - 293 - Lego City Undercover 3

I had to stop right before the climactic story end and play Luigi's Mansion for a bit instead

Episodes
2007 - 2010
2007
Q3 The Darkness Demo · Fable: The Lost Chapters · Zero Punctuation (Episode) · Heavenly Sword and Other Stuff · Psychonauts · Console Rundown · BioShock · Tomb Raider: Anniversary · Manhunt · Peggle
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2008
Q1 Super Mario Galaxy · Silent Hill: Origins · Crysis · The Witcher · Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles · Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare · SimCity Societies · Yahtzee Goes to GDC · Uncharted: Drake's Fortune · Devil May Cry 4 · Burnout: Paradise · Turok · Zack & Wiki: Quest for Barbaros' Treasure
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Q3 Webcomics · Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures · Alone in the Dark · Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures · The E3 Trailer Park · Ninja Gaiden II · Prince of Persia Retrospective · Soulcalibur IV · Braid · EVE Online · Too Human · Spore · XBLA Double Bill
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2009
Q1 Awards for 2008 · Tomb Raider: Underworld · Far Cry 2 · Gears of War 2 · LittleBigPlanet · Thief: The Dark Project · Skate 2 · F.E.A.R. 2 · Spider-Man: Web of Shadows · The House of the Dead: Overkill · 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand · Resident Evil 5
Q2 X-Blades/Halo Wars · Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars · MadWorld · Tom Clancy's H.A.W.X · Siren: Blood Curse · The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena · Valkyria Chronicles · Velvet Assassin · Duke Nukem Forever · Bionic Commando · InFamous · The Second Annual E3 Hype Massacre · Prototype
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Q4 Scribblenauts · Wet · Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story · Brutal Legend · Washington D.C. · Uncharted 2: Among Thieves · Dragon Age: Origins · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 · Assassin's Creed 2 · Left 4 Dead 2 & New Super Mario Bros. Wii · Demon's Souls · Holiday 2009 · The Saboteur
2010
Q1 Awards for 2009 · Torchlight · Darksiders · Bayonetta · Dark Void · Borderlands · Mass Effect 2 · Dante's Inferno · BioShock 2 · Aliens vs Predator · Heavy Rain · Battlefield: Bad Company 2 · Final Fantasy XIII
Q2 April Fools 2010 · God of War III · Red Steel 2 · Just Cause 2 · Silent Hill: Shattered Memories · Splinter Cell: Conviction · Nier · Dead to Rights: Retribution · Monster Hunter Tri · Alan Wake · Red Dead Redemption · Alpha Protocol · Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands · E3 2010
Q3 No More Heroes 2: Desperate Struggle · Super Mario Galaxy 2 · Singularity · Crackdown 2 · DeathSpank & Limbo · Shadow of the Colossus · Split Second: Velocity · Transformers: War for Cybertron · Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days · Mafia II · Metroid: Other M · Video Game Voters Network · Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Q4 Halo: Reach · Dead Rising 2 · Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow · Enslaved: Odyssey to the West · Fallout: New Vegas · Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II · Call of Duty: Black Ops · IPhone Games · Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood · Splatterhouse · Epic Mickey · Holiday 2010
2011 - 2014
2011
Q1 Top 5 of 2010 · World of Warcraft: Cataclysm · Fable III · Minecraft · A Shadow's Tale · Dead Space 2 · DC Universe Online · MindJack · Two Worlds II · Bulletstorm · Killzone 3 · Kirby's Epic Yarn · Dragon Age II
Q2 Pokémon White · Yakuza 4 · Crysis 2 · Nintendo 3DS · Portal 2 · Castlevania: Symphony of the Night · Mortal Kombat · Brink · L.A. Noire · The Witcher 2 · Hunted: The Demon's Forge · Duke Nukem Forever (for real this time) · InFamous 2
Q3 Alice: Madness Returns · Shadows of the Damned · F.E.A.R. 3 · The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D · Call of Juarez: The Cartel · Bastion and From Dust · Catherine · Red Faction: Armageddon · Deus Ex · Deus Ex: Human Revolution · Driver: San Francisco · Dead Island · Resistance 3
Q4 Gears of War 3 · Hard Reset · Rage · Kinect · Batman: Arkham City · Battlefield 3 · Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception · Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 · The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim · Saints Row: The Third · Assassin's Creed: Revelations · The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
2012
Q1 Serious Sam 3: BFE · Top 5 of 2011 · Super Mario 3D Land & Rayman Origins · Sonic Generations · Star Wars: The Old Republic · Amy · Resident Evil: Revelations · Darkness 2 · Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning · NeverDead · Syndicate · Mass Effect 3 · Twisted Metal
Q2 Yakuza: Dead Souls · Ninja Gaiden 3 · Silent Hill: Downpour · Kid Icarus: Uprising · Fez and I Am Alive · Prototype 2 · Risen 2: Dark Waters · Sniper Elite V2 · Diablo 3 · Max Payne 3 · Dragon's Dogma · E3 2012 · Lollipop Chainsaw
Q3 Quantum Conundrum · Spec Ops: The Line · Walking Dead · Inversion · The Amazing Spider-Man · Half-Life · Wreckateer and Deadlight · Steam Roundup · Sleeping Dogs · Darksiders 2 · DayZ · Guild Wars 2
Q4 Borderlands 2 · FIFA 13 · Resident Evil 6 · Dishonored · XCOM: Enemy Unknown · Medal of Honor: Warfighter & Doom 3: BFG Edition · Assassin's Creed 3 · Halo 4 · Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 · Hitman: Absolution · Far Cry 3 · ZombiU
2013
Q1 Top 5 of 2012 · Paper Mario: Sticker Star · Black Knight Sword & Hotline Miami · Anarchy Reigns · DMC: Devil May Cry · The Cave · Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch · Dead Space 3 · Aliens: Colonial Marines · Crysis 3 · Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance · Tomb Raider · SimCity
Q2 The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct · BioShock Infinite · Lego City Undercover · Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon · Injustice: Gods Among Us · Star Trek · Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon · System Shock 2 · Metro: Last Light · Next Gen Buyer's Guide · Fuse · Remember Me · E3 2013
Q3 The Last of Us · Deadpool · Animal Crossing: New Leaf · Ride to Hell: Retribution · Dark · Mario & Luigi: Dream Team · Rise of the Triad · Papers, Please & Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons · Pikmin 3 · The Bureau: XCOM Declassified · Saints Row 4 · Killer is Dead · Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs
Q4 Grand Theft Auto V · Lost Planet 3 · Beyond: Two Souls · The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD · Batman: Arkham Origins · Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag · Call of Duty: Ghosts · Exclusives Showdown · Ryse: Son of Rome · Dead Rising 3 · Super Mario 3D World
2014
Q1 Top 5 of 2013 · Knack · Killzone: Shadow Fall · Survival Special · Broken Age · Might & Magic X: Legacy · The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds · Dark Souls · Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII · Strider · Thief · Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 · Dark Souls II
Q2 Titanfall · InFamous: Second Son · Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes · The Elder Scrolls Online · South Park: The Stick of Truth · FTL: Faster Than Light · Child of Day-Light · The Amazing Spider-Man 2 · Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure · Wolfenstein: The New Order · WATCH DOGS · E3 2014 · Murdered: Soul Suspect
Q3 Tomodachi Life · Enemy Front & Valiant Hearts: The Great War · Shovel Knight · EarthBound · Transistor · E.T. · Firefall · Sacred 3 · Risen 3: Titan Lords · Daikatana · Lichdom: Battlemage · The Sims 4 · Destiny
Q4 D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die · Hyrule Warriors · Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor · Alien Isolation · The Evil Within · Bayonetta 2 · Sunset Overdrive · Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare · Assassin's Creed: Unity · Far Cry 4 · Dragon Age: Inquisition · Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric · Top 5 Games of 2014
2015 - 2017
2015
Q1 The Talos Principle · Elite: Dangerous · Five Nights at Freddy's and This War of Mine · Lords of the Fallen · Saints Row: Gat out of Hell · Dying Light · Grim Fandango · Evolve · The Order: 1886 · The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 3D · Resident Evil Revelations 2 · Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number & Ori and the Blind Forest
Q2 Battlefield: Hardline · Bloodborne · Half-Life 2 Update · Axiom Verge & Stealth Inc 2 · Mortal Kombat X · Grand Theft Auto Online · Broken Age: Act 2 · Wolfenstein: The Old Blood · Cyberpunk Double · The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt · Splatoon · Hatred · E3 2015
Q3 Alone in the Dark: Illumination · Batman: Arkham Knight · Yoshi's Woolly World · Cave Story · Godzilla · Rocket League & Tembo the Badass Elephant · King's Quest: A Knight to Remember · Nom Nom Galaxy & Freedom Planet · Everybody's Gone To The Rapture · Volume · Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain · Mad Max · Gears of War Ultimate Edition · Until Dawn
Q4 Super Mario Maker · SOMA · Rock Band 4 · Assassin's Creed Syndicate · Halo 5: Guardians · Call of Duty: Black Ops 3 · Rise of the Tomb Raider · Fallout 4 · Star Wars: Battlefront · Just Cause 3 · Fatal Frame: Maiden of Black Water
2016
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2015 · Devil's Third · Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam · Assassin's Creed Chronicles · Xenoblade Chronicles X · The Witness & Bombshell · Gravity Rush · XCOM 2 · Firewatch & Layers of Fear · Far Cry Primal · Stardew Valley & SUPERHOT · The Division · Salt and Sanctuary
Q2 Republique · Shadow Warrior · Quantum Break · Dark Souls III · Ratchet & Clank · Star Fox Zero · Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door · Uncharted 4: A Thief's End · Doom · Homefront: The Revolution · Overwatch & Battleborn · Mirror's Edge: Catalyst · E3 2016
Q3 Mighty No. 9 · Inside & Shadow of the Beast · The Technomancer · Furi & Song of the Deep · I Am Setsuna · Headlander & Quadrilateral Cowboy · Quake · No Man's Sky · Grow Up · Deus Ex: Mankind Divided · Metroid Prime: Federation Force · The Curious Expedition & Mother Russia Bleeds · ReCore
Q4 Capcom Five · Clustertruck & Lichtspeer · Paper Mario: Color Splash · Mafia III · Gears of War 4 · PlayStation VR · Battlefield 1 · Titanfall 2 vs Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare · Dishonored 2 · WATCH DOGS 2 · Final Fantasy XV · The Last Guardian
2017
Q1 Top 5 Games of 2016 · Let It Die · Dead Rising 4 · Hitman · Gravity Rush 2 · Resident Evil 7 · Yakuza 0 · Nioh · For Honor · Nintendo Switch & Breath of the Wild · Horizon Zero Dawn · Nier Automata · Ghost Recon Wildlands
Q2 Mass Effect Andromeda · Yooka-Laylee · Persona 5 · Remastered Editions · Outlast 2 · Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 · Prey · Wilson's Heart · The Surge · Injustice 2 · Vanquish · E3 2017 · Strafe
Q3 Get Even · Hollow Knight / Dead Cells · Fifth Console Generation · The End is Nigh, and Yonder: Cloud Catcher Chronicles · Pyre · Splatoon 2 · Hellblade · Agents of Mayhem · Sonic Mania · Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle · Destiny 2 · Metroid: Samus Returns
Q4 Knack 2 and SteamWorld Dig 2 · Cuphead · Hob and A Hat in Time · Middle-earth: Shadow of War · The Evil Within 2 · Super Mario Odyssey · Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus · Assassin's Creed Origins

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