Not often does a console exclusive title carry the weight of platform's sustainability, but saying that Lego City: Undercover is in such a precarious situation with regard to the Wii U isn't much of a stretch.
Check your calendars, folks, because it's been months since Wii U has had a notable exclusive title release, which is both discouraging and quite frankly upsetting.
Nevertheless, Lego City: Undercover has been anticipated as the "kid-friendly GTA" experience that Nintendo has optimistically stood behind since day one -- hoping for a third-party hit that might reignite interest in the already struggling platform.
The Lego franchise has seen widespread success on multiple consoles thanks to a laundry list of superhero and film licenses, from Batman to Lord of the Rings. Undercover is a brand-new property with no big-budget tie-in, but the charming presentation, familiar gameplay, and focus on the quirkiness of the Lego universe remains in tact.
Lego City: Undercover is an open-world game that puts players in the shoes of officer Chase McCain on his mission to stop a crime wave that has hit Lego City. Every good guy/bad guy cliche under the sun surfaces in the game's storyline, but to its credit, it works.
Undercover is undeniably funny and maintains an upbeat tempo throughout. It's written well and should appeal to gamers of all ages. That accessibility trickles down to the game's core play style, too -- which at times can feel a bit watered-down and generic, especially if you've ever played a Lego game before.
Graphically speaking, Lego City: Undercover comes in at just average compared with the current video game landscape. Items in the background noticeably pop-in regularly, and the game occasionally has trouble holding on to a steady frame rate.
Developer TT Fusion chose to integrate the Wii U's unique tablet-style GamePad in ways that we've seen before. Similar to scanning in ZombiU, players hold up the controller and move around to examine areas and locate suspects. Otherwise, it's mostly used as a map and comes in handy as an item collection counter.
Easily the most upsetting thing about Lego: City Undercover has got to be its loading times. It's tough to recall a game in the last five years that loads as slowly as Undercover does, but these waits are simply dreadful. Not only do they have no place in today's gaming environment, but they also break up the action, bringing flow to an absolute standstill.
This isn't the first Wii U game that's suffered from over-the-top loading times, which doesn't bode well for the future of the platform's software. That said, it's still relatively early in the console's life cycle, so hopefully developers can bump this up down the road.
CNET verdict: Recommended for Wii U owners
If you don't mind waiting for the game to load, Lego City: Undercover has a lot of fun packed inside, even if most of the gameplay is stuff you might have seen before.
Lego City: Undercover is the best game the Wii U has had to offer (outside of the eShop) in months and might be the only one you play for some time.