Those looking for a game which has the potential to fully utilize the Wii U Game Pad and provide an open-ended, child-friendly experience may have just found exactly what they’re looking for. LEGO City: Undercover is one of Nintendo’s newest titles presented at E3 2012 this year, though they couldn’t confirm that the game would be a launch title for the upcoming Wii U.

When Nintendo presented LEGO City in their E3 2012 Conference (see the trailer here), the title impressed crowds with its witty dialogue and what looked like a polished experience. Playing through a mission behind closed doors, however, reveals a product that seems to be too over-simplified for adults, but still a must-have title for kids.

LEGO City finally brings a sizable, free-roaming city environment over to a Nintendo home console, and more importantly, has done a good job of filling it with a lego-based population and a variety of vehicles. The control interface is extremely simple and reflects games like Grand Theft Auto or Saints Row, which any free-roaming city game is almost forced to take some inspiration from.  The usual options are present, like hijacking vehicles, sending the LEGO character high up in the air and landing in the driver’s seat, whether it means clipping through a roof or not.

Driving vehicles is easy to get used to, with cars swerving heavily, allowing for quick turns which can get you out of almost any situation. It’s been mentioned previously that players can take control of cars and helicopters, with no comment on anything else – attempting to hijack a segway during our demo proved to be fruitless, though the ability to do so may be included later on in the development stage.

Gamers can expect the same LEGO creativity that comes packaged in the majority of LEGO titles, like quickly ‘building’ the pieces of a large plant together in order to climb onto a terrace above it. When you’re about to apprehend running criminals (expect a lot of L.A. Noire style chases, but much shorter), tapping the B button will allow for a slow-motion takedown, which always results in the character throwing the cuffs skyward and slamming them down onto the criminal. After that, it’s on to the next task — no need to worry about them once they’re in handcuffs, apparently.

LEGO City Undercover E3 2012

The game makes good use of the Wii U controller, which constantly displays a variety of tools, highlighteded when they can be used. People also contact you through the radio using the controller, so keeping an eye on the game pad during gameplay is a must. We also tested out a scanner tool when the main character, grizzled officer Chase McCain, was attempting to track down some bank-robbing clowns. Moving the controller revealed a vector-based perspective with yellow-toned LEGO men walking around the city, with the clowns visible hiding several buildings away, spotted by zooming in on the target. While the development team was tight-lipped about other uses for the controller, expect similar detection-based modes to be included in the full game.

While the preview was bit of a letdown from the intense trailer shown in the earlier conference, LEGO City isn’t necessarily a bad title — it just didn’t do anything mind-blowingly well, either. LEGO-based puzzles proved to be a nostalgic throwback, ensuring the game is likely to become a family-friendly hit.

Developers TT Fusion have done a fine job crafting a populated city, and it’s clear that they now must polish the gameplay if they want LEGO City: Undercover to be a title accessible to all gamers, including adult fans of the franchise.

Lego City: Undercover is set to be an exclusive title for Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, and is likely to be released 2013.

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