Lego City Undercover has reemerged in our headlamps lately thanks to the Nintendo Switch. The Lego game that was originally released in 2013 will be coming to the Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on April 4, 2017. It’s because of this that old comparisons are being made anew. Lego City Undercover is essentially a more kid-friendly addition to the Grand Theft Auto series.
Slap a kid-branded logo on it, add some bricks, and voila! You’ve made one of the most popular adult video game franchises kid-friendly! It’s bound to be a money maker right? It even ranked consistently in the top five Wii U games for a long time. Fans of the game continue to give it high marks in their own opinions. While it didn’t sell super well by normal commercial standard, Lego City Undercover didn’t do too shabby. And Warner Brothers is clearly hoping to up those numbers by bringing it to the Switch and other systems. It’s a smart move. People who loved it on the Wii U will be able to buy it brand new for their other systems, and those who never gave it a chance will be able to try it out now.
Let’s get back to the issue at hand though. Lego City Undercover has always been compared to Grand Theft Auto . Sure, in the Lego game you play on the opposite side of the law from GTA , but that’s sort of the point isn’t it? You want kids to catch the bad guys, not be the bad guys. Where does this small change begin to unravel though? At what age do these children realize what they’ve been playing? And what happens then? I imagine some kids would feel swindled, like those Christian cartoon films I watched as a kid. Back then, I didn’t realize they were trying to tell me something underhandedly. Now as an adult I certainly see, and I won’t be thinking about Veggie Tales fondly any time soon.
A child who grows up playing Lego City Undercover will enjoy it immensely at the time certainly. But then, as an adult when they figure out what Grand Theft Auto is, they’ll probably feel like I did about Veggie Tales , “ Lego City Undercover ? That game that tried to teach me that obviously stealing is bad and you shouldn’t do it? I get that in reality already, I understand it! Why do my video games have to be a moralistic argument?”
In my opinion there is a place for education in video games. I loved playing the ClueFinders games as a kid, especially 4 th Grade Adventures: Puzzle of the Pyramid . Ancient Egypt is still one of my favorite things to study! However, there is a big difference between the ClueFinders and the Carmen Sandiego s of video games and Lego. Lego is ironically becoming more and more adult each iteration, especially with Lego City Undercover . You’re taking an already known franchise like Grand Theft Auto and essentially bastardizing it to suit your own needs.
I admit that this works for adults who love GTA, have fond memories of Legos, and also enjoy what the brand is doing in the video game world. The snark of the Lego video games matches well with a GTA -like entry. We get to play with little Lego cars and figures in a version of a game series we already love. But I still just can’t justify how this is a bit of a cop-out as a kids game. Children will grow up, they will learn what Grand Theft Auto is, and you’ll have some super painful looking eye rolls in your future. Imagine your dad saying, “Hey Johnny, remember that Lego game I gave you for your 7 th birthday? Well… now that you’re 17, I wanted to give you this.” When your dad hands you a copy of Grand Theft Auto, your only response will be, “Daaad, I grew out of this stuff a long time ago. Stop trying to make Lego City Undercover cool. Geez.”
How do you feel about the Grand Theft Auto adjacent Lego City Undercover ? Do you think it’s a good introduction for children to more adult games? Do you think it’ll just make kids even more jaded in their teens/adult years? As an adult do you love Lego City Undercover because of it’s GTA -ness? Let me know in the comments!