Friday, July 19, 2013

BLTN Reviews: LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins (3DS) Review

The work week is over for most, so let's celebrate with a BLTN review. What are Better Late Than Never reviews? These are reviews for games that are too recent to be retro and too old to be regular reviews-- hence, Better Late Than Never. Tonight's game is none other than LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins.

Let's Cut to the Chase, Shall We?
This Game Isn't Half-Bad.

I have made it no secret that LEGO City Undercover is my favorite Wii U game out of the small amount of titles Nintendo's new console has seen. It featured a humorous story with excellent and funny dialogue, an open world city with literally something to do at every street corner, and a level of charm that most games dream about having. Taking what makes LEGO City Undercover on Wii U so fantastic and transplanting it onto weaker hardware on the Nintendo 3DS is no easy task, but that's what TT Fusion have attempted to do with LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins, a prequel to the Wii U game. Will you want to keep up with Chase McCain and the gang?

In LEGO City Undercover, Chase McCain was already an experienced and much heralded police officer. In The Chase Begins, Chase is just starting out fresh under the orders of Deputy Dunby (who would become chief of police in the Wii U game), made glaringly obvious by the first mission of the game requiring Chase to bring back some donuts to the station. The story of The Chase Begins follows Chase as he goes from city district to city district putting a halt to crime and piecing together an overarching master plan by the game's main villain. What's unfortunate about the game is that voiced cutscenes only occur as bookends to each series of missions. Every other piece of dialogue is presented via text, and unlike its voiced counterparts, the text is fairly vanilla and not too interesting most of the time. 

Every cop has got to start somewhere.
The Chase Begins when compared to the Wii U game has an incredibly brief campaign, and that is mostly due to the fact that the game has all of its missions take place within the overworld confines of LEGO City. There are no traditional levels where you solve puzzles, fight bad guys and nab collectibles like typical LEGO games. Instead, Chase delves into quick bite-sized missions like turning on generators, preventing a bomb from going off at a dam, rescuing citizens from a burning building, and making "chase" with a foe across city rooftops. Because levels have been excluded, the total play time of a typical go through the story will last about 6-8 hours for the average player.

That is indeed short, but like LEGO City Undercover on Wii U, The Chase Begins offers plenty of side content and things to do. From using Super Bricks to build special objects strewn around the city to capturing aliens by scanning suspicious citizens, to collecting character and vehicle tokens to unlock new playable characters and rides, to rescuing cats from their high perching points, LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins has a lot to offer for the completionist gamer. For me, I feverishly played through the game and once all of the costumes for Chase (a returning gameplay element from the Wii U game) were available to me, I was addicted to combing every inch of The Chase Begins's available districts for side tasks to complete and tokens to collect to beef up my completion percentage. As of sixteen hours in, I have but reached 67% of the game completed. 

Chase is a rock-it man!
Chase McCain is quite the rookie. Just like costumes return from LEGO City Undercover on Wii U, such as the miner, burglar, astronaut and farmer, the various parkour-like moves within that game make a glorious return in The Chase Begins. Blue and white objects can be climbed on, having Chase climb up walls, vault over walls and other objects, vaulting off poles, as well as get launched across entire rooftops or city blocks. Despite the same parkour-like moves being available to Chase in both games, in The Chase Begins the precision of jumping is for the worse. In LEGO City Undercover, the jumping and parkour antics had much more room for forgiveness-- a larger margin for error, if you will. With The Chase Begins, I had to occasionally redo entire sections of scaling up buildings because of a missed jump or Chase simply not grabbing onto what he was supposed to.

When Chase isn't stopping crime,
he moonlights as a tightrope walker.
Another issue with the game concerns the combat. For most enemies, one can simply wait for a foe to wind up their attack and press the X button once the prompt shows up to counter it. For stronger blokes, throwing is the right call. It can be absolutely mind-numbing taking on large groups of foes, and many times they take too many hits. I was happy when I was near a ledge so I could a hit-heavy baddie and chuck them over to their doom. Bosses, on the other hand, have more complexity, particularly compared to what was seen in the original LEGO City Undercover and the fights of this 3DS game. Dare I say they were actually kind of fun.

"I can bench press 270 lbs.
Just saying."
LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is without a doubt an ambitious game. However, it very well may be too ambitious for its own good. LEGO City in the game is being built up in most parts, and Chase cannot explore the majority of what was available in the Wii U game. Furthermore, each district or area of the city is separated by a relatively long loading screen, usually around a minute to a minute-and-a-half. Thankfully, no missions require going outside the current area Chase is in. 

Driving can feel a bit finicky.
The Chase Begins also suffers from severe drops in frame-rate, struggling to hold it steady. The draw distance is not very good either, offering Nintendo 64 memories. Cars, people, collectibles and objects fade in and out when you're a few yards away from them. This makes exploring for the aforementioned side missions more problematic than it should be. As the game is a Nintendo 3DS exclusive, you might be wondering how pronounced the 3D effect is. It actually looks pretty impressive, save for first-person segments where you have to aim a cannon. Finally, the majority of music is taken straight from the Wii U game, albeit not as clear and crisp. One thing that The Chase Begins does better than its big brother is having music play while Chase drives around the city. This was something definitely amiss when I played the Wii U original. 

That'll do, pig.
That'll do.
Despite all of its technical shortcomings such as the unwieldy frame-rate and loading times, I still found a lot of enjoyment in playing LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins. If you're like me and you couldn't get enough of the Wii U original (yes, even after 55 hours of play time I wanted more), The Chase Begins is a worthy extension of the common gameplay themes of it. Those who look for polished games should look elsewhere, as The Chase Begins is very much rough around the edges in plenty of places. Having that said, LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is one of the better handheld LEGO titles available on any system, and it is worth a look especially if you loved the Wii U game. It is just not recommended as a replacement for that title. 

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

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