After waxing lyrical about just how much we enjoyed LEGO City Undercover, a prequel arrives on the scene to douse our appetite for a further adventure with fearless cop Chase McCain.
For those that have already delved into LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins‘ high-definition counterpart, what’ll prove most inviting is discovering how Rex Fury was first captured, and why Chase then found himself exiled from the city.
What therefore becomes a disappointment is how the narrative is so insignificantly handled, with a meandering plot that eventually finds itself led to a poorly executed conclusion. With Nintendo touting the game as showcasing Chase’s journey “from zero to hero,” it wouldn’t be too unkind to suggest that the opposite was achieved.
Undercover delivered a joyous fusion of wit, character, and comedic references yet LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins follows in succession with a glass distinctly half full if even that.
Perhaps the game’s most significant crime is that it fails to ever project any degree of challenge upon the player. Geared towards portable play, missions are shorter and able to be completed within minutes. Due to this, there are naturally more of them, but even an hour in and repetition soon rears its ugly head.
Chase has the same wardrobe of disguises at his disposal as in the Wii U game (Police, Robber, Miner, Astronaut, Farmer, Fireman and Construction Worker), coupled with the same tools and abilities.
Each is granted at periodic intervals as you leisurely make your way through the game, yet never find themselves implemented in imaginative ways. You’ll travel to a designated area, acquire a new disguise, spend the next few missions putting it to use, and then move on to the next location. Rinse, repeat, and you have LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins design in a nutshell.
Muddled in somewhere between your journey from Point A and B is combat, which largely remains as well-animated and responsive as its console relation. Chase can grab, throw and counter oncoming enemies, although it takes far too long to neutralise each of them in turn. You’ll face groups of three more often than not, each requiring you to flip them four times before you can slap handcuffs on them. In comparison, Undercover saw the need to rumble enemies just once or twice before they collapsed in a heap waiting to be arrested.
Puzzles themselves – a key staple of the LEGO formula – are similarly lacking in thought, the player never left to ever ponder a solution themselves seeing as the game gleefully guides you by the hand throughout. Naturally, this means that LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins proves perfect for a younger audience, yet still fails to enamour the family audience that the LEGO series so readily attracts.
LEGO City itself thankfully retains its sense of scale at least, despite ultimately proving a bore to explore on Nintendo 3DS. Hardware limitations aside it feels sparse and lifeless, failing to capture the character and bustle of the game’s accompanying Wii U exclusive.
Beyond completion, the LEGO series usually provides plenty to occupy you, mostly through collectables. This is no different here, with disguises, vehicles and picture postcards to gather. Yet there are no LEGO City Hero ratings to pursue through stud collection, no Gold Bricks to accumulate, nor are there hidden Police Badge pieces to uncover, limiting replay value.
Wii U’s LEGO City Undercover had me in stitches throughout and amounted to one of the most carefully crafted LEGO games in the series, leading me to comment that it signalled “a bold new direction for TT Fusion’s creativity.”
Within LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins such boldness becomes entirely unstuck, resulting in an unimaginative, monotonous, and charmless experience that detracts from what could easily prove to be a stellar new LEGO IP. A baffling misstep by the otherwise talented TT Fusion, only LEGO fanatics need to apply.
Version Tested: Nintendo 3DS
Review copy provided by Nintendo