LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins Review for Nintendo 3DS

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins Review for Nintendo 3DS

Written By Deputy Dunby

Critics frequently judge portable versions of licensed LEGO games harshly. Shrinking a console game to fit within the constraints of a portable device, yet retaining the same story and general gameplay has proven difficult for many developers. When it was announced that LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins would be a prequel to the Wii U’s LEGO City Undercover, there was hope that we would get a LEGO game tailor-made for portable devices instead of a poor imitation. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take long for that hope to evaporate.

Almost immediately, The Chase Begins attempts to take the impressive, open-world LEGO City from the console game and squish it onto a 3DS cartridge. The basic layout of the city is the same, but the impressive views, delightful details, and areas packed with things to discover are gone. Even in 3D, this version of LEGO City looks flat and lacks visual interest. Technically, the graphics aren’t bad for the 3DS, they’re just a case of over-reach. LEGO City as it exists on the Wii U is simply too vast to properly translate to a portable, and the game suffers for it.

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins Screenshot

The game’s sound suffers similarly. The excellent atmospheric conversations and effects that made LEGO City feel alive aren’t available. Except for the rare cut-scene, there is no voice acting either. I didn’t realize how much the purposefully hammy voice acting added to LEGO City Undercover until it was replaced by generic lines that generally amount to, “Chase, go do this. Now do that,” or “Help, rescue me.”

There’s not much to say about LEGO City Undercover’s sound. The music is fine, but it’s all recycled from the main game. However, the sound effects are rather obnoxious. It’s never a good sign when my cats, who are unresponsive to all sorts of odd noises emanating from various gaming devices, fold their ears back and walk away because of a game’s sound effects. I wished I could do the same during several missions, in which multiple characters yell loudly, rapidly, and repeatedly for help.

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins Screenshot

The Chase Begins’ gameplay also suffers in the transition from console to portable. Chase has access to the same disguises in this game (firefighter, astronaut, construction worker, etc.), although how he acquires them doesn’t always make sense. Some he receives for going undercover, but for others, he’s drafted to do jobs that should have been completed by actual members of that profession.

Chase’s disguise abilities don’t always work exactly the same as they did in the Wii U game, usually to their detriment. Abilities like Chicken Glide that could be freely used to explore the world on the Wii U can now only be activated in specific locations. A few abilities have been tweaked to be more appropriate to the touch screen. Cracking safes even includes a simple touch screen mini-game. If more abilities had been altered in that way, the gameplay could have been far more entertaining. Instead, most missions are spent simply moving from objective to objective, pressing X mindlessly at the glowing spots.

Instead of focusing on exploration and car chases like the Wii U game, The Chase Begins focuses on hand to hand combat. On the Wii U, combat was sparse, allowing the simple fights to remain entertaining when they happened. After repeated groups of enemies, the 3DS combat quickly wears out its welcome. The player simply has to press X to counter the enemies’ frequent blows, then A to toss on handcuffs when they fall. Repeat this tiresome process about every thirty seconds in most missions, and you’ll soon find yourself annoyed rather than amused by the combat animations.

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins Screenshot

Even outside of missions, The Chase Begins simply isn’t very interesting. The reasonable diversity of activities and challenges found throughout the city on the Wii U simply isn’t available. The more interesting challenges like Free Runs and car thefts are absent. The player can choose to pixel hunt for ATMs, pigs, and cats, but this version of LEGO City doesn’t really kindle that desire.

There are some bright spots in The Chase Return’s design. Instead of running to a police booth, you can customize Chase’s disguises at any time. Since the game couldn’t feature the multi-district car chases that punctuated the gameplay of the Wii U LEGO City game, the missions do a decent job highlighting each of the city’s districts. Finally, the vehicles handle a bit better, especially when turning corners. None of these changes elevate The Chase Returns to being a good game, but they would have been nice changes to LEGO City on the Wii U.

More disappointing than the underwhelming gameplay is the game’s story. Players who enjoyed the characters in LEGO City Undercover likely have questions they would like answered. Why did Chase become a cop? Why does Dunby dislike Chase? How did Chase bust Rex Fury, and how did Dunby end up taking credit? How did Chase mess up and expose his witness and love interest, Natalia Kowalski, resulting in his banishment from LEGO City?

Sadly, The Chase Begins answers few of these questions. Those it addresses are done so in a disappointingly incomplete or banal manner. In fact, the entire story of The Chase Begins feels like it was cobbled together without enough time to do it justice. Characters, including Chase himself, are barely introduced and completely undeveloped. Dunby simply hates Chase from the start, for seemingly no reason. Chase and Natalia’s relationship is confusing, as they go from complete strangers to a giggly romantic couple completely off-stage. The generic villains are quickly introduced, immediately defeated, and never seen again. Storyline threads are introduced and then dropped completely as Chase moves on to the next set of missions.

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins Screenshot

Even the narrative of Chase’s police career feels incomplete and disappointing. It seems like this game’s script was set in stone before the final narrative of the Wii U game was cemented. Events that are described in Lego City Undercover happen differently in The Chase Begins. Chase meets several characters in the 3DS game, like Professor Kowalski and Forrest Blackwell, that he supposedly met for the first time in the Wii U game. In essence, the story in The Chase Begins is both internally inconsistent and contradictory with the story in the original LEGO City Undercover game. New players will find it dull and LEGO City Undercover fans will find it highly unsatisfactory.

In my final estimation, it simply appears that TT Fusion didn’t have the time or resources to properly produce a portable version of LEGO City Undercover creating its excellent Wii U game. I’d complain that the game is over almost as quickly as it begins, but I was already tired of it by the time the credits rolled. Compare that to the Wii U game, which I am still exploring to find all the secrets long after finishing the main campaign.

With so many great games available on the 3DS, there’s no reason for gamers to subject themselves to this under baked, disjointed, and sometimes tedious experience. Get LEGO City on Wii U or buy a better LEGO game on a platform you own.

Even with decent technical quality for the 3DS, the graphics fail to portray LEGO City properly. 2.6 Control
The controls work, but gameplay, especially the too-frequent combat, is mind-numbingly dull after a short while. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The recycled music is fine, but the sound effects are obnoxious and there’s almost no voice acting. 2.4 Play Value
The main campaign is a dull slog despite being short. This version of LEGO City simply isn’t interesting to explore. 2.5 Overall Rating – Average
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.

Review Rating Legend
0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid 2.5 – 2.9 = Average 3.5 – 3.9 = Good 4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
2.0 – 2.4 = Poor 3.0 – 3.4 = Fair 4.0 – 4.4 = Great 5.0 = The Best

Game Features:

  • Explore LEGO City and the story of Chase McCain on the go.
  • Use unique disguises to catch the bad guys.
  • Explore the collector’s paradise that is LEGO City.
  • Discover the origins of Chase McCain.

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