LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2013-05-05 Nintendo 3DS Action/Adventure E10 (Everyone 10+) TT Fusion / Nintendo

LEGO City Undercover was the first LEGO game released on Wii U, borrowing mechanics from Grand Theft Auto, only with the player in the shoes of a police officer. The Chase Begins is basically a prequel to the Wii U game, taking place two years before Chase McCain returns to LEGO City, and featuring his first confrontation with the villain Rex Fury.

The core of the game revolves around missions that take place on a free-roaming environment that you can explore to your heart's content. McCain goes from donut fetching boy to crime fighter in no time, so the pace of the missions is quite good. In fact, if you move from one to the next, you might even forget about exploring.

The gameplay itself is varied. As a police officer, Chase can follow tracks to discover clues, by using the gyroscope, he can wiretap certain buildings and listen in on the evil-doers' conversations. He can also do some acrobatics such as climbing vines, swing on poles, bounce on trampolines or balance on a tight rope. There is some combat, which isn't quite the button-masher I expected, but instead a series of throws, grabs and placing of handcuffs to arrest the baddies while they're down.

There are also some car chases involved, and at first I thought this was going to be annoying because the vehicles don't handle all that well, but then I realized that most of these chases had specific routes and that I could ambush the runaway vehicle in certain spots and ram into them that way. There were some on-foot chases as well, and just as I thought I was loosing my suspect (fell off a high place and had to backtrack), I noticed that he was just standing somewhere not running anymore. Until I got close again.

Of course, there are items to be assembled from LEGO blocks to create useful structures or entire buildings, and a series of different costumes that allow Chase to access specific abilities for all occasions. For example, the thief costume lets you open safes (turning the dial on the touch screen) or pry open doors with a crowbar, the construction worker costume lets you use a hammer drill and handle high voltage properly, the farmer suit lets you ride pigs, use a chicken to glide or... shoot eggs out of the chicken's butt. Yep. It does. Costumes always leave you wondering what next, and they are a lot of fun to use.

Progressing through the different missions will unlock more areas of the city to explore. Mission locations are always marked on the map, but there's always plenty to do in between, even if it's just breaking things to collect bricks to build landmarks later. There are certain spots where you can view the landscape to collect postcards, and they will be missing landmarks, so you must collect a certain amount of bricks before you are able to build them and collect the respective postcards.

What truly hinders the free-roaming experience is the loading issues. The city is broken up into areas, and going from one to the next can take sometimes up to a minute of loading. And after it loads, many times it will look mostly empty, until people, vehicles and objects all of a sudden pop into view. While it's annoying and distracting, it doesn't damage the actual gameplay.

The Nintendo 3DS capabilities may limit the content, but I have to say that the ability to see the LEGO world in 3D is absolutely charming.

While LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins has its downfalls, I personally enjoyed exploring a LEGO game for the LEGO world, instead of having another movie tie-in. Sure, there are the long loading times, short draw distance, limited voice acting, and few and far between collectibles. But keeping in mind that this is a handheld title with short missions that you can play in a few minutes, the 10-12 hours of gameplay should be well worth a try for anyone who is into LEGO games.