Release Date: April 21 (North America), April 26 (Europe)
Platforms available on: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: TT Fusion
Though LEGO City Undercover doesn't have much in the way of competition on a Wii U system starved of software, it's one of the console's better exclusives, and definitely one of the more entertaining releases in a LEGO series going from strength to strength.
Due to hardware limitations, Nintendo 3DS counterpart The Chase Begins isn't quite able to build on its predecessor's successful debut, but still manages to provide enough entertainment for younger fans looking for new adventures on the streets of LEGO City.
Serving as a prequel to LEGO City Undercover, The Chase Begins explores Chase McCain's rookie days in the LEGO City police force, using many of the same characters and attempting, with mixed results, to replicate the humour of the original.
Unfortunately, where LEGO City Undercover referenced movies and used voice acting to great effect, hardware limitations have forced TT Fusion to keep spoken cutscenes to a minimum, something which ultimately detracts from the hilarity.
Instead, many of the game's cutscenes rely on sight gags and facial expressions to keep fans smiling, something which worked well in licensed releases such as LEGO Star Wars, but doesn't quite have the same impact in a lesser-known franchise.
Comedy moments can still be found - Chief Dunby's continued attempts to impress a news crew is sure to raise a smile - but without a constant string of movie jokes and one-liners, the prequel story is less entertaining.
Fortunately, in terms of gameplay, The Chase Begins employs many of the same features that made the original such an enjoyable game to play.
- Unfortunately, where LEGO City Undercover referenced movies and used voice acting to great effect, hardware limitations have forced TT Fusion to keep spoken cutscenes to a minimum, something which ultimately detracts from the hilarity.
Though shorter than LEGO City Undercover, it still clocks in at around 12 hours, and is incredibly well paced and very much suited to the handheld format.
Missions typically involve a combination of driving, platforming and fighting gangs, while diverse and entertaining boss fights are frequently used to bring a chapter to its conclusion.
The mission structure is a little formulaic, but with so much variety, the game never becomes stale. The combat remains incredibly basic, however, which means that players looking for a challenge are better off searching elsewhere.
Instead, LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is much more geared towards entertainment and simply enjoying the environment, looking for secret bricks, disguises and keys to unlock brand new areas.
Much like its Wii U counterpart, there's a hell of a lot to discover within the city itself, although exploration is hampered by long loading times between sections, something which makes driving around the city for no particular reason much less enjoyable.
- Despite its flaws, LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is a charming release, packed with diverse missions, mostly impressive visuals and a great cast of characters.
For the most part, however, the graphics are on par with the Wii U version, which is impressive considering the differences in power between the two devices. The game is cute and colourful, and features a generous supply of famous landmarks, which, when viewed in specific locations, unlocks postcards.
Surprisingly, the camera also performs satisfactorily, something which is very difficult to achieve on a system with only one analogue stick.
Players have the option to move the camera with the right button, but it's largely robust and flexible enough to follow the action by itself, barring a few high-speed chase sequences.
We were also impressed with the way the developers have utilised the system's additional functions.The gyroscopic sensors, for example, are used to wiretap buildings and listen in on conversations, while the touchscreen can be used to enter safe combinations.
We remain disappointed with the lack of online functionality, because the game would certainly benefit from the same co-operative play present in most other LEGO releases. It's a surprising omission considering the number of additional characters and disguises.
Despite its flaws, LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is a charming release, packed with diverse missions, mostly impressive visuals and a great cast of characters.
It's not as laugh-out-loud funny as its predecessor, and hardware limitations do have an adverse effect on the experience, which means that while LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is a great game for youngsters, it doesn't have the same widespread appeal.