TT Games have been making Lego games for…ooh, almost a decade now (the first Lego Star Wars game appeared in 2005). Many of the games were based off existing stories and characters, but the time has come for new Lego characters to emerge as video games. Enter Chase McCain in Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins. Let’s hit the streets of Lego City and see if we have what it takes to keep the City safe.
Lego City Undercover is actually two games: Lego City Undercover, the Wii U version of the game, and Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins, the Nintendo 3DS prequel. It’s a pun, geddit? The Chase begins—it’s about how Chase became a hero in the first place. Oh never mind. (Ed: Ba-dum tish.)
If you’ve ever played any of the Lego games before (and we’ve reviewed a fair number of them around here!), you’ll be thoroughly familiar with the way the various game mechanics work. You control a rookie cope named Chase McCain, and as a sandbox game, you have full access to the entirety of Lego City. If you feel like it, you’re free to either follow the story or go rampaging through the city willy-nilly. What’s fantastic is that the city FEELS alive, more so than other DS or 3DS games I’ve seen so far. There are vehicles rumbling up and down the roads, pedestrians strolling around, and animals in evidence all over the place.
It plays a lot like Lego Batman 2 in many respects. There’s the sandbox city to play around in, the various outfits that are linked to specific functions, and the many many vehicles to drive around in. It’s never left as too much of a puzzle for players to figure out which outfit to don for which function, though some experienced players will be making short work of unlocking and looting the entire city of bricks. That being said, like all Lego games, there is a LOT to do. You’ll be rounding up criminal one minute, getting involved in a high-speed chase the next, and then helping citizens of Lego City find their assorted lost things in between. Unlike prior Lego games, the story isn’t sequestered off from the rest of the game, but blends with the experience quite seamlessly. It’s pleasant knowing that I’m not stuck in incredibly linear areas that I’d have to play through multiple times!
Despite the familiarity of the gameplay, there are a couple of neat new mechanics in Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins. My favourite one is the wiretapping, allowing you to listen in on criminals’ chit-chats. You use the 3DS’s motion functionality to zone in on the right frequencies and hear the conversation. You’ll need to do it as part of some of the story missions, so you’ll get ample use of it. There are many other mechanics tied to the touch screen and motion sensor, including safe-cracking and sight-seeing with binoculars dotted around the city. Bear in mind that this game is aimed at younger players, so experienced gamers will find very little struggle here.
Adding to the newness is the fact that, not only are you collecting studs and Red Bricks, you now also have new Super Bricks. These are part of just about every breakable in the game, and you’ll need a small fortune’s worth of them to build structures. Each time you build something, a funky little animation plays showing its construction. In a way, it makes you look forward to building the things. These structures are expensive enough that you’re going to take a lot of time just breaking enough things to amass a sufficient number of Super Bricks. Have at it, boyo! Good thing the Lego games are all about breaking the living blocks out of everything you can find to break.
On the downside, you’re going to have to put up with some silly loading times, especially when you’re first firing up the game. Despite the cop-focused story, the combat is the game’s weakest gameplay point. Most battles can be won off consecutive presses of a single button. The animations that play are fun, but there’s no feeling that you actually beat the stuffing out of any little yellow plastic criminals.
I’ve always enjoyed the Lego games, and they’ve just been getting better and better with each new game. Lego City Undercover: The Chase Begins is a bold new step away from established stories and characters and towards fleshing out and building on Lego’s own IP. I had a great time with this game; still am, in fact. After the story ends, there is still a lot to do: studs to collect, secrets to unearth, red bricks to uncover, buildings to…err…build. It’s actually impressive what TT Games managed to pack into a handheld game. It’s an entire city, for the love of Lego! I enjoyed getting to know Chase McCain and seeing Lego City come to life, especially since my two kids are absolute hounds for Lego City stuff. Yes, their generous grandparents have made sure our floors are a bare foot’s worst nightmare. With this game, my feet are safer. However, since I only have the one 3DS, I’m going to have to figure out how to get the two of them to stop fighting over it.
Final Score: 7.5 rookie cop prawns out of 10
Developer: TT Games
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa
Age Rating: 3+
Platform: Nintendo 3DS