RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.RF Generation.  The Classic and Modern Gaming Databases.

Posted on Jul 21st 2017 at 08:00:00 AM by (GrayGhost81)
Posted under reviews, lego, 3ds, nintendo

I've been a casual fan of the modern variations of the LEGO games since the first LEGO Star Wars game. I love playing them with my wife and the easy, low-stakes gameplay makes for a balanced experience for players of differing skill levels. Last year I played LEGO Batman 2 on the Nintendo DS and I thought it was a fine hand-held counterpart to the console version of the game. I knew then that LEGO games on hand-helds had the potential to be great, and was looking forward to trying another one in the future. I recently played through another LEGO title on a more advanced piece of hardware. How did it stack up?

I think it is important to note that I have not played the original version of LEGO City Undercover but I was intrigued by its almost universal praise. Although I do not own a Wii U, I am looking forward to playing the recently released port of the game on the PS4. I mention this because it seems most reviews of the 3DS version of the game which I have seen or read are from the perspective of someone who played the console game first. From that perspective, it is impossible not to have certain expectations. What I experienced was independent of any other version of the game.

LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins is actually a prequel to the console game, but it shares the environments and characters. Players take control of Chase McCain, a rookie police officer on the Lego City police force. The game is laid out in typical open-world fashion with plot-related missions appearing on the map to be triggered by the player. The map is pretty large for a hand-held game, but is divided into sections that require the player to endure a hefty loading screen in between each one. Chase can traverse the world on foot, or can commandeer and vehicle on the streets, Grand Theft Auto style. The on-foot mobility is identical to any console LEGO game, and the circle-pad on the 3DS is more than adequate to move Chase around. The driving can be a little slippery, but it gets the job done. As far as I can tell, the driving is just a means to get around the game world, and only a few times was I asked to use a vehicle in a mission. Unless I missed them, there are no vehicle races. This is a bit of a missed opportunity as I feel the vehicles were under-utilized in general in this game, even though there is a good amount of variety in the vehicle types, speeds, and sizes.

Image courtesy of Giant Bomb

Mission structure typically involves climbing, fighting, and a little bit of using Chase's special abilities, which are unlocked as the game progresses and represented by a costume change. For example, as an astronaut Chase can fly an teleport from on specific point to another. As a miner, he can clear rocks from his path with a pickaxe. These actions are completely contextual and not open to any creativity on the part of the player, but they add a tiny bit of variety to the gameplay as well as the overall visual presentation. Costumes can be changed via a touch-screen menu but thankfully they are also keyed to left and right on the d-pad for fast switching.

The combat in this game is pretty different from any LEGO superhero game I have played, and I think it is to the game's detriment. For some reason, Chase does not punch or kick his enemies but rather throws and tumbles with them until a button prompt appears over the enemy to apply handcuffs. The lack of any tangible impact in the combat system left it feeling very unsatisfying, with one exception. Where circumstances allow, Chase can hold and then throw enemies off of buildings or high ledges. I was very happy when I was able to do this, even if it is kind of silly. You cannot engage in legitimate fisticuffs, but you can actually murder perpetrators by chucking them off of high rooftops. 

Image courtesy of GameRant.com

There isn't much of a story to the game, though I don't think it is very necessary. The story is basically Chase's mission to apprehend the main villain, Rex Fury. Along the way, Chase will take down Rex's underlings. There is also a love interest in reporter Natalia Kowalski. Apparently, there are few story connections in the console game, but I won't get into them here because they may be considered spoilers. Suffice it to say, you may not want to come to this game for a rich piece of fiction. Further, the way the story is presented is a little jarring, as the cutscenes are presented in muddy, compressed video clips that are not in 3D. Though there are enough of them to let you know what is happening, they are few and far between.   

All in all, while I wouldn't say anyone should go out of his/her way to play this game, you could do a lot worse. I would recommend this game especially for those with younger children who you'd like to introduce to the concept of an open world game. The experience was the closest thing I have played so far to a handheld version of a console LEGO game.

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Thanks for the review.  I used to go crazy for open world games back in the day and went out of my way to play them (remember Sitting Ducks for PS2?).  Since then I've chilled out a bit, but usually become interested when an unorthodox game shows up.  This looks to be one of those, so I think I'll keep an eye out.

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