So the loading times may be a real pain, and playing a LEGO-ized version of Grand Theft Auto may not be everyone's cup of Joe, but LEGO City Undercover is one of the more enjoyable games on the Wii U right now. Traveller's Tales has done a superb job morphing a crime-fighting experience into an original world, one filled with plenty of humorous moments and white-knuckle action, especially later on in the game.
But that's not the only Undercover tale worthy of your attention. Traveller's Tales and Nintendo have also cooked up a handheld counterpart with The Chase Begins, a game that takes the similar structure of the Wii U version, but tightens it down with 3D visuals, better mission set-up, and plenty of collectibles. Though not as definitive as its big brother, this edition of LEGO City is still quite good.
In the game, you guide Chase McCain through his rookie days on the police force. It's here you'll learn how he meets his beloved Natalia, gains allies with Mayor Gleeson and Chief Dunby, and brushes elbows with the notorious Rex Fury. The story spans well over 40+ missions to complete throughout the city, some relatively easy, others a bit harder.
One thing you need to accept about the portable version of LEGO City is that some corners needed to be cut for the game to fit on the 3DS. You won't find the same extensive dialogue that you had in the Wii U version, and some of the jokes are cut short for the sake of getting right into the mission. For some, getting to the point might be a saving grace, but this does alleviate it of some charm. Not entirely, though.
Another thing you'll need to deal with is fog. LEGO City Undercover was a huge game on the Wii U, so cramming it into a handheld does have its limitations, namely with draw distance on buildings and, in some cases, frame rate. But the game still looks quite good in 3D, whether you're chasing criminals on the "mean" streets or scavenging back alleys to find secrets, such as aliens and red bricks. The cinematics have a certain charm to them, and it's great to see the world "pop out" at you with the 3D slider on. (You can play in regular 2D as well.)
Though the dialogue is limited, the sound effects are perfectly suited for this LEGO world, and the music is right up Chase's alley, like something you might hear in an episode of Starsky & Hutch (but obviously without the Huggy Bear vibe). The rest of it is typical LEGO stuff, mainly when you're building or knocking things apart.
When it comes to gameplay, LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins operates smoothly. You'll build objects, collect coins to earn collectibles, fight with criminals (with a basic yet effective brawling system), and get in chases. The car chases could've been better, as these crooks aren't exactly dealing with a full deck ("Hey, let's rob a bank and drive around in circles!"), but younger players will thoroughly enjoy them. Some missions have great variety as well, like chasing down rogue pigs. Yep, rogue pigs. There's still fun to be had here, and the controls handle well enough for all players to find something they enjoy.
Between the wide assortment of missions, a huge (if foggy) city to explore, and loads of collectibles, LEGO City Undercover: The Chase Begins isn't bad at all when it comes to passing the time on road trips. It certainly can't match the Wii U version, but it's a good second place game – and a decent companion if you couldn't get enough of that game.