Last month we sang the praises of LEGO City: Undercover, deeming it essential for anyone with a Wii U. It's not the only title featuring Chase McCain: he also stars in this 3DS adventure. Unfortunately, it never manages to scale the heady heights reached by its bigger brother on Wii U.
The Chase Begins - see what's happened there? - is a prequel to Undercover and turns back the clock in order to explain how the rookie cop became a legend in the LEGO City police force (earning him the devoted love of Frank Honey) and how he put Rex Fury behind bars - a tale only briefly mentioned in Undercover's intro.
It's little wonder Chase doesn't feel a sense of déjŕ vu during Undercover, because much of the stuff he gets up to in The Chase Begins is similar to what happens in the Wii U game. You'll still be dressing up as a construction worker, a crook, a farmer and all those other daft disguises from Undercover. You'll still be visiting Albatross Island, the docks and various other locations featured in the later game. Sure, the missions you'll be undertaking are different, but the game often feels very familiar.
You might think that would be a bad thing, but it isn't really. After all, Undercover is a great game and TT Fusion has bravely tried to recreate its vast open world on the less powerful 3DS. Unfortunately, it failed to replicate another key component of the Wii U game: the comedy.
The Chase Begins has far less funnier bones than Undercover. The silly jokes, clever spoofs and brilliant dialogue between the characters have been replaced with a handful of average cutscenes and loads of text-heavy dialogue which, while functional, are rarely amusing and never hilarious.
The lack of voice acting in all but a few scenes is disappointing and the text boxes stay onscreen for so long (and can't be advanced with the A button) that the script becomes more annoying than entertaining, which is a great shame, considering the Wii U game's laugh-packed chats. It says a lot when a scene in which a pig tries to drive away in a tractor doesn't raise so much as a smirk.
This isn't the only disappointment in The Chase Begins. Loading times were frustrating enough in LEGO City: Undercover but are even more infuriating here considering the game's running off a cartridge and is designed for handheld play. We entered a loading screen while leaving one London Underground station and - no word of a lie - the loading had only just stopped by the time we arrived at the next station.
Throw in the fact that these lengthy load times don't just appear at the start of the game but also appear during the open-world section when you're walking into a new region and you've got a few frustrating waits on your hands.
It's lacking visually, too. That the less powerful 3DS wouldn't quite be able to make LEGO City the vibrant, bustling city it is on the Wii U is perfectly understandable, but we didn't expect it to look like Silent Hill. Thick fog (to hide having to render distant buildings) smothers the city and roads and pavements are far less crowded, making it feel like you're wandering around a post-apocalyptic LEGO City. The characters' faces don't move, making in-game cutscenes feel awkward and the frame rate is clunky if you're playing in 3D (it holds up better in 2D, though).