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Lock'N Chase - 3DS VC Review

Game Info
Lock'N Chase

3DS Virtual Console | Data East / G-mode | 1 Player | Out Now | $2.99 / £2.70
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26th March 2012; By KnucklesSonic8

Mappy being one of my favourite arcade game discoveries, you could say that I love playing as thief-chasing enforcers of the law. In Lock'N Chase, though, the shoe is on the other foot: the chaser is now being chased. What may appear to be a mere copycat of an already super successful game is, in actuality, an inspired take on that same formula with a commendable amount of positive attributes.

    You take on the role of a thief who intends on robbing a string of banks of all their goodies. One by one, you'll have to outsmart the security force in order to wipe them out clean. Despite his sneaky intentions, the main character can be seen as a cute, yet sketchier version of Pac-Man in disguise, collecting oodles of gold and treasures for his own ends. Far from bumbling, the guards are actually pretty good at their jobs. Perhaps they attended the same training conference as Inky, Blinky, and the rest of the ghost gang! With the way the AI gets smarter just by Stage 2, you'd think they were using walkie talkies to coordinate traps or something. In all seriousness, though, this is the kind of challenge principle that led Pac-Man to be so successful, and as a continuing theme throughout, whatever Lock'N Chase borrows, it replicates well and adds to it to give the game that extra leg up.

    In making use of the Circle Pad to control the thief, it becomes semi-important to make hard movements with your thumb as, if you're not careful, you can slip into an alley you weren't intending to proceed through. Despite being a bit slower than the dot-munching activities you may be used to, the challenge level in this game is still pretty high. For one, you're unable to see the map in full unless you press Pause and move the Circle Pad or +Control Pad around. Because of this, it's not uncommon for you to forget to consider a particular enemy as you formulate a plan of action to collect all the pellets of money in a given stage. Additionally, certain guards actually move at a faster pace than you do and can catch up a lot quicker. But after much time has been spent on a particular level, all enemies will move at a faster speed, thereby making the robbery an even dangerous task. Despite the intimidating feelings this may produce, this is all part of what makes the game resonate on the long term.

Better still, the presence of a wide assortment of stage exploits makes each new layout interestingly attractive. In some stages, alarm clocks are set up to awaken any night-shift workers sleeping on the job, which can ensue a measure of tension if you wind up being cornered by multiple guards coming from opposite directions. In other cases, you'll find strange buttons that shrink and immobilize one group of enemies, while the other (usually faster) group continues to give chase. Moving beyond these, the layouts do take on a gutsier feel with much more at stake as you move forward. Players can pass through walls and sealed-off rooms at specific hidden openings, as well as activate laser barriers, pass through interconnected doors, and trigger movable doors that only stay open for a few seconds. Taking advantage of these can prove to be a great strategy that keeps gameplay moving and ensures players feel and remain engaged in the process.

    By the same token, however, these domineering elements can also backfire on you, trapping you in a closed area with no possible method of escape. In another sense, you could be facing a certain laser trap as you're walking away from an enemy that's on your tail, but as you press the A Button to activate it, you may accidentally trigger one up ahead instead. Recognizing the role they play in the game design and the focus on strategy, reflexes and planning, these self-inflicted predicaments do not turn into a source of great frustration. Simply put, the notable affordance of being able to trick and trap the cops through these exploits is easily the most endearing part about this whole game.

Words like "repetitive" and "predictable" can't even be associated with this game because of the varying situational circumstances you find yourself in, with each one presenting challenges that differ from the last in the kind of approach you need to take. This is why 
Lock'N Chase is so easy to fall in love with. While the levels do switch things up on a consistent basis, there are two pick-ups that serve as a constant helping element. Taking the place of Pac-Man's fruit bonuses, sacks of money appear at random that can cause all enemies to pout in upset long enough for you to sneak past. And, like the blinking pellets, gems enable you to temporarily knock any enemies in your path completely off the screen, which is always fun in itself.

    The game may be small in scope, but it sure packs a punch when it comes to the efforts in the music department. With wonderfully retro sounds and a really memorable selection of tracks, Lock'N Chase sure doesn't disappoint. The graphics are pretty good as well, with nothing feeling ordinary or plain. Looking at the presentation in a broader sense, I just loved the progression of the thief's crime spree, as illustrated in each of the main stages. He'll start off each round visiting banks and running off at the conclusion of the third level. Slowly, his getaways become more and more daring as they involve the use of a car, a jetpack, and even a hot air balloon. By the time he breaks out the plane, he'll be off to bigger and better things. As he makes his way to the Egyptian pyramids, there he will be met with tighter security and even a final puzzle-based diamond heist to pull off at the very end of it all. Breaking things up in between each set of levels is a bonus game where a slot machine gives you the opportunity to add to your life count. All in all, personality is definitely a big part of what makes the game instantly enjoyable, testified by the overall quirkiness that emerges from good presentation.

After sitting through the Credit Roll, players will have the same amount of stages to go through for a second time, mixing in both familiar and new stage elements. As you make mistakes (as you often will) and wind up depleting your life count, you can resume play at the stage where you left off, easily allowing you to see the different variants presented therein without feeling like you need to put up with an arduous process in order to see everything. Even without these additions, though, the game is super easy to come back to, which is an accomplishment in itself.

    It only took a few short minutes before I was hooked, and each new stage that I visited made me fall in love with the game more and more. So t
o say that I liked this game wouldn't even be scratching the surface. It's quirky, instantly fun to play, and the game holds up really, really well. My only regret is not knowing about this game's existence sooner. You'd be wrong to dismiss Lock'N Chase solely on the reasoning that it looks like a Pac-Man clone. While it does take much inspiration from that arcade title, its own share of strong design elements make the $3 price tag seem like nothing to ask at all. I can easily see lots of different audiences admiring the joyful take, but this game comes highly recommended for old school gamers in particular.

27/30 - Excellent

Gameplay 9/10 - Strong mechanics come together the more they're fleshed out, varied layouts and stage exploits, borrows from Pac-Man and builds on it
Presentation 8/10 - Lots of personality makes this a very quirky title, even the getaway sequences are nice touches, music is fun-filled and memorable
Enjoyment 5/5 - The ability to outsmart the security guards is explored very well through a bunch of different traps, endearing emphasis on strategy
Extra Content 5/5 - Really replayable and super easy to come back to, another full set of levels to complete after seeing the credits, slot machine bonuses

Equivalent to a score of 90% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System

Review by KnucklesSonic8

Lock'N Chase
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