Review by Retro

"Best. Pac-Man clone. Ever."

To be overlooked is to be virtually unknown; it's to be a great game that you never hear many, if anybody, brag about. Lock 'n Chase for the Game Boy is just that, terribly overlooked. On a usual trip to Wal-Mart with saved up cash on hand ready to buy a game, I had no certain one in mind. I just wanted a new game for the Game Boy, since Tetris and Super Mario Land were my only titles thus far. Only one game's back of the box really caught my eye like a Playboy magazine amongst a crowd of romance novels, and it was Lock 'n Chase.

When you play Lock 'n Chase for the first time, you'll immediately notice that it's a good bit like Pac-Man. But as you keep playing, you'll see that it's not just another clone. It's a lot more than that. You play as a mischievous robber who has a love for stealing things from banks in order to get rich quick. To begin with, he's walking down the road casually and then turns to face the screen as his eyeballs look from side to side before he quickly enters the door of the bank. Then the actual gameplay begins!

The idea of Lock 'n Chase is to collect all the gems that are lying around lazily on the ground in each level. Once you've collected every single gem in a stage, you go to the next stage, until you reach the very last one, in which you must do something else (yep, unlike Pac-Man, this game actually has an ending!). Every gem-collecting frenzy takes place in a bank whose insides are much like that of a maze.

As you might expect, being a robber isn't an easy task. Each level has a few policemen of different builds that have their sights set on capturing you before you become more loaded than Bill Gates. Whether it's a cop with a thick moustache, a fat one who walks like a duck, or a short, skinny one that jumps with every step he takes, the policemen are like your mom. They're always there. Just one touch from any cop will make you lose a life faster than the handcuffs can be slipped on.

But don't fret! You do have some defensive techniques that are on your side. From time to time, a large, glittering diamond will appear near the center of the maze. When you collect this valuable stone, you'll be invincible for a few seconds, and, instead of running from the cops, the cops will run from you! To satisfy your greedy instincts, a money bag will also show its face temporarily in the heart of the maze. Picking up a money bag will not only give you some major bonus points, but it will also make the policemen stop dead in their tracks and grimace in anger for many seconds. You can even walk through them while they're in this venting mood.

Finally, the reason the game is called Lock 'n Chase is because you can walk between what appears to be two metal dots that are facing each other and set up a wiry barrier that nobody (including you) can pass through. You can make as many as two of these barriers at a time. Each one will stay up for about 20 seconds, and then it'll disappear. Two at a time may not sound like much, but it's enough to make for some great strategies, such as literally trapping a policeman. You could say that that cop is in jail behind wiry barricades (not bars)!

The main thing that sets Lock 'n Chase apart from all other Pac-Man clones is its variety of levels. There are six worlds that each have three stages (beat the game and there are even more!!). The first world is pretty basic; you only run around collecting the gems while avoiding the relentless cops. As your quest unfolds, the levels keep getting more and more fun as the challenge also increases. You'll be able to use doors that open and close automatically when you're near (like those you see at a grocery store) to your advantage; run and touch question mark blocks to shrink policemen (which also makes them stationary) that are too close for comfort; stand inside a portal to be instantly transported to the other side of the screen where few cops are currently seen; literally walk through certain walls to collect every treasure in sight, but do not touch the alarm clock, or the sleeping cop will be woken up and your ass will likely be grass.

I also love how the game includes other things that add to its light-hearted personality. After each level, you'll be taken to a slot machine that serves as the game's bonus level. For each diamond you collect, you'll be given a turn. The slots are made up of certain things, such as pictures of a cop, the robber, diamonds, and other things you see often during gameplay. Even more memorable is what happens when you complete a world (that's what I call 'em). A short cinema will pop up, showing you, the robber, walking out of the bank and then doing something such as jumping in a car and hauling ass or strapping on a rocket pack and gliding up into the atmosphere on your way to the next bank.

For being one of the earliest Game Boy games (made in 1990 by Data East), Lock 'n Chase has great, detailed graphics. The robber and the cops have perfectly round heads that make up most of their body. They don't seem to have any arms or hands (even though they do on the cover art), but they have short, stubby legs and big feet. All the characters are animated nicely and very well drawn. The levels look pretty standard with solid-colored, basic-looking walls and floors. However, the cinemas that play in-between worlds have excellent graphics. The houses and lights in the background almost look real, and the starry sky overhead is a nice touch.

The sound is probably even better than the graphics are, which is saying a lot. Whether you're jumping up and down with glee after collecting a money bag, simply picking up diamonds, or listening to the slots spin frantically, the sound effects come in loud and clear, and they're very nice. Music is also one of Lock 'n Chase's best assets. From the fast beat of the invincibility track, to the mysterious tune that accompanies you right before you enter a bank that is so toned down it's almost whisper-like, to the unforgettable tracks that are heard during gameplay, the music always seems to go with the current environment, and it's some of the best I've ever heard from a Game Boy game.

Controlling the likeable robber is among the easiest of jobs. You only have to use the control pad to move in any of four directions, and press A or B to set up a sturdy barrier. Being able to pause the game and then use the control pad to look around the screen to see where the cops and any missed gems are located is a valuable and relevant ability.

There's no doubt in my mind that I've played Lock 'n Chase more than any of my other Game Boy games. While my collection is growing, I still play it more than often. It's always a fun title to plug in and play no matter what mood you're in, and its challenge is just right. Many levels will pose a great challenge, but it's not impossible to beat the game, nor is it too easy. If you ask me, I consider Lock 'n Chase to be a classic. It's my favorite Game Boy game (so far at least) and I'd even go so far as to call it an all time favorite. It is somewhat of a Pac-Man clone, yes, but it's much better in almost every way. The graphics and sounds are top notch, and it has things that Pac-Man doesn't have, such as variety, and different levels. It's really a crying shame that Lock 'n Chase is a game that has been so terribly overlooked through the years. If you don't have it in your collection, you're missing out on a lot of fun!


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 04/09/01, Updated 03/10/03


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