Chase HQ (Game Boy) review
"Before I became a licensed driver, many of my weekend nights were spent roaming the darkened aisles of the local arcade. On occasions when I had some extra money, a couple of my tokens would invariably end up in the belly of Chase H.Q. Perhaps I was drawn to the game by a keen sense of justice, a need to track down the bad guys and put them in their place. Maybe I enjoyed the adrenaline rush created by racing against the clock, weaving my shiny red car through traffic, doing anything to..."
Before I became a licensed driver, many of my weekend nights were spent roaming the darkened aisles of the local arcade. On occasions when I had some extra money, a couple of my tokens would invariably end up in the belly of Chase H.Q. Perhaps I was drawn to the game by a keen sense of justice, a need to track down the bad guys and put them in their place. Maybe I enjoyed the adrenaline rush created by racing against the clock, weaving my shiny red car through traffic, doing anything to reach the next stage. Mostly, though, I played it because, with my hands the tiny plastic steering wheel and my foot firmly planted on the accelerator, I was as close to the driving experience as I would be for a couple of years. Obviously, many of the game’s superficial elements could not survive the game's transition to the Game Boy, but with the potential for blood-pumping high speed pursuits, the port still had a chance to be an exciting game. Unfortunately, thanks to a lack of creative effort, this version of Chase H.Q. is a short and repetitive waste of time.
Chase H.Q. has a simple premise: you are an elite police officer, the best driver on the force. Your job is to chase down every lowlife fugitive from justice that rolls through the territory. To accomplish this task, you use a modified, state-of-the-art sports car. The car is so powerful, in fact, that it will immediately incinerate any normal vehicle upon impact. This power is necessary, however, because in order to apprehend your prey you must ram his vehicle into flaming submission. Unfortunately, one can never obtain a detailed look at the cars in the game, as the camera follows behind the action, leaving only a rear view.
Instead of admiring the cars, though, one will first notice the game's incredibly short length. Chase H.Q. features five levels, each timed to last under two minutes. With a total playing time of less than ten minutes, anyone would initially regret paying even a few dollars for this title. That feeling, however, is quickly washed away by the realization that Chase H.Q. is unforgivably repetitive. The music, an upbeat tune that seems more appropriate for a leisurely drive than a hot pursuit, loops incessantly throughout the entire game. Also, regardless of the final destination, each level traverses the exact same stretch of one-way road, down to the rocks lining the highway. This single course isn't even exciting. The road is essentially a straight, vertical band in the center of the screen, with only gentle turns to the right or left.
However, just because a game is boring doesn't mean it's easy. Staying on the road itself is not a problem; the main challenge of this game is avoiding the slower moving cars that clog the road. In the beginning this isn't too difficult. Only one or two Sunday drivers appear at a time, and despite your car's inability to dart to the inside of the oh-so-gentle turns, it's perfectly capable of weaving through the sparse traffic. In contrast, the later levels will inundate you with wave after wave of nonstop vehicular torture. Given that you can only pass on the outside of a turn, you will frequently run off the road, twisting your car around a lamppost, or end up taking the lives of quite a few innocent passersby. Hitting one of these obstacles not only slows you down but also sends your car out of control; towards the end of the game you'll frequently have to come to a virtual stop to regain your bearings. It takes both great will and skill to navigate through each level unscathed.
However, just because the game is difficult doesn't mean it's not easy to beat. Realizing that many players would lack the skill needed to complete the game, and that even more would lack the will, the developers kindly bestowed the player with a whopping four continues, each good for an immediate extra sixty seconds. These superfluous continues are basically an invitation not the try and improve. Anyone could put forth a half-hearted effort and still complete the game in less than an hour after picking it up for the first time. It is fitting, though. After all, since the developers obviously didn't to put their full effort into the game, why should you have to put forth a good effort to beat it?
As a last example of this game's void of creative thinking, consider the names of the criminals you pursue. There's Ralph the Car Thief, Carlos the Jewel Thief, Andrew the Industrial Spy, and Antonio the Foreign Terrorist. Finally, the last level features the vilest of all the fugitives: Tyrone the Wanted Criminal. Wanted Criminal?!? Well, one would certainly hope you're not killing half the population to bring in Tyrone the Litterbug. It's this lack of attention to the details that makes this game so disappointing. The concept of the game is worthwhile, but its execution is marred by the constant repetition of elements: the music and, most notably, the single barren stretch of road used for all the levels. If you need to play Chase H.Q., go find it in an arcade. This version just wastes batteries.
Community review by woodhouse (May 23, 2004)
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