Chase H.Q. – Done In 60 Seconds

 

It was 2013, and to me, the Game Boy never looked so good! A blue freezer bag, filled to the brim of small, grey plastic carts, and a tattered cardboard box of AA batteries. I was ready to conquer whatever I pulled out first. What would my first adventure of the weekend be? Super Mario Land? How about Metroid II? Ooo, maybe I’d pull out Kirby’s Dreamland!? The Nintendo gods had other plans for me. Reaching in I pulled out a game I’d never heard of before; from a genre I rarely played. It was Chase H.Q. Little did I know, 60-seconds behind the wheel of my souped-up Porsche was all it took to get me hooked.

 

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“This is Nancy at Chase HQ. We have an emergency here…”

 

Chase H.Q. was released by Taito in 1990, as a port of their 1988 arcade hit. Clearly, the original’s fidelity was lost on the handheld’s primitive tech, but the fun-factor was there in spades! “This is Nancy at Chase HQ. We have an emergency here…”. A strong start that puts you in the driver seat right from the get-go, chasing down 5 of America’s Most Wanted criminals. Each of the game’s levels has you speeding (up to a maximum of 159mph, of course) down the highways, dodging traffic, tunnels and tumbleweeds (possibly bushes?), in pursuit of these dastardly foes. 60 seconds is all you got to catch and demolish their rides, so weaving in and out of harm’s way is critical. But don’t think hugging the shoulder will keep you safe! Those tempting outskirts are littered with phone poles, boulders and firmly-rooted cacti that are sure to send you spinning out of control.

 

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“You’ll have to put all your skills (and Turbo Boosts) to the test…”

 

The first level went by in a jiffy. The hours upon hours of High School Math classes spent playing RACE on my TI-83 calculator had me swerving in and out like Mach Rider, and Ralph the Car Thief was no match for my wheelman skills. Carlos the Jewel Thief in level 2 suffered a similar ‘first-try’ fate. But then came Andrew. Oh, Andrew – an Industrial Spy whose Italian Sports car just wouldn’t break down! I’ll admit, a few choice words were exchanged when I finally apprehended him, and it gave me the drive I needed to make quick work of Antonio the Foreign Terrorist. The fifth and final hit on the list was Tyrone the…Wanted Criminal. Admittedly a lame title for the baddest fugitive of all; especially in comparison with the Arcade counterparts – the Idaho Slasher, the Chicago Pushers, the L.A. Kidnapper. But despite the lacklustre gravitas his name entails, taking him out is no joke. You’ll have to put all your skills (and Turbo Boosts) to the test and swerve the curves like the best of ’em. In time though, you’ll get it right, and that shiny Medal of Valor will be yours!

 

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“As a whole, it’s not a graphical marvel, but it works, and that’s what counts.”

 

Graphically, it’s a Game Boy game. Greyscale cityscapes and mountain vistas line the horizon, with the roadways being defined by striped lines on either side of its boundaries. Exercise a bit of imagination though, and that generic drive down a nondescript highway could become a hot-desert chase to apprehend Carlos before he reaches Vegas. The cars are equally cookie-cutter, despite the game’s efforts of identifying German Sports Cars or Italian Coupes. Incorporating motorcycles, or semi-trucks, or even just throwing some giant square pixels in the mix and calling them Nissan Cubes (…*shudders) would have added a few sprinkles of well-needed variety. The upper third of the screen is your HUD. Points, Speed, Time, Distance, Gear, Damage Meters, Turbo Boosts, and the first few chapters of War and Peace – anything an everything you need (and don’t) in one place. As a whole, it’s not a graphical marvel, but it works, and that’s what counts.

 

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“I’ve always had an affinity for the creative achievements of the Game Boy chiptunes…”

 

What also works, is the music. I’ve always had an affinity for the creative achievements of the Game Boy chiptunes, and this is a great example. There’s a small roster of unique tracks, and all sound great. The upbeat rhythm of the Idaho theme. The deeper, more menacing notes of the Chicago theme. The satisfying wind-down fanfare of the Arrest sequences. Each piece just fits. My particular favourite is called “This Is Chase H.Q.!” and just has a little bit of everything. Listen for yourself and tell me that this game doesn’t immediately sound like a fun time.

 

 

I’m not blind. I understand and appreciate that Chase H.Q. is an overly simple game. It doesn’t have much variety and lacks any replayability. And in honesty, has a slew of other ports that would serve the game much better. But there’s an endearing quality that inspired the fun and addictiveness that I was looking for that one weekend in 2013. I hope fellow readers can have a similar experience, and if you do, be sure to swing by the Cartridge Club forums to share. Nancy needs all the help she can get to rid the streets of more vermin!