I feel like the Game Boy iteration of Data East’s maze runner Lock ‘n’ Chase isn’t given the credit it deserves. True, at first glance, it looks like a Pac-Man clone – but really, it’s far more clever than a mere aping of Namco’s classic. Sure, you need to dart through a maze, avoid cops (ghosts), collect coins (dots), and pick up bonus items. But Lock ‘n’ Chase adds some really neat frills to an otherwise worn formula: Doors, false walls, gates, alarm clocks, and question boxes that, for whatever reason, shrink cops down into harmless, wibbling kitten-like critters.
Oh, and the game stars an armless, legless version of gentleman thief Arsene Lupin. He’s pretty cute, even if on paper he sounds like an argument for euthanization.
Like most Game Boy titles, Lock ‘n’ Chase is short, though there is a hard mode to work through once you finish the game. So if you do wind up playing it, take your time to soak in what’s arguably the game’s best feature: Its soundtrack.
Lock ‘n’ Chase taught me that Game Boy music is meant to be appreciated through headphones. There’s some remarkable stuff up for grabs here; every track is suited for its environment. The first level of each stage functions as a training ground for whatever gimmick prevails in that stage set, so you get an airy, playful tune. A driving, ordered track accompanies you as you scramble through gates that seem to open and close way too slowly when you have a cop on your tail. And there’s a tricky, happy “A-ha!” sort of song that plays in the magic door levels.
So you finish. Lupin gets a huge diamond and is filthy rich. And you notice a familiar name in the sound credits: “S. Sakai.” Shogo Sakai. HAL Labs’ music composer who is still with the company and worked on, among other things, Super Smash Bros Melee, Super Smash Bros Brawl, and Mother 3.
Goes to show talent shines through regardless of whether your tools are a full orchestra or a chip capable of some tinny bleeps and bloops.