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ChuChu Rocket Package Art
Sonic Team

ChuChu Rocket

Before Nintendo dreamed up the NES Mini line, Sega had something more ambitious in mind for our favorite handheld: to bring about a rebirth of some of its biggest Dreamcast properties. It all began with this quirky little launch game: ChuChu Rocket.


ChuChu Rocket was never really much of a graphical powerhouse even on the Dreamcast, so it's no surprise that it managed the transition to 2D without a hitch. Although the visuals are simple -- cat and mouse sprites, with minimal backgrounds -- it modestly shows off the GBA's ability to deal with dozens of sprites and tremendous speeds without a hitch.


All of the bouncy, happy tunes from the Dreamcast version are faithfully recreated for the portable outing, right down to the squeaky mouse voices. No real complaints here.


ChuChu Rocket is a difficult game to put into words. On the surface, the game is played on a 2D maze that fills with cats and mice. As these critters are running around, you place arrows on the floor of the maze to direct their movement. The object is to guide as many mice as possible into your rocket and keep the cats out.

However, this description does no justice to the chaos that ensues in a typical ChuChu match. Not only are up to four players vying for control of the mice -- with empty seats taken by the computer or removed entirely, at your option -- but the game moves at an unforgivable speed. Mice dash about so quickly that you'll need to make your decisions several seconds ahead of time to control them effectively. Cats can show up at any time, and they'll happily walk down the same trail of arrows that was bringing you hundreds of mice just seconds before. You only have three arrows to place at once, and they can disappear without warning, often at the most disadvantageous time. Special mice pop up that offer whopping 50-point bonuses or trigger events that can swing the outcome of a match in seconds. It would be infuriating if it wasn't so much fun. In the course of a two-minute match, the first place position changes hands so much that it's hard to keep track of. An ability to think quickly and plan ahead will serve you well, but just about every match can be turned around to keep things fair.

If the main battle mode doesn't trip your fancy, the game also features a slower-paced Puzzle mode. Cats and mice begin pre-deployed and you get a chance to place all of your arrows on the ground before setting things in motion. The catch is, you're restricted in the number and type of arrows you can use; if you're only given one left arrow, you'll have to figure out exactly where it should go to solve the puzzle. Puzzles are available in several difficulty levels, and as an added bonus, over 2000 puzzles designed by ChuChu fans from all over the world have been included for your gaming pleasure. It's certainly a lot of bang for your buck.

To make up for the lack of buttons on the GBA, the game offers three control options. In the first, you just tap A or B over a spot until an arrow appears that's facing the direction you want. In the second, you hold down A and press the control pad in the direction you want the arrow to face. In the third, just like on the Dreamcast, one arrow direction is mapped to each of the GBA's buttons: L is left, R is right, A is up, and B is down. I found the second setup to be quite satisfactory, and the third is certainly feasible for the true pros out there. Either way, Dreamcast fans shouldn't have too much trouble adapting to the handheld version.

For a GBA launch title, ChuChu also features a surprising variety of extras. Not only can you create your own puzzles and multiplayer arenas, but you can create new sprites for the cats and mice, complete with four frames of animation apiece. There's even a web-styled help menu to demonstrate the basics of the game and let you "download" new cat and mouse sprites.


ChuChu manages to squeeze full-fledged multiplayer abilities into its single-pak network mode with minimal loading time between rounds. With its frantic action and sudden turn-arounds, it seems like the perfect game to pass a little time with a friend.


ChuChu Rocket is one of the most unique puzzle designs to come along in a while. Whether you like your thinking games slow and strategic or fast and chaotic, you'll find something to enjoy with this one.

final score 8.0/10

Staff Avatar Ed Griffiths
Staff Profile | Email
"Nothing can kill the Grimace!"

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