Title :ChuChu Rocket!
Platforms :Sega Dreamcast
Publisher :Sega of America
ESRB Rating :Everyone
Game Rating :8.5
Review by :Richard Rae

"ChuChus" are space mice, who want to get to Rockets to escape the clutches of the "Kapukapus" (space cats) who would like nothing more than to either catch ChuChus or get into their rockets to wreck them. 

Your mission, if you decide to accept it, is to guide the ChuChus to their rockets, helping them avoid Kapukapus, dead ends, or holes in the board — and to do it in 30 seconds or less. 

This deceptively simple concept forms the basis of "ChuChu Rocket!", the first online multiplayer game from the wizards of Sega's Sonic Team for the Sega Dreamcast. 

At its most basic, ChuChu Rocket! is a puzzle game with extremely simple rules and almost Spartan graphics. ChuChus and Kapukapus move in straight lines unless they run into a barrier or wall, then they turn right. If they run into an Arrow Panel you place on the field to guide them, they will turn and travel in the direction the Arrow points. Kapukapus also will follow arrows, but if they bump into a Panel twice, it'll be destroyed. And, you can only place 3 Panels at a time (place a fourth and the first one you put down is erased). 

Simple? Hah!! What the game lacks in graphic sophistication is more than made up for by its intelligent, complex, speedy, and challenging problem-solving play. It becomes a wild, very fast-moving game with lots of variations which can be a true "brain strainer" for one player, or a take-no-prisoners, maniacal free-for-all when you get multiple players involved. 

There are 9 different game modes you can choose from. These include battles using 1 to 4 real or computer-controlled players (singly or as a team), multiple Stage Challenges (the goals of which must be accomplished in 30 seconds or less), and Puzzles (which have no time limit, but require you to place one or more specific Arrow Tiles to get the ChuChus to their rockets in a fixed setup). ChuChu Rocket! also provides a Puzzle Edit mode, providing tools through which you can create your own Puzzles, save them to your VMU, and even upload them to the ChuChu website later for others to enjoy. 

Game stages consist of a square field with strategically placed walls, holes, Rockets, hatches, and arrangements of single or multiple ChuChus, and (depending on the challenge or puzzle) Kapukapus. There are 25 stages each of 1-2 player Challenges and 1 player Puzzles, but additional difficulty levels with 25 brand-new puzzles each are unlocked when a player manages to successfully complete all of the initial stages provided. 

Challenges vary from the simple to the frustrating. In some stages, you must collect 100 ChuChus in a short period of time. In others, you must avoid roaming Kapukapus and keep them from not only eating your ChuChus but from getting into your rockets. Others include fun multi-player "Cat Soccer" games, where you and your opponents use Arrow Panels to try to direct Kapukapus into everyone else's rockets. 

Multiple player battles involve every player trying to be the one with the most ChuChus in their rocket when time expires. This gets outrageously wild as you not only place Arrow Panels to try to direct ChuChus into your rocket, but also use them to redirect your opponent's intended booty away from their rockets and also point Kapukapus in their direction. It can get very cutthroat, very quickly. 

While certainly enjoyable "off-line", ChuChu Rocket! provides an Internet mode where, via your Dreamcast's modem, you can visit the game's homepage and engage in on-line challenges with others, post your best scores and times, upload puzzles you've created, and download other players' puzzles as well. At least, this appears to be the plan… I logged on to the website per game instructions, but none of the screens described in the booklet, downloads, or on-line competition had been enabled there at the time of writing. 

Personally, I found the single player Challenge mode stages nicely varied in difficulty and complexity, and I often found myself hard-pressed to solve the problem and reach the goal in 30 seconds. I found the Puzzle mode somewhat easy with a few real toughies mixed in. That is, until I'd cleared the first 25 stages, which unlocked a new difficulty level and 25 more, VERY tough puzzles! 

ChuChu Rocket! is one of those "easy to learn, difficult to master" games that should appeal to both the puzzle-game maven and the player who likes his multi-player competitions fast, furious, and frustrating. It's surprisingly inexpensive, surprisingly addictive, and has the potential to be great fun for both single players and groups alike.

This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 03-Apr-00