by James Alsup III
Many gamers were disappointed when Sonic Team were going to make a puzzle game for the Dreamcast. Fans clamored for more Sonic the Hedgehog or the Dreamcast Release of NiGHTs, a much loved and often overlooked game released near the end of the Sega Saturn's lifespan here in the United States. Fans groaned when they heard the game consisted of directing mice to rockets by placing arrows all over a playing board. Gamers didn't count on Chu Chu Rocket being the most addictive video game to come along in recent years. The controls are simple enough. A player moves their cursor around the screen with the analog stick. The 4 buttons on the controller (A,B,X,Y) correspond with up, down, left, and right arrows. By placing the arrows around the board, a player attempts to guide as many mice as possible to his/her rocket. At the end of 3 minutes, the rocket with the most mice speeds off into space.
Sounds easy, doesn't it?
To spice things up, there are several cats that roam around the board, chasing the mice. If a cat hits a player's rocket, the number of mice in the rocket are reduced. There are also mice with question marks on their bodies. If one gets into your rocket, the status of the game changes. These status changes range from adding mice to a player's rocket, erasing all the arrows from the board, and "Neko Fever," where 4 cats are loosed on the playing board.
Sounds fun, doesn't it.
Then, add 3 friends and stir for the ultimate party game. The controls in Chu Chu Rocket are so easy to learn, even Grandma could pick up the control and play a few games. In order to win in a multiplayer game, players must be willing to put the screws to their friends by directing cats into opposing rockets and placing arrows so that mice can't enter opposing rockets, among other things.
There are some other features as well. The one-player mode will get you accustomed to the controls and the way the mice act. There is also an on-line mode for those of you in Japan. Sega of America intends to use Chu-Chu Rocket to launch their online gaming community when it is released this spring.
Nothing to get excited about. Not bad, but they don't have to be. The cartoonish mice and cats are rendered in 3-D. And the game features a lot of pastels.
No puzzle game would be complete without music that haunts you long after you've finished playing. I've found myself humming the music while doing other things, like writing this review.
It's easy to use. Like the old "Simon" commercials said "It takes a minute to learn... a lifetime to master." The single player game is easy enough, but it takes a while to get used to the frantic pace of 4-player mode.
This is a great game, and it's low priced. Chu Chu Rocket can be purchased from most import gaming stores for about $30. It's a steal for the amount of fun you'll have.