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ChuChu Rocket!

Preview By: Jared Black

Developer:   Sonic Team
Publisher:   Sega
Genre:   Puzzle
Est. Release:   June 11th, 2001
Posted:   4-18-01

Who wouldíve thunk it? Sega, the long-time arch-nemesis of Nintendo during the 16-bit era, is now developing for Nintendoís brand new Game Boy Advance. Fortunately for handheld gamers everywhere, itís not just token supportÖSega have already announced three GBA games, with the promise of more to come (including many classic Genesis titles that once went toe-to-toe with the SNES). Even as Iím writing this, it just seemsÖweird.

Out of the three titles Sega have lined up (Chu Chu Rocket, Sonic and Puyo Puyo) for the Game Boy Advance, none intrigues me more than Segaís little puzzler ChuChu Rocket!. Originally released on the Sega Dreamcast way back in early 2000, ChuChu served as a testing ground for the Dreamcastís online network. Although the online play was somewhat buggy, it nevertheless proved that online gaming could be successfully done on a console system. Fortunately, ChuChuís online heritage lends it perfectly to GBA multiplayer via the link cable, but Iíll touch on that more in a bit.

ChuChu Rocketís! gameplay can be best summed up with a simple equation:

Lemmings + Mouse Trap + Chaos = Multiplayer Gaming Goodness

Thatís not to say that ChuChu Rocket! isnít great as a single-player game though, because it definitely is. Basically, gameplay takes place on a checkerboard. Your job is simple: lead as many mice (ChuChus) into your rocket as possible. In order to do this, you have to make sure the cats patrolling each level donít get to them and eat Ďem up. Aiding you in this quest, you can place up to three different arrows on the playing board at once that will redirect any creature that touches it.

Unfortunately for you, the ChuChus arenít completely safe once they reach your rocket. If a cat happens to get into your rocket, a lot of innocent mice are going to die. The result is a frantic gameplay experience, in which you must constantly keep track of each ChuChu on screen, cat on screen, and each catís relation to your rocket.

As chaotic as it is in single-player though, itís 100 times that once you enter multiplayer mode. Not only are you then competing with other players to collect as many mice as possible, but you also have to worry about other players directing the cats into your own rocket and killing off your collected ChuChus. Thus, gameplay becomes an extremely strategic affair, as youíll have to decide which is the best strategy to implement in each scenario. Amazingly enough, despite the sheer amount of action going on at once, the multiplayer mode will only require one person to own the game.

The gameplay is simplistic and yet challenging, but what really sets this game apart is the sheer number of levels available. The GBA version of ChuChu Rocket! will contain an amazing 2,500 different levels, all created by Dreamcast owners. Those are in addition to the other levels already provided by Sega. The GBA will also allow you to create your own levels, and a graphic editor will allow you to do some rudimentary changes to the in-game graphics. In short, itís every puzzle fanís dream.

The graphics also look nice. While not quite on par with the Dreamcast version (ex: sprite characters instead of polygonal), the GBA version still bears a pretty striking resemblance to its DC cousin. Puzzle games generally are simplistic in the graphics department anyway, but itís still amazing to see how accurately the DCís graphics have been mimicked on the GBA.

Whether you have friends to play with or not, ChuChu Rocket! is shaping up to be one of the very best GBA launch titles. Hopefully this is just the first game of a long and profitable Sega/Nintendo alliance.

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