ChuChu Rocket! — 4Q2014 issue

Pho­tos cour­tesy of

An epic cat and mouse game

Cats in rock­ets try­ing to kill mice. As well as being weird, the age-old con­cept of a cat–and-mouse game is sur­pris­ingly addic­tive. In the form of the Dreamcast’s ChuChu Rocket, the con­cept man­ages to jump the bar­rier of weird and branch into the realm of entertaining.

The game of cat-and-mouse is sim­ple: Lead mice to safety in your rocket with well-placed arrows while avoid­ing cats that other play­ers will send to hunt the mice. The more mice you have left alive at the end, the bet­ter. It’s not hard to get started once you have that basic under­stand­ing of the game, and it quickly becomes an addict­ing exer­cise of fran­tic fun to keep mice alive.

The fun thing about ChuChu Rocket is the sheer ran­dom­ness of every­thing hap­pen­ing on the play­ing field. There are so many fac­tors that can affect your mice total at the end of a round that it’s impos­si­ble to win by tal­ent at mov­ing rodents alone. One must con­sider the fact that only three arrows can be placed by a char­ac­ter at any given time. With level lay­out also taken into con­sid­er­a­tion, the idea that you can be in the lead for five sec­onds and that be enough to win is a real pos­si­bil­ity. Throw in the power-up aspect and con­stantly chang­ing con­di­tions of the match area and there is a real recipe here for dis­as­ter dis­guised as fun.

It’s a good thing that the game is so fun to play because the graph­ics and the music sure aren’t going to draw you in by them­selves. The game looks like a 1999 game, which isn’t to say it’s hor­ri­ble, but it isn’t pretty, either. The graph­ics date them­selves might­ily, but that’s not really any­thing to be ashamed of, since ChuChu Rocket doesn’t exactly need to get by on the qual­ity of the scenery. The music is noth­ing to write home about, and frankly, I played with it turned off for the major­ity of the time that I’ve owned the game. It really adds noth­ing to the over­all expe­ri­ence and after a short time, it becomes rather irri­tat­ing. But, like the graph­ics, it isn’t really what you came here for.

What you’re going to take away from ChuChu Rocket depends on what you’re look­ing for. In this day and age, 15 years after its orig­i­nal release, you can take a solid party game from this that’s a highly quirky title wor­thy of many replays or you can see a weird 15-year-old game about cats chas­ing mice with ques­tion­able game con­di­tions attached. Rat infes­ta­tion issues aside, ChuChu Rocket is a great rat race into nostalgia.