Possibly one of the greatest gaming achievements in console gaming and for the Dreamcast initially, Chu-Chu Rocket is one of the forerunners for online gaming that the Dreamcast and Sega pioneered and was the first game with major popularity and online support through consoles. (Of course we're already enjoying Quake and Quake World on our 56K modems, fast back then and a death sentence these days)
The premise is simple. Get mice into rocket. Get more mice than your opponent to win. Avoid cats. I really cannot make it any simpler than perhaps Mice good, Cats evil, Save mice. It's a wonderfully simple little game but like a lot of party games and multiplayer games, it gets awkward, complicated and rage inducing, fast! And fast too.
You get to control a cursor, the same colour as your rocket and you can place down onto a board, up to 3 arrows that will guide the mice (and cats) along routes until they hit a wall, hit a rocket or hit another arrow. You will guide them from their generators and into a rocket upon which you score points. When you lay down a 4th arrow, the first one will vanish. Arrows also vanish after a short while and fade out which means you'll have to lay down more arrows... if you can. Because at the same time, some little sneaky bastard AI or other Player, is going to be laying down THEIR arrows and trying to get mice into THEIR rockets. (Or the really shit-bastard-gitbags will be guiding the cats into your rocket and you lose a 3rd of all mice in there). So now we see where a) the challenge and b) the added appeal comes into play.
Each mouse is worth a point, Gold mice are worth 50 and pink mice spin the roulette wheel. This is the games way of determining that all you’ve set up is going to be for nothing and there’s nothing left you’re going to be able to do to prevent the madness and chaos that is the random effect. This can be from anything like everyone else gets an immediate cat to the rocket or someone gets a vacuum effect for WAVES of mice into their rocket. It could also be an immediate game of Change Places and now you're where player Yellow was and they're where player Red is now. It could also be all the arrows are removed while the game freezes for a moment, or it's just PURE MICE for about 30 seconds or the more destructive and vile cats only for about 30 seconds and then all arrows will be quickly rearrange to keep things OUT of their rockets.
The game comes into its own when 2-4 human players are trying to stitch each other up and get the monopoly on the mice from the generators while trying to negate the cats and send them into each other’s bases. While playing against the AI is an entertaining prospect for a while, it lacks the immediacy of the human-factor which pits mind against mind rather than mind against occasionally malfunctioning algorithm and false Artificial Intelligence, even the computer will make mistakes and you can't help but think that you're still not up against a good attempt at a human, but rather you're against a bad attempt at a computer.
But this is just one mode of the game.
You can play solo all vs. all, or in teams. You can choose from a great many layouts or make your own, play offline or online against other humans or play against the AI/People-within-punching-distance in your own living room with some half-eaten pizzas strewn around the place.
Other features include puzzles where you'll have to save all the pre-determined mice without losing any while using a specific number and set up of arrows. Or you can make your own puzzles, though there's plenty already on the game and in most cases with the right set-up, you can download more of the fiendish little buggers. Though the menu should be listed as "Would you like to download potentially even more pain and suffering than you've already been through?" and for uploading puzzles "Click here to make the rest of the world suffer your bullshit", but instead the game remains nice and colourful and pleasant about everything. Which is probably for the best. There's no gore here, just a fading mouse with a little halo when it touches a cat (that includes it running into the back of the cat). So it's all family friendly and happy cutesy game of tag between mice and cats with arrows and rockets thrown in for fun's sake.
And yet, every game I've seen played has some of the most coarse and abusive language known to mankind, I've seen people change languages to swear at others, dipping into Spanish and French (international friends... what can you do...) because they get so caught up in the furious paced action and "fun" that they transcend speaking in one language and drop back into their own.
This game can really drag you along on a wild madness if you're gaming against other people, especially on levels where there's not much space between your rocket and the generators and there's only enough space for 3 arrows and 12 of them can be placed at once on the level, that's when the anger and annoyance kicks in and long standing friends become bitter rivals, brother and sister turn upon each other and the end of days is soon upon us with family pitted against family in pockets of civil unrest.
So yes, this game is designed to bring about the apocalypse, but at least it does it in a very cute, playable and colourful manner. If you see someone spray painting cats orange, you know to start building rockets.