Review: ChuChu Rocket (Game Boy Advance)

In this review, we get ready for blastoff in the Game Boy Advance game ChuChu Rocket. We find out how well this puzzle game plays.

This game was released in 2001 and is a port from the Sega Dreamcast.

There’s really not much story to this. A bunch of mice are attempting to get to a rocket and it is up to you to lead them there.

There are a number of modes in this, but for single player mode, you’ll probably spend a large portion of your time in Puzzle Mode or Stage Challenge.

Puzzle mode has one goal in mind: get all the mice to the rockets. If a mouse dies, you lose. If a cat touches a rocket on the launch pad, you lose. You get a limited number of arrow tiles to redirect either the mice or the cats. If you think you’ve solved the puzzle, tap the “R” shoulder button to commence the sequence. Once the sequence has been initiated, you can’t move or adjust anything. You just hope for the best that you’ve solved the stage.

There is only one difficulty unlocked in the beginning. This is Normal mode. In this difficulty, there are 25 stages to complete. Complete all 25 stages and you’ll unlock Hard mode. Complete those 25 stages and you get Special mode. Finally, the last difficulty is Mania.

On the other side is the Stage Challenge. Like puzzle mode, this has 25 stages (only 1 difficulty). What’s different about this mode in general is that you get a countdown and you simply place tiles as the mice (and cats) travel around. You have unlimited tiles, but you can only really place 4 at a time. Additionally, there is a time limit to each tile before they disappear. This puts the emphasis on speed and quick thinking.

Additionally, there are 5 different kinds of levels in this mode. The first is “Get Mice!!” There is a set number of mice placed throughout the board. You have a limited amount of time (typically, 30 seconds) to heard the mice to the rocket. All of the mice must survive. If you get all mice to the rocket(s) before time expires, you win.

The second level type is “Run Away!!”. This level type is a lot like the “Get Mice!!” variation, only there are cats introduced into the mix.

The third level type is “Lunch Time!!”. In this variation, you are actually helping the cats in the level. There is a limited number of mice, so you must either direct the mice or the cats. If the cat eats all the mice in the level, you win.

The fourth level type is “100 Mice!!”. In this mode, players have generator tiles that generate both mice and cats. The goal is to get 100 mice to the rocket within the time limit. If a cat hits the rocket, then the player is assessed a penalty.

Finally, there is “Cat Soccer!!”. In this mode, players will get a taste of what multiplayer is like. The idea is to direct the cats to your opponents rocket. If you manage to run down the clock with your opponent getting hit with more cats, then you win. Just remember, your opponent will also be placing tiles to thwart your efforts.

One thing to note is general movement behaviour. Every time either a cat or a mouse hits a wall, that cat or mouse will turn clockwise. The exception to this is if they hit a wall with a second wall blocking what would otherwise be the direction they would turn. In that instance, the moving object will turn counter-clockwise. An example is a mouse moving right to left. If the mouse encounters a square with a west wall, the mouse will turn and move north. However, if that square happens to have a west and north wall, the mouse will turn south. Just a quirk with how movements work in this game.

Also, beware of holes. Holes will kill both cats and mice alike. Cats, generally a good place to direct them to. Mice? Not so much for most modes of play.

One bit of advice to help you along in puzzle is that you have unlimited tries to complete a level. So, sometimes, it is extremely helpful to just let the level play out without any tiles laid. From there, it can be easier to spot pattern breaks and determine where you need to set that tile. You can also mentally draw lines as well if you can visualize routs, but in more complex multi=directional routs, that becomes harder to accomplish.

Alternatively, you can always employ a trial and error approach to some puzzles. There is, after all, no real penalty outside of wasting some time to just try a solution and see if it works.

One thing about this game is the fact that this is definitely meant to be played in small doses. If you have an hour long train ride and want to kill time, then this might be a good way to do it. The reason for this is because this game does get old quite quick. Yes, it is simple and generally easy to learn, but once you get the basics down, the game gets repetitive fairly quickly. You can lead the mice to the rockets only so many times before repetition sets in.

Another problem with this game is that it is a bit short on content. The normal challenge mode only has 25 levels. While the challenges do offer some depth, there isn’t much in the way of challenges in the first place. Puzzle mode is a bit meatier at 100 levels in all, though it’s almost the same thing every stage. Additionally, levels can only take all of less than a minute to complete if you have a solution.

With repetition comes a bit of a learning curve. It can be confusing at first why mice behave the way they do with walls. Once that learning curve is overcome, then you have the shallow play that stunts any excitement for this game. So, this one winds up having a catch-22 going on with it.

Generally speaking, this game doesn’t really cut it that well. It’s got a bit of an initial learning curve. It also has some shallow play. This is thanks in part to the smaller amount of content on offer. The only real thing going for this game is that there is a bit of uniqueness going for it. So, when you first start playing around with this game, you do have that sense of novelty for a brief period of time. That’s, well, all this game has going for it.

Graphically speaking, this game really doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s only really a minor improvement to Game Boy Color games. When you compare it to other Game Boy Advance games like Wario Land 4, Tetris Worlds, Mario Kart Super Circuit, Advance Wars, and GT Advance Championship, it’s hard to really find positives here. There’s not much for transparency effects. Special effects involve rotation and scaling of objects. The only big impressive effect is the colour of the tiles change randomly for variety. This game simply doesn’t offer hardly anything when compared to what else is already on the handheld market.

As for audio, the sound effects are at least interesting. Unfortunately, they are repetitive as a number of them are re-used. For instance, the sound effect is the same whether a mouse gets eaten by a cat or falls down a pit. Music-wise, this game is largely a generation behind. It relies on very basic chip tune style music when this system is capable of a whole lot more. So, this game pretty much flops on this front as well.

At the end of the day, this is a game with very few redeeming qualities. You briefly get a sense of novelty as you start to figure out what this game is all about. Otherwise, you transition from general confusion to bored repetition. A short amount of content and overall length doesn’t help much. With subpar graphics and audio, this game is something to skip over.

Furthest point in game: Beat 13 levels in Challenge mode. Beat normal and hard difficulties in puzzle mode.

General gameplay: 14/25
Replay value: 5/10
Graphics: 4/10
Audio: 2/5

Overall rating: 50%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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