TsuTsu Rokketo


   The Game Boy has long been the ghetto of the videogame world. With low development costs and the gigantic install base, almost any game with recognizable name is capable of turning a profit - regardless of quality. It's no surprise then than most portable versions of popular franchises have almost always been, at best, downgrades and, more often, cynical cash-ins. There have been a few notable exceptions where the developer went the extra mile to bring the gameplay intact to the Game Boy, but the system's mid-80's technology has always been a massive hurdle to achieving even modest goals.

  No commercial yet, though.
Ga sugoi redux

   Thankfully, the Game Boy Advance may finally change all of that. Among the launch line up for the US comes SonicTeam's frenetic puzzle game ChuChu Rocket - a game that aptly demonstrates that Nintendo's new system is more than capable of hosting a game that can stand along side its full console version and in some ways even surpass it.

   The basic gameplay of CCR remains unchanged from last year's Dreamcast game. Once again, each 4-player battle takes place on a single rectangular field, dotted with pits, walls and generators. The generators spew out mice, or ChuChus as they're called in the game, and it's up to the players to guide the hapless mice safely into their respective escape rockets. The ChuChus will wander around the field on their own, turning right whenever they hit a wall or obstacle, but the players can redirect the ChuChus by laying down arrows in their path. Each player can place three arrows at a time; when a fourth is put down, the first will disappear. The players battle over the steady stream of ChuChus to ensure they have the most in their rocket at the This simple set-up is complicated by the presence of cats, called KapuKapus. The generators will occasionally send out the hungry felines, which follow the same path as the ChuChus. The KapuKapus are slightly faster than the mice and, if they catch up with them, will eat them. The real threat, however, is if a cat finds its way to your rocket, a mistake which will cost you one third of your rescued ChuChus.

Supa Neko Feva!
A serious cat attack.

   In general, the gameplay is just as harried as in the Dreamcast version, though not quite as fast; all the movement has been slowed slightly to accommodate the smaller screen. The other major change for the GBA is the control. The lack of four face buttons on the GBA makes it impossible to truly replicate the DC controls and none of the three provided control schemes is really ideal. The "Pro" setting, where each button on the GBA lays an arrow in a different direction, comes the closest, but it still take some time to learn. After a little practice, you do get used to the new set up; however the steeper learning curve makes the game ever so slightly less accessible to newcomers.

   What you get for these two small concessions to the realties of handheld gaming is an almost perfect portable version of CCR. Though the game is now fully in 2D, it maintains the same look and charm of the original. More importantly, the gameplay itself remains just as fun and frantic as ever and all the modes and features of the DC version (save online play) have been retained or expanded upon. In addition to the 4-player battle, the game features two-on-two team play, a task-based and time-limited Challenge Mode, and an expanded Puzzle mode, with 2500 puzzles culled from levels created by players of the Dreamcast game.

This is a standard rule at the GIA anyway.
Bindfold the Winner!

   The real draw, of course, is still the 4-player battle mode and this is where CCR GBA truly shines. As before, playing against the CPU is a decent distraction, but the quick action, double-crossing, and loud cursing that ensues when four live players battle is what made the DC version a near classic. The game's 4-player mode remains every bit as enjoyable here - only smaller. And best of all, CCR requires only one cartridge for all its multiplayer modes.

   In addition to the classic gameplay, there's plenty new to be found in the GBA game. Five new roulette events have been added to the original eight. These are activated when a special ChuChu enters a player's rocket. Some of the new events are variations on the originals - Mouse Mania Special, for example, causes slower moving mice worth 50 points each to come pouring out of the generators, while Stealing Mania causes the mice to begin leaking out of the players' rockets at a rapid pace. Some of the new effects are only possible on the four-screen set up of the GBA, such as Blindfold the Winner, which causes all the ChuChus to become invisible on one the leader's screen, or Nighttime, which restricts each player's view to the area directly around his or her rocket. KapuKapus will now grow in size when they eat 50 mice and will do a corresponding larger amount of damage when they enter a rocket. Lastly, a new handicapping system has been added to level the playing field in multiplayer.

  Puzzlin' evidence
Puzzle mode

   The game also sports a new level of customizability in its handheld incarnation. Not only can you create puzzle levels, as in the DC game, but you can also craft original maps for all the other stage types as well. CCR also comes with a built in graphics editor to allow you to totally redraw the in game graphics for the ChuChus and KapuKapus. All of these creations can be swapped with other players over the link cable. All the additions still don't quite make CCR a stellar single player game, but the single player modes do at least offer more longevity than the DC game.

   ChuChu Rocket GBA does more than provide an adequate portable version of CCR; it's arguably a better game. With its focus on quick, multiplayer matches and bite-sized puzzles, CCR seems ideally suited to a handheld, and SonicTeam has added enough new features to make the game worthwhile even if you already own the DC version. The idea of a handheld port actually being an improvement on the full-sized game may take some getting used to, but hopefully it's a sign of things to come.

Review by Zak McClendon, GIA.
ChuChu Rocket
Developer SonicTeam
Publisher Sega
Genre Puzzle
Medium Cartridge
Platform Game Boy Advance
Release Date  03.27.01
More ChuChu Rocket GBA screens, multiplayer details
98 screenshots
US Box art