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Sonic Team's second Dreamcast title is not a sequel to NiGHTS, nor a sequel to Sonic Adventure, and it is not another Phantasy Star game either. Instead of adding to an already existing game series, Sonic Team opted to develop something new. The result is Chu-Chu Rocket, a puzzle game centering on a cat and mouse theme. Your main objective is to lead the space mice (chuchus) into a rocket so that they can blast off to safety, escaping the space cats (kapukapu) that are ready to feed on them.
Each game of Chu-Chu Rocket takes place on one screen. The background consists of a checkerboard that may contain walls, holes, mice, cats, and rockets. When a round begins the mice and cats will move automatically and change directions when they bang into walls. If a cat touches a mouse then that mouse is instantly killed. Your objective is to save the mice and you can do this by placing arrows. Players must strategically place arrows so that the mice will avoid the cats and reach their rocket. However, the cats react the same way as the mice and will turn when they encounter a player's arrow as well. Gameplay will alter slightly depending on the mode of play chosen. Along with Network Battle, Chu-Chu Rocket includes four other modes of play: Puzzle, Stage Challenge, 4-Player Battle and Team Battle.
4-Player Battle is similar to Network Battle in that more than one player is competing. During these games players are not only trying to save mice but they are also trying to save more mice than their opponents as well as impeding a player's progress by trying to send a cat to the enemy's rocket. When more than one player is competing they are allowed to only place three arrows at a time. Each arrow will fade away after a set number of seconds at which time a new arrow can be placed. Games can consist of up to 24 rounds but will end when one player saves a predetermined number of mice. Team Battle plays almost the same way as these other two modes with the only difference being that two players work as a team against two other players.
Stage Challenge is a one or two player game. Players are given a goal before each game that must be met in order to win. These battles can differ completely from the rest of Chu-Chu Rocket as one may ask you to actually eat all of the mice with a cat. When playing with two players the players work together to reach the goals rather than compete against each other.
Puzzle mode is the single-player game. This mode plays slightly different as at the start of each level the playing field is shown and everything is frozen until the player sets the game in motion. Before setting the mice in motion players are given a set number of arrows to work with. For example, you may be provided with two down arrows and one right arrow. You then must use all of the arrows by placing them on the appropriate square so that when the mice start up they will be led safely to a rocket. Once everything is set in motion the player can only watch and observe what happens.
Chu-Chu Rocket also contains special events and a puzzle editor. Special events will occur when a player saves a specifically colored mouse. Event results can include: increased points, instantly saved mice, more cats, instant deaths to all of a player's opponents, a pause in the action, player rockets get switched, the game speed increases or the game speed decreases. The puzzle editor is exactly what it sounds like; it allows players to create their own game boards. ~ Jonathan Sutyak, All Game Guide