Proof that Sonic Team smokes crack with a passion. Think Lemmings on a bad mixture of cocaine, LSD and crystal meth. The main game mode involves up to four automaton (such as humans, AIs, and whatever banana slugs you might be able to find on the street) trying to achieve their goal.

The goal (dismissing the puzzle and challenge modes): guide mice (chus) into your rocket. Guide cats (kapus) into your opponents' rockets. Whoever has the most mice at the end of a time period gets to blast off. First to blast off a certain number of times wins.

Chus keep going forward until they get into a rocket, fall into a black hole, get eaten by a cat, hit an arrow tile, or hit a wall. If they hit a wall and there's more than one way for them to go, they will turn right. Kapus follow the same rules of motion, except they go at about half the speed of chus, and if they hit an arrow tile head on, they weaken the tile (and if a tile is weakened twice, it breaks). If a kapu gets into a rocket, he will eat one-third of the chus in it. A small number of chus have 49 others hidden away in their clothes (giving you 50 chus if they get into your rocket). Even fewer chus cause something special to happen, usually benefitting the owner of the rocket which they go into.

Players can have up to three arrow tiles placed at once. Arrow tiles slowly fade away over time.

Okay, so if you distill the rules to their basic elements as Sonic Team does (guide chus into your rockets, guide kapus away), it sounds very simple. It's not. Even at the normal speed, it's too fast for ready comprehension. One of the special things that the special-event chus do is to double the speed, at which point you're basically screwed if all the other players are guiding kapus to your rocket.

The round's resolution can be changed literally in a few seconds. One time I was sitting pretty with 800 chus with 15 seconds left in the round; suddenly, a cat mania event happened, and all of the other players ganged up on me, sending as many kapus to my rocket as possible. I lost the round with only 100. Other times it's been the reverse, and many times I've had some very close matches where literally the last half second of play decided it (even with a 100-chu spread - one cat or two 50-chu mice).

There's also a cooperative mode where it's two on two. With that it's even harder to deal with, since you have to keep track of twice as many rockets to keep kapus away from.

But damn are those chus cute. (You can also replace them with Alifes or Chaos by completing other game modes, though I don't really see the appeal.)

Oh, and they're not mice and cats, but space-mice and space-cats. The whole game is realtime-rendered in a "the genetically-engineered son of Jules Verne and Chuck Jones has an opium orgy" style.

In any case, the game definitely sums up holism ("the whole is greater than the sum of its parts") quite nicely. The individual rules are simple. If it were only a few chus and a few kapus, it would be no problem. However, a lot of mechanics, side effects, and strategies are bred by these simple rules.

The commercial is also floating around the Internet as an mp3 - you miss out on the rockets bursting out of the cat's head but still enjoy the pure satisfaction of bizarre Japanese voice actors. Actually one of the more popular bits of Internet flotsom in my dorm - some sick people even found Chu-Chu Rocket wallpaper.

So you know what's going to be running through your head like tweaker ferrets for the next few days (it's a rather successful earworm), the lines translate roughly like this...

Chu-chu Rocket
Save the mice
Chu-chu Rocket
The cat's scary
Chu-chu Rocket
The Rocket's cool
So hi-i-i-i-gh!

Chu Chu Rocket is an interesting example of how easy it is to blunder online play in a game. Were you to use Sega's servers today, you would find that there is one online server with people on it, with roughly an average of 17 players online. For a mass market video game that allows people to use the internet connections they already own, this is rather pitiful.

The game is not very bandwidth intensive by Sega's own admission. [1] However, despite the low bandwidth requirements the game is still barely playable in its online mode. It is possible in its current state to play a game in which there is roughly a 35 second delay between placing an arrow and the arrow actually appearing on the field. This is simply unplayable. Will Dreamcast Online Play for any game ever be good enough for Dreamcast games to be enjoyable online?

1. Source - IGN's Review of Chu Chu Rocket

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