Tonight Sega released their classic Dreamcast puzzle game, and huge fan favorite, ChuChu Rocket! [$4.99/HD] into the App Store. We had a chance to go hands-on with ChuChu Rocket! at Sega's offices last month and came away excited for the iPhone and iPad version of the game. Sega has taken the entirety of the original ChuChu Rocket! and reworked it for the touch screen, and the results are terrific. While the graphics are essentially the same, the UI actually feels much more natural than that of the Dreamcast. This game seems almost meant for touch screen controls, and whether or not you were a fan of the original Dreamcast release ChuChu Rocket! is a puzzle game that needs to be in your collection.

Starting the game forces you through a very short tutorial explaining how to play ChuChu Rocket! The tutorial is so short because this game is ridiculously easy to play. The core of the gameplay involves placing various arrows around a checkerboard-like playfield and then unleashing your crew of mice who will blindly march forward. The only things that stray them from their path are running into your strategically placed arrows or hitting a wall which will cause them to turn clockwise. Your mice must avoid running into hazards, like holes and cats, on their way to their escape rockets.

Placing arrows simply requires touching a square of the game board and swiping in the direction of the arrow you want. Tapping a placed arrow erases it if you make a mistake. A button in the upper left sets your mice in motion, and tapping that button again speeds up time if you're feeling impatient. And that's pretty much it. The controls are so intuitive and easy to perform that you can focus squarely on solving the fiendishly clever puzzles and frantic multiplayer in ChuChu Rocket!

The bulk of the content in ChuChu Rocket! is the 100 levels in Puzzle mode. There is no time limit in these levels, and the goal is simply to get all of your mice safely to the rockets. This mode starts out easy enough, but quickly ramps up in difficulty as some of the later levels had me nearly pulling my hair out trying to find the correct positions to place each arrow. It's a good kind of difficulty though, one that urges you to keep trying until you've figured out the solution to a puzzle you are stuck on.

Then there is Challenge mode which features 25 timed levels that each have a specific task to complete. These can be things like directing a certain number of mice to the rocket before time runs out, or even going against the very nature of the game and running them all into a cat as quickly as possible to be eaten. The Challenge levels are a nice diversion from the typical gameplay found in Puzzle mode, and the best time for each level is saved with your total time for completing all levels being tracked through Game Center leaderboards.

Likely the thing that will keep you coming back to ChuChu Rocket! long after you've completed the rest of the game is the phenomenal multiplayer mode. Unfortunately there is no online multiplayer as was first announced, but the local and same-device multiplayer modes are crazy amounts of fun if you have friends to play the game with. The multiplayer gives each player their own rocket and up to three arrows to place. You're constantly trying to direct a stream of mice into your own rocket, while trying to direct cats into your opponents' rockets. Random events will trigger to mix up the action like switching the position of everyone's rockets or releasing a mega stream of mice into the game.

Multiplayer is a blast as everyone is simultaneously trying to screw each other over, and the lead changes hands suddenly and often. It supports up to 4 players over local WiFi, and if you have the iPad version you can play with up to 4 players all on the same screen. If you don't happen to have any friends around, you can set up to 3 AI bots to play with on any of the 24 multiplayer maps. Nothing can top talking smack to your buddies while playing in the same room, but the option for bots is pretty comparable and lets you take advantage of this mode even if you're solo.

I can't really think of too much that I don't like about ChuChu Rocket! It can be pretty difficult at times, but there's no real penalty for retrying levels that you get stuck on and it's really satisfying to finally nail it when you do. The graphics aren't Retina Display ready, but the game still looks quite sharp on 4th generation devices and it actually suits the retro nature of the game. The lack of online multiplayer is a disappointment, especially since Game Center is already integrated for leaderboards and achievements, but hopefully this can be added down the line. It will take quite a while before you're able to complete all of the Puzzle and Challenge levels, and the multiplayer mode could conceivably last you the rest of eternity. ChuChu Rocket! is just one of the best puzzle games around, much as it was 10 years ago on the Dreamcast, and with the new touch interface it actually succeeds at being the definitive version to own.

TouchArcade Rating

  • Aziiz Light

    Even today I say that my favorite console of all time is the Dreamcast. And Chu Chu Rocket was on of my favorite games.

    Now let's hope Sega Adapts Jet Set Radio (it was called Jet Grind Radio in the US I think), because that was, and still is, my favorite game of all time.

  • Manicalab

    My dreams came true. I love this game. I also bought Ninja Stealth Missions while waiting this game to be released. It has a similar gameplay and is a great game to play with! Let's help those mouses to reach the rocket!!!

  • amroc

    I picked up the iPad version of this, and I'm a little disappointed. Content wise it's pretty much all there, but I really liked the Dreamcast version, which is probably why I feel this way. If you never played the original you probably won't notice.

    Things like the lack of 3d, the delay on some of the interface buttons, the lack of sound effect for every mouse entering the rocket. It just makes it all feel a bit unloved.

    Anyway, it is still ChuChu Rocket and it's such a natural fit for a touch screen game. I fully concede it's probably just my over attention to detail and my memory of the dreamcast version. If you don't have OCD like me you'll probably love it 😉

    • ZildjianKX

      The lack of sound effects definitely bothers me.

      I didn't notice the lack of 3D. Which parts are 2D instead of 3D?

      Also, the iPad version crashes a ton while loading levels, at least for me...

      • amroc

        Yeah I've had some crashes too. The entire original dreamcast game was in 3d, all the characters in the iDevice versions are sprites. It doesn't really matter though, as the gameplay is 2d. It's just that it suprised me seeing as you would have thought the iPad could manage it.

        I'm guessing though that all this was the result of it being a "traditional" mobile project. Someone at Sega starts talking about their hot IP they want on iDevice. Loads of dev companies compete to win the contract, the one that wins knows that they only won it cos they undercut everyone else and the project is gonna be extremely tight.

        Haha listen to me, how cynical am I! It may not have happened this way at all 😉 I'm just guessing though that it's most likely to be this as opposed to "bad programming".

        To give one example, things like getting a sound effect to rapidly repeat (mouse entering rocket thing) in a way that doesn't involve pops/cracks involves some time and effort, both with the sample editing and the programming. It makes sense that when under a tight deadline you're gonne de-prioritise things like that.

        Again I don't mean to be so critical. It's a decent enough port, and it's great to have ChuChu on touch screen. I just think when you see things like this it just highlights the time and effort that went into the original, and games like it. That level of polish is often taken for granted.

      • ZildjianKX

        Good eyes. I'm still having trouble telling if the mice and rockets are 3D or not. They are definitely pretty good rendered sprites if they are. The sound effects are still bugging me... I'm hoping we get a decent patch after iOS 4.2 comes out that will give the iPad version game center, fix the crashes and fix the sound effects. I highly doubt we'll ever get online multiplayer, which is really sad 🙁

  • Matt Bernardo

    Can iPad users play with iphone ipod touch users locally?

    • ZildjianKX

      I would also like to know the answer to this.

    • Adam Germain

      I would also like to know!

    • TMAC

      yes they can, although there's always a ton of lag, so it's a little hard to play...

  • Madison Fotografie

    iPad version needs some extra work. While Chu Chu is a classic game and very welcome on the iPad some interface elements are full res and some are blown up fuzzy pixels: why not take advantage of the iPad screen and make sure everything looks 1:1 nice? The delays are not good. It needs to be more responsive on the iPad and the multiplayer delays are very very very annoying. Cant they program that faster? (Im not a technical person so I guess thats a no).
    Other than that Chu Chu is a blast. But the iPad version is still a bit rough around the edges and needs some more polishing in the responsveness and some of the graphics.

  • Anonymous

    Chu Chu Rocket is awesomeness incarnate. I agree that the noise of the mice entering the rocket should be there though, it's one of the main things that springs to mind when I think back to my Dreamcast days.

    • Anonymous

      Dude are kidding me?! I know it's a small complaint but that might keep me from buying it now... Well that and no retina or onlineMP...

  • Anonymous

    Chu Chu Rocket is awesomeness incarnate. I agree that the noise of the mice entering the rocket should be there though, it's one of the main things that springs to mind when I think back to my Dreamcast days.

  • murph

    No online play? No sale. I figured the $5 price would be somewhat justified by the cost to run the online game servers. But if there is no online play then not only is that a huge omission, then the game is horribly overpriced as well.

  • hkiphone

    Its a fantastic game, love it love it love it!!! Now that Amroc has mentioned it, there are small tiny details left out that i overlooked, and will probably constantly curse him for reminding me hahaha, but its still the same gameplay at heart!

  • John Hood

    Loved this back in the day, and it was free for the win. Don't mind dropping £3 on this. Hopefully there'll be free updates going forward.

  • EastsideStompers

    Fan base aside, it's a puzzle game, so I'm going to wait until it hits 2.99, which will fall in line with the general price for a really good puzzler on the app store, Aqueduct and Osmos for example, not to mention the excellent No, Human at 1.99 and of course Helsing's Fire and Quell at 99 cents...

  • hkiphone

    Well, I just played it again, and I swear that my ears can hear the mice entering the rockets.... ? Both in Puzzle mode and Battle mode. It's not for every mouse that goes in, especially when fast forwarded or in Mouse Mania mode, but its there....
    I'll have to try recording a video of it to upload for you guys, otherwise I'm going to go on thinking there's something wrong with me!

    As for the non-3D, it's not that bad... it does a convincing job that it's the same as original DC 3D, especially since its shaded very well, but I wouldn't say its a showstopper.

  • Jangly

    "the definitive version to own"

    Yeah, if you've never heard of the GBA one with 25 times as much content.

ChuChu Rocket! Reviewed by Jared Nelson on . Rating: 4.5