Migraine strategy

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Hundreds of lightning-fast, blue-eared mice plow through the first level of Chu Chu Rocket. Keeping track of the little furry creatures as they scatter across the screen in all directions is like attempting to watch a hustler’s cheating fingertips. They’ve got one motive in mind – escaping the wrath of their ever-villainous rival, none other than the cat.

Curiously, mouse holes are not sanctuary in this very simple, yet utterly captivating, strategy game. Rockets aimed toward the sky act as escape vessels for these tiny protagonists, and it is up to the super-reflex actions of the player to lead every last mouse to safety before they’re swallowed. Without exaggeration, Chu Chu is exhaustive to the unprepared, addictive to the puzzle-brained geek and nearly as durable as Tetris has become since the ‘80s – though much cuter.

Seventy-five egghead levels might even lead to a Dreamcast meltdown, seeing as the "you can’t eat only one" theory is applied ingeniously in this game. Then once the single-player adventures have been conquered, notice that Chu Chu is the console’s first online multiperson funfest. Logging onto Sega’s network allows you to enlist opponents for the next massive cat ‘n’ mouse chase – giving Tom and Jerry a reason to stay in retirement. Once online, playing the same game twice is merely a Mickey Mouse myth.

For once it’s clearly a revelation to see gameplay override the importance of graphics. Simplicity is the key to Chu Chu Rocket, and appropriately it’s priced for under $30, so everyone can enjoy its revelry. Just erase your Final Fantasy-loaded memories and indulge in the fun of a great mouse race – a delightful neo-blast inspired by the uncomplicated era of the classic arcade.

Jon M. Gibson writes about video games for the Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

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