The text introduction reveals that the title is being simultaneously modest and hyperbolic, as we are informed that there are actually four such mice, but they have yet to actually eat Chicago:
"Four man-eating mice are threatening to munch away on the city of Chicago. Each has its own specific weakness, and it's your civic duty to determine what these weaknesses are and destroy these horrible monsters. WARNING: Getting too close to a mouse can be very dangerous to your health - they love stepping on people."
The game's structure is similar to Robin Hood Adventure -- there's a linearity to the story that's not immediately obvious, Atari 400/800 sound effects are prominent, and the same klaxon sound and flashing screen accompanies the player's death, though it's less incongruous here than in Sherwood Forest. Something different is that the game begins with a non-interactive prologue segment, setting the stage as the then-future events of October 19, 1995 unfold.
As always, I urge interested readers to take on The Mouse That Ate Chicago before proceeding here, but I'll warn you that while the puzzles are logical enough, certain details are well-hidden and I had to peek at the code to get myself unstuck on more than one occasion. The following discussion will reveal all, or most at least, so be forewarned that there are comprehensive...
***** SPOILERS AHEAD! *****
The prologue is non-interactive, displaying several screens of text. In A SMALL LABORATORY OUTSIDE OF CHICAGO ILLINOIS, a mad scientist named Professor Rainier Frankenfeld scolds his assistant Hans as he prepares to test his enlarger. We know the Professor is not a real scientist, or even an engineer, as he pulls a diamond out of his pocket and says, "This, Hans, this diamond will be enlarged ten-, perhaps twenty-fold..."; clearly he hasn't done his calculations with any great degree of precision. He also seems to think that he will now be "the possessor of the world's biggest diamond", discounting the possibility of other people using his technology to enlarge other diamonds that were, perhaps, larger to begin with. All this is set aside, however, when Hans' cheeseburger drips onto the high-precision platform, somehow unnoticed, and a mouse scampers up to check out the cheese..
One week later, the player takes over. We are joyriding in our jeep on a country road, but suddenly we run out of gas. Bad planning always costs our hero some sympathy on my part, and all we have with us is a wallet containing $39.98.
The country road continues infinitely to the east. To the north we find a smashed gas station, and a laboratory. The gas station is falling apart, too dangerous to enter, though somehow we are able to recognize that the smashed facility Looks like giant mouse prints.
The laboratory contains a machine, with a green pushbutton labeled #2 and a RESET switch. A platform with two laser-shaped rods lies to the east, and another machine with pushbutton #1 bookends the apparatus. The machine doesn't seem to be functioning at this time, but I eventually figured out how it works.
In the forest south of the laboratory is a quicksand bog, and not much else; it's a minor maze, but every direction but the bog itself leads back to the forest entrance location. We aren't allowed to GO BOG.
To the west is a bridge over the Chicago River -- the sign reads WEIGHT LIMIT 250 LBS. We're apparently in acceptable physical condition, as we can safely GO BRIDGE.
On the other side of the bridge, we witness an odd vignette -- a man running for his life as his wife runs after at him, yelling at him for leaving her and the kids. She hurls a saucer at him that falls into the river, and then they both run off down the road.
We can also reach a small town on the west side of the river, or by traveling south and west through the forest, where the Chicago River mysteriously does not appear to impede our progress. There are a number of houses in town, but we can't enter any of them -- we're consistently informed that It's not your house unless you're a cat burgalar [sic] (besides, no one here owns a cat). This proves to be an oblique hint, but its purpose is not clear at this time. If we visit later in the game, all the houses are smashed.
A paved road to the north bears a more informative sign: CHICAGO 5 MILES. This implies we may not be getting there any time soon, but we can actually head just a few locations to the north to find ourselves downtown.
The giant mice wander randomly around the map, though most are limited to certain areas. The first giant mouse we are likely to find early on, ** MAJA **, is seen to be carrying 3 other small rodents by the tips of their tails in his mouth.
There's a hardware store to the east; the storekeeper has a high-powered rifle on hand. GET RIFLE yields Gun is $39.99, exactly one more penny than we have, of course. But if we wander a bit after learning this, we are likely to meet a YOUNG LADY, presumably the source of the unattributed "A penny for your thoughts" quote displayed onscreen when we see her. We GIVE THOUGHTS, and she gives us a penny. Clearly this is not meant to be a naturalistic story! She only appears after we have investigated the price of the rifle.
Now we can GIVE MONEY and get the rifle from the hardware store. Running into one of the mice outside, we may try to SHOOT PUJI (for example) -- the game produces a nice gunshot sound effect, but Bullets bounce off. This is true of all four of the giant mice -- MAJA, PUJI, FIJI and SAM.
There's a pet store in the area, too, but the proprietor is apparently OUT TO LUNCH, and the same goes for the music store. But the grocery store is open, and the storekeeper says, "In celebration of our 5th anniversity [sic], no charge today for anything." We are then prompted, What do you want? (One word, please) -- CHEESE seems the obvious response, and we end up with some smelly limburger cheese.
A mountain at the end of the road contains a large cave... which contains the CHEWED BODIES OF... PROFESSOR FRANKENFELD and HANS. Good thing we read the prologue or we would have no idea who these people are... were; we can't do anything with the bodies, it seems.
Exploring the streets of downtown Chicago, we find mouse SAM sitting atop the Hancock Building, swatting at planes and dropping bricks and mouse droppings on the populace. There's also a BURNING MERCHANDISE MART, but the wind tends to blow us around so we can't enter any of the buildings or facilities, including the FALLING STAND, an OIL BUILDING, and a CRUMBLING MARINA CITY.
GO QUICKSAND in the forest is fatal, it's just that GO BOG isn't recognized by the parser. Despite the game's opening warnings, the quicksand is much more reliably fatal than the giant mutant mice, though they do occasionally spot us and stomp on us if we stick around too long.
We can GO RIVER and see the SAUCER thrown earlier by the wronged spouse, lying at the bottom. But we don't have time to pick it up -- we GASP...PANT...CHOKE and pop up for air immediately. If we HOLD BREATH first, then we can take it and return to the surface manually.
So now we've rounded up a few props, but what can we do about the giant mice? Well, I had to look at the code to get some hints here. We've mapped everything out, it seems. But there are a few missing items we haven't seen -- a bottle of milk, a flute, and a cat. Hmmmm. Okay, we can get free MILK at the grocery store as well. We can't PUT MILK, but we can POUR MILK -- except There's nothing to pour it into. If we DROP SAUCER and POUR MILK, we end up with a SAUCER OF MILK. Okay.
Apparently we need to get a flute from the music store and a cat from the pet store when they are open. We can't get them from the grocery store, at least, and those seem like the logical sources.
So it's time to see what we can accomplish while we wait for certain storekeepers to get back from lunch. It turns out we can electrocute a mouse by shooting the powerlines along the road to Chicago -- I was able to take down PUJI this way -- as noted in the intro, each mouse has a specific weakness, and fortunately each one tends to hang around where we can arrange the appropriate demise.
To use the laboratory machine -- it does work -- we have to put something on the platform, push the reset switch, go east to push button #1 and come back to push button #2. We can use it to turn the CHEESE into GIANT CHEESE.
Now we can go to the forest near the bog and PUT CHEESE -- Ok... you drop it on the quicksand. FIJI falls into the quicksand, and all we see afterward is his PROTRUDING MOUSE TAIL. Oddly, we hear his panicked squeaking coming from the south even if he's right next to us in the forest in the turn just before he passes on.
So that's two giant mutant rodents down. Can we knock SAM off of the Hancock Building? Neither SHOOT SAM nor SHOOT BUILDING does anything interesting. But now the music store is open? This is one of those games where we have to do certain things in a linear order. The music store is also giving things away free on its 7th anniversity [sic], so we can get the FLUTE here. How we would know this without peeking at the code I really don't know -- recollecting the Pied Piper story, maybe?
PLAY FLUTE brings SAM down from the building. We can PLAY FLUTE elsewhere and hear scampering, but to kill this mouse off, we have to lead him room by room by PLAYing the FLUTE in each location, from the Hancock Building all the way to the river. And if we lose him along the way -- which happens if we run into MAJA, the other surviving mouse, at any point before we have summoned SAM -- we have to go all the way back to Chicago and start the journey over. We actually need to lure SAM onto the bridge -- it starts shaking, and * SAM * dies screaming as he plunges into the icy river (having exceeded the weight limit on the bridge.)
Three mice have been killed off, so we need to deal with MAJA now. Fortunately the bridge being out doesn't limit our travel back to the east side by way of the small town and forest. And now the pet store is open -- celebrating its 9th anniversity [sic], as apparently this town requires all new businesses to open on the same day every couple of years. We can get a free cat here. But if we just put it in the enlarging machine, it runs away. And the pet store doesn't have any more; it seems we ought to have put the saucer of milk down first. Now (after a restore) we see the GIANT CAT as he crashes through the laboratory wall and runs off. Hmmmm.
Stepping outside, we see that the LABORATORY is now a LAB WITH CAT-SHAPED HOLE IN THE WALL. And if we head back toward Chicago, we'll see the cat walzing [sic] back from Chicago with the rear of ** MAJA ** sticking out from his mouth. The game goes on to tell us that All you have to worry about now is a giant cat. But that's another adventure, and this one is over without so much as a congratulatory message or an epilogue:
I felt like we must be missing something, so I looked at the code one last time -- apparently we can actually witness MAJA using the lab to enlarge the other three mice we saw dangling from his mouth earlier, but we have to be in the right place at the right time, and this isn't strictly necessary. It does establish that MAJA is the mastermind, however, likely the original enlarged mouse.
I enjoyed The Mouse That Ate Chicago, but as has been my experience with a number of the SoftSide adventures I had to dig into the BASIC code to figure out what I was missing; I wasn't stuck by specific puzzles so much as being unsure about what to do next and suspecting I had missed an important detail. My walkthrough is below the fold and is also available at the CASA Solution Archive.
**** WALKTHROUGH ****