The Petz Hamsterz is a lie
Petz Hamsterz 2 is unsurprisingly the sequel to last years hit Petz Hamsterz 1, those of you who missed the first game in the series would do well to go back and play it before starting on this, as this latest venture into the Hamsterz word does little to explain the back story. You play the part of the unnamed Hamster who has been trying to piece together his memory using the clues that are scattered through an open-ended free-form gameworld. Flashes of memory are sporadically shown through brief non-interactive FMV sequences when you complete certain objectives which keeps the story moving along at a good pace and provides all the twists and turns you’d expect from a UBI Z game.
You’ll be starting off in a cage after being captured by the humanz which follows on nicely from the previous adventure, once here you’ll go through the controls tutorial and generally get acquainted with the new interface. Several events will appear at different times of day that are dealt with in a series of functional mini games, for instance shredded paper is dropped into your cage that you have to try to assemble into order before you soil it. Most mini games are controlled through the touch screen and are pretty intuitive, but don’t really stand out from all the other mini game collections we’ve seen. The one mini game that really does stands out is the water drinking game where you have to drink from a mounted water bottle by licking the DS microphone which is both innovative and creepy. Once you escape from the tutorial cage the house opens up to you and you can pick and choose your objectives, Hamsterz 2 really owes a lot to GTA in this area with the fetch quests and race missions which you’ll have to find using your ‘Hamster sense. Occasionally you’ll run into a boss battle, which can be incredibly tough and sneak up on you without warning. If you’re prepared and have found the Hamster ball power-up things get a whole lot easier as the hunter quickly becomes the hunted.
Graphically Hamsterz is no slouch, FMV sequences are crisp and smooth and unlocking the different regions shows you new areas with their own graphical touch. The most major complaint is the bland open spaces in the middle of most areas which can leave you feeling like your lost in space, especially with the Hamsterz short eyesight which gives off a convenient distance haze.
Sound may as well be non existent except for select rooms where you’ll find radios left on, once you learn the climb ability you’ll be able to get up and switch the stations, but I’d advise switching radios off entirely, or better yet just turning the DS sound off, you’d really not miss much here.
Gameplay is where the game shines, the open-ended nature gives you a real feel of what it feels like to be a hamster in the wild. The hamster ball controls much like the morph ball in Metroid and it’s genuinely fun to chase those cats around the house. Other new mechanics such as the cheek system provides convenient storage but it takes some getting used to. The list goes on, including a mini game where you have to caption cats in various poses, half the fun is finding these crazy ideas, so I won’t spoil too much here.
To summarize, people who want a family friendly GTA feeling on a smaller scale should definitely consider not checking this game out, as sadly Hamsterz will give you a more of a tiny Nintendogs feeling. But then a hamster in a morphball isn’t for everyone.