If there’s one thing we’ve learned from video games, it’s that heroes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. From the straight laced Hylian hero Link to the wise cracking Umbra Witch Bayonetta, devs have given us some of the most memorable characters in any medium thanks to their unique design and endearing personalities. Now, Muse Games has introduced a new hero of a somewhat short stature, complete with big ears, a cute button nose and nerves of steel. He also happens to be a hamster.
Pimm is the star of Hamsterdam: Paws of Justice, a rhythm action game with no music but a boatload of rodent-based Kung fu action. Set in the fictional town of Hamsterdam, Pimm finds himself defending the town against a group of chinchilla delinquents known as the Vermin Gang, led by the sinister mob boss Marlo. The plot doesn’t really elaborate on this initial premise, which is a shame because the characters and setting are refreshingly unique, and could have formed the backdrop of an interesting and potentially hilarious story.
The core gameplay in Hamsterdam is split into three distinct parts. The majority of the game's levels will see you pitted against a group of enemies usually consisting of two or three smaller 'grunts' backed up by a couple of beefier vermin. Defeating them requires a balance of offense and defence, allowing you to directly attack an enemy right in front of you, whilst countering any potential attacks from the surrounding mob. Attacks are simply an exercise in pressing the 'Y' button in a rhythmic pattern, with each consecutive hit dealing more damage and building your combo. Counter attacks are then dished out by simply moving the control stick in the direction of the enemy when they briefly glow white.
After a series of successful strikes, a KO meter will gradually fill up, which will ultimately allow you to dish out a lethal blow to an enemy of your choice, wiping them out in one go. Additionally, certain prompts mix the gameplay up a bit, so you may be grabbed by an enemy at some point, requiring you to repeatedly tap 'Y' to break free and counter, or you might need to press certain directional prompts to avoid a series of strikes from one of the heavier enemies.
The second part of the gameplay revolves around intermittent bonus levels focused on collecting seeds, which happen to be the game's currency. These play out like auto-runners typically found on mobile devices, requiring you to duck and jump to avoid obstacles and collect as many seeds as possible. They're not quite as engaging as the main levels, but they're a good change of pace if you're getting bored of the increasingly monotonous rhythm parts.
The third gameplay pillar is a bit of an oddity. It revolves around the game's boss fights, but they're not really 'fights', as such, but rather an exercise in avoiding incoming bombs and giant fists. It's seems a bit strange to us that a hamster specialising in martial arts isn't able to utilise this ability against the game's more formidable enemies, but there we go. After a bit of dodging left and right, the boss will eventually lob a fellow hamster in your direction, which you'll need to grab and throw back, dazing the boss and subsequently allowing you to dish out a few punches and kicks.
The gameplay, as a whole, is fairly dull and repetitive. Hamsterdam is a game built for mobile devices, and unfortunately it shows. There's very little depth, and whilst the levels' optional objectives - such as "complete with a 40+ combo" - may offer some replay incentive, you likely won't bother going back at all. It's a shame, because visually it looks lovely, with disarmingly cute characters and attractive backdrops, and there's potential for a good storyline here, but it mostly feels squandered.
If there's any incentive to play for the long haul, the game will periodically dish out new items in the in-game store. These are merely cosmetic and don't serve to benefit the gameplay in any way, but it's admittedly quite fun kitting Pimm out in stuff like 3D glasses, boxing gloves and new threads, somehow making him look even cuter than before.
Technically, the game runs reasonably well for the most part, with the framerate remaining fairly steady throughout. There are lengthy load times that will no doubt hinder your enjoyment of the game, and we actually ran into a few occasions where the game froze completely, forcing us to quit out to the home screen and load the game up again.
Hamsterdam is a mobile title through-and-through. It's got all of the tropes normally associated with mobile games, such as limited gameplay mechanics and a heavy focus on purchasing cosmetic items, with none of the depth you should come to expect from your average Switch title. There's a lot of potential in the game's premise and presentation that could well be capitalised on for any future games, but here it feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Add to this the lengthy load times and technical issues, and this is game you'd be best off avoiding.