Just over a week ago, Hamsterdam dragged players into a furry-ous confrontation with a pack of weaselly criminals. Get ready to unleash a new kind of furry as we review Muse Games charming new brawler.
Available now on Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS, and Android Hamsterdam is a rather unexpected title from the team at Muse Games. Generally known for the steampunk battleships that float through online co-op Guns Of Icarus, this is a definite change of direction. Hamsterdam follows the adventures of Pimm, a Kung-Fu hamster. After watching the city of Hamsterdam fall to the crooked crime boss Marlo, things couldn’t seem to get any worse for this plucky protagonist. When things do, and Grandpa gets kidnapped, this cheeky blighter sets out on a quest to save Grandpa and the entire city from the clutches of Marlo and his scoundrels.
Small But Mighty
This premise probably sounds pretty light on lore. Let’s be clear, it is. Hamsterdam is, like many classic platforming titles, all about the experience. Like saving a Queen Bee or protecting the princess, Hamsterdam relies on great gameplay and a quirky edge to keep players hooked on its spritely action. While Hamsterdam is available on a variety of devices, my experience with this particular title at EGX Rezzed convinced me that it was worth shelling out on Switch. I’ll explain why a little later. Booting up the Switch’s 6.2-inch screen, it is obvious the tone of this title is definitely not that of a gritty steampunk disaster. Instead, a fuzzy little fighter pops up front and center. He appears in an overworld that depicts a hyper-stylized version of the real-life Amsterdam. Filled with tall houses and winding rivers, the game scampers across regions that take in the canals, red light areas, upmarket city streets, and beyond. Each of these has its own distinct visual cues without taking away from the overall whimsical feel of this rhythm-based fighter. Whether it’s the jacked-up riot rabbits or weapon-wielding weasels, the bright animation of Hamsterdam has almost as much impact as a hamster chop and I cannot argue that it is utterly charming.
Making your way through Hamsterdam, the game switches between the aforementioned overworld view and a set of individual sub-stages. The core of this title focuses on a set of contained battles that pit players against a range of street-level ruffians. Starting out with just a few mice, the game slowly reveals the hamster fu techniques that will see of enemies. This is largely a repeating pattern of reactions to obviously telegraphed attacks. While this sounds easy enough Hamsterdam mixes up the required responses, throws in enough time pressure, and adds the occasional new mechanic. This does not make things difficult in any fashion and it is difficult to fail this rhythm style Simon Says. Thankfully the pace of things is judged well enough to keep encounters short and sweet while the controls remain tight. In short, Hamsterdam is easy enough to engage with without ever getting boring.
Kung Fu Controls
This core component of Hamsteram is where the Nintendo Switch really starts to stand out. While other platforms tap, swipe, and wiggle their way to success the Nintendo Joycon controllers make extensive use of the system’s motion control. Simple swipes are mapped onto horizontal flails and hamster attacks become synchronized chopping movements. The simplicity of the control scheme never makes any task any more demanding than flicking a switch but the Joycons adds a level of hilarity and uniqueness that still makes me smile after a solid week of playtime.
Bosses and Bonuses
Beyond the cute carton aesthetic and cool Kung-Fu controls, Hamsterdam throws in boss encounters at the end of each major stage of the game. These get gradually harder as the game progresses and find our protagonist dodging and weaving a plethora of attacks from steroid-enhanced bunnies. This is a slightly more traditional series of challenges where players need quick reaction times and a good memory to get past the end bosses adding just a tiny element of challenge.
For all that effort, Hamsterdam rewards you with a sense of glee and an in game currency called seeds. This munchable money allows a player to decorate Pimm with a range of bonus boosting hats, jackets, gloves and headwear that are cute and kooky as the rest of the game.
Get In The Hamster Wheel
While Hamsterdam races along like a hamster in a ball, it can feel like you are going in one direction. While combat is engaging and there are plenty of bonuses to grab, the game doesn’t deviate too far from its core premise. This means that anybody who is not tickled by the cute art style or engaged with the game mechanics will not find a hardcore challenge anywhere else. Bonus stages feel especially linear and as the game progresses you might find that the game doesn’t escalate the difficulty curve quite hard enough. This is, in itself, a minor complaint that can be just as easily leveled at other rhythm games, except they tend to have several difficulty levels.
With the slightly linear nature of the game, the incentive to go back and grab all the achievements doesn’t translate into a huge amount of replay value either. Despite this, it’s nigh on impossible to dislike Hamsterdam. It is a cute caper with some very cool ideas that plays to its strengths. This isn’t an expensive or expansive game. It is a quick distraction and a wonderful one at that. Consider a weekend break to Hamsterdam and you won’t be disappointed. Hamsterdam is out now and available in the Nintendo eShop, Steam Store, Apple App Store, and Android Play Store.