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The Flying Hamster


20:1823/09/2010Posted by D+PAD StaffNo Comments

I’m always keen to play small games; largely due to the amount of innovation developers can have given such games are fairly financially low-risk. So when we received a code for Indie developer Game Atelier’s The Flying Hamster I was keen to try it out, hoping for some nice quirky new mechanics that I could be inspired by. Unfortunately what I found, while a solid title, was a bit lacking in innovation.

The Flying Hamster is in essence a side-scrolling shoot-em-up produced in a Japanese Anime Style. The game puts you in control of Newton the Hamster, a flying hamster on a mission to save his girlfriend from an evil penguin that keeps running off with her. Granted a fairly generic ‘save the girl’ storyline, however it’s backed up with some quite cute comic-book style cut-scene’s between each level that are successful in keeping you engaged as the story progresses.

Upon opening the game you are greeted with an appealing, brightly coloured menu with Atari-era arcade style backing audio. The game does a brilliant job of creating that old arcade cabinet feeling on your PSP; with the traditional top 10 score board, 3 lives and credits system which immediately creates a nostalgic retro feeling. You are then given a brief tutorial which does a good job of getting you up to speed with the controls as quick as possible and getting you straight into the game in a matter of seconds.

There are six distinctly unique levels, ranging from green meadows to the Egyptian pyramids and the streets of Japan. The levels feature animated backdrops which border on absurdity with everything from bar-fighting cats, to laser eyed owls. What is particularly impressive is how the art has really been honed down for each of the levels. Everything from the enemies and weapons you can use, to the background fits well into the environment and really gets you absorbed into Newton’s world.

Throughout the six levels you gradually gain access to additional weapons, including throwing-bananas, homing-bees, beer, fireballs and more. Each weapon behaves a little bit differently which gives some nice variety to the game play and encourages you to rethink your strategy in terms of how you defeat opponents dependent upon your remaining ammo. In addition each of the weapons has three modes: power-up, single-shot, and rapid fire and this range of different fire modes work well in terms of trying to ensure you balance conserving ammo for survival, with defeating as many enemies as possible to bolster your score. New level mechanics are introduced gradually as you progress through the game including multiple-pathways, obstructing scenery which you need to shoot out the way and pickups which keep you engaged and offer some further game play variety.

As is traditional, at the end of each level is a boss, each with a unique means of attacking the player. The varied attack patterns work well in terms of encouraging you to utilize the level layout to try and avoid attacks. Unfortunately however Newton is not able to shoot backwards. While this is not a problem when you’re constantly moving forwards during the level, it does become quite annoying when you eventually get to a boss battle and the screen becomes stationary. I quite often found myself on the right of the screen after dodging the boss’s attacks, only to have to rush back across the screen so I could actually fire forwards and inflict some damage. In addition the difficulty progression between levels is a little un-balanced. There is a quite steep difficulty curve after the first level which did cause some initial frustration.

Overall however ‘The Flying Hamster’ is a solid side scrolling shooter. It has great graphical charm and addictive core gameplay. The absurdity of some of the characters and backdrops in the game is more than enough to put a smile on your face. However I couldn’t help but wish they had innovated a bit more in terms of the mechanics of the game, at its core ‘The Flying Hamster’ is still essentially just the same as any other side-scrolling shooter from the 80’s with some slightly mad art thrown in and at £5.99 it’s a bit expensive for what it is.

If you already have a number of side-scrolling shooters in your games catalogue then I doubt you’re going to find much more here. However if your new to the genre, then aside from a quite steep initial difficulty curve The Flying Hamster is a nice foray and is probably worth checking out.

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