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Game Review: Hamster Ball (PSN)

Has a game ever made you feel physically sick? Give Hamster Ball a try… if you dare! Hamster Ball is essentially a very limited and frustrating game that promises much and only gives you headaches and dizzy spells.

The Concept

Poor Hamster. He’s stuck in his ball and has to make it down various highly coloured psychedelic mazes with traps in to make it to the other side before the clock stops.
The Gameplay

Essentially you control the balls movement and the is very close to the old classic Marble Madness. There are several modes. The main one has the whole track in 3D and you see everything coming at you from behind the ball. There’s the 2.5D Marble Madness view levels too which I actually enjoyed a lot more than the fully 3D ones as they don’t rely on quite such cheap frustrating tricks to throw you off the course. You have infinite lives on all variations of the game, its just you against the clock. There is a semo mode which is similar to Gladiators Atlasphere game for multiplayer kicks and racing against your opponent but its all clock driven.

The problem is that the physics are very inconsistent and so one minute you’ll be too fast, then too slow, then flying off in the wrong direction. It’s feels like the game is out to get you sometimes.

The Graphics

For a guy whose normally not a pixel whore, the is possibly the ONLY exception to the rule (except once for Street Racer on the PS1). The graphics make me feel sick and dizzy. Everything is high contrast colour, but its also swirls, waves, chequers and constantly in the 3D mode, you’re spinning around like a madman. It all combines to make me feel really unwell, so much so several times I’ve had to stop playing and leave the game, which was already getting on my nerves beforehand, and then come back the next day, only to get the same problem. As a result, I can only do about 7 or 8 levels a day max. Not good.

The Sound

The sound fits the cutesy mood although most of it is forgettable afterwards, it does nothing to offend at all.

The RePlay Factor

For the price, if you’re not wanting to throw up, you can have the game done in a couple of hours, which isn’t great value. This is a game for high score honours and if you can hold down your frustration. I found the insane difficulty of the courses would have been a great challenge, but when you go off track, you’re replaced straight back on again losing only a second or two’s time. You can usually go off 10 times and still beat the clock by 20 seconds. That then made the game a chore, on top of feeling awful while watching it.

The Positives

~Its a hamster…in a ball!

~The 2.5D levels do hark back to Marble Madness and that’s the best part of the game

The negatives

~Disorentating graphics made me feel very sick very quickly

~More frustration than reward

~A lot of repetition in the levels

The Conclusion

A completely missed opportunity. I really wanted to like Hamster Ball, but from the awful graphics that make you sick, to the sheer frustration as you think “I’m just trying to enjoy the game here”, you wonder why you are putting yourself through its paces when its more annoying than fun. Switchball is much more approachable with a better learning curve, Super Monkey Ball stamps all over Hamster Ball and Kororinpa is much more involving. Don’t roll with this one.

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