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Platform(s): Android, Nintendo Switch, PC, iOS
Genre: Action/Adventure
Release Date: Aug. 1, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Hamsterdam'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 29, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Hamsterdam is a tale of a resistance led by an unlikely hero, in a game where classic brawler mechanics meet rhythm and precision.

There's nothing wrong with a simple game. Not everything needs to be filled with massive quests, tons of abilities to master, and have gameplay last into the double digits. Sometimes, being simple and short works in a game's favor. That doesn't work out if the title's simplicity isn't compelling, and unfortunately, that's what happens in Hamsterdam.

As the story goes, you're a hamster named Pimm who needs to save his town and his grandfather from a gang led by an evil chinchilla named Marlo. The wordless cut scenes are fine, but they don't do much to establish who's who or their motivations. You only know who some people are due to the opening tutorial, but nothing else pushes the tale along. Granted, there are plenty of players who probably won't care much about the story, but a little more effort would've been nice.

Hamsterdam starts off by recommending that players hold Joy-Cons like they were Wii Remotes, as it wants you to start swinging them in certain directions in conjunction with hitting buttons. Touch-screen commands also work if you're going portable, and the methods make sense when you consider that this game was initially made for phones. Thankfully, for those who aren't down with swiping or swinging their arms, Hamsterdam allows for more traditional controls via buttons and the left analog stick.

The game is split into three specific sections. The first and perhaps most prevalent are the fighting sections, where you'll brawl against a few enemies at a time. Instead of walking up to a foe and pummeling them, the game pits you against up to three eligible enemies at a time, and you must try to counter their attacks first. The counters can involve swiping or flicking the analog stick in a certain direction, mashing on a button to fill up a meter, or hitting buttons at the opportune time. Once you get the counter down, you can proceed to punch and kick the enemy until they attack or someone else attacks. While mashing on buttons will do the trick, the game rewards you for trying to hit buttons at a specific cadence to inflict more damage and fill up a special meter faster. Once that meter is filled, you can drag over a K.O. icon to immediately defeat an enemy or severely damage them for easy beatdowns later.

The second game type only occurs if you amass enough stars to unlock bonus levels, where you hop on a scooter to gather as many seeds as possible before reaching the finish line. It is basically an endless runner that goes from right to left (instead of left to right), and although you can't do any tricks, it's reminiscent of OlliOlli since you'll grind on pipes before you reach the end.

The final game type you'll encounter are fights against both mini and regular bosses, and they don't play out as expected. Instead of emulating regular fights on a grander scale, you'll spend a great deal of time avoiding enemy attacks that range from straight-up fist pounds to dodging bombs. Occasionally, the enemy throws hamsters your way, and this becomes an unusual weapon you can use, since you can catch the hamsters and throw them back at the boss. Have three of them latch on to the boss, and he'll get damaged immediately or get knocked down, so you can pummel him yourself; each boss encounter lasts three rounds.

What all three sections suffer from the most is repetition. It isn't difficult to read when enemies will attack, and since there's no real punishment for mashing buttons, you'll rarely bother to figure out the rhythm in these sections. The fights are short, but because the procedures are the same and the enemies rarely differ, each skirmish feels very similar to the next. The bonus sections are fine, but the boss fights suffer from the same issue as the regular fights, since you know exactly what to expect and are merely toiling away until you finally get a hamster to throw and inflict damage. That isn't to say that the mechanics are terrible, as the encounters are genuinely enjoyable, but it doesn't take long for the magic to wear off.

There isn't much to the game beyond the main campaign. The only extras are the unlockable costumes, which can be annoying to obtain since you have to perform the special requirements for unlocking them and pay the price in seeds. Once you unlock them, you'll find a good mix of costumes that make the game easier and provide some handicaps, giving the game a variable difficulty level that isn't initially present.

The presentation is fine in spots. The sound is mostly limited to music and sound effects, and they both work well in creating an old kung-fu movie vibe without necessarily feeling like it's pandering to that expectation. Graphically, the levels are colorful, and so are the characters, who look cute despite some of them being evil. About the only time the presentation fails is when some of the larger characters move; you get the sense the game is struggling to keep the movements smooth, even if it only lasts a few seconds.

Hamsterdam is a fine game if you plan on playing it in short bursts. Most of the battles are fine, but it doesn't take long before they feel too easy. That repetitive nature drags down the enjoyment of the game, since the variety is lacking from beginning to end, even during boss fights. With decent sound and good graphics with shaky performance, Hamsterdam is meant to eat up a few minutes at a time in between more fulfilling titles.

Score: 6.0/10

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