Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games (Game Boy Advance) Review

By Adam Riley 15.08.2004

If any of you has witnessed the Hamtaro cartoon series then you will understand just how sickeningly cute they are...and their games are hardly any different. Except the quality is generally far higher than the programme, with the last title, Ham-Ham Heartbreak on the GBA, receiving critical acclaim from many sources. But now the hamster crew return in their own Track 'N Field, Olympic-themed game, Ham-Ham Games. Read on to find out if it achieves a Gold medal...

There is a special event that is being held called the 'Ham-Ham Sports Festival' and it is being sponsored by none other than the Rainbow Kingdom. Now it turns out that Hamtaro and his friends are due to participate against several others as part of the Ham-Ham team. All of the teams compete over a period of seven days in an attempt to become the ultimate champions and claim as many Gold medals in each of the events and become the overall championship winner. That is the entire basis of the game, but there are little extras dotted around for fans of the TV series. So, umm, you know, 'never fear'!

If there was ever one main complaint that could be thrown at the original Game Boy Advance it was that you could barely see anything on its screen unless there was a direct light over it. Titles like Castlevania: Circle of the Moon were criticised for being so dark and moody that even under a halogen bulb you struggled to see any action on the poor screen. However, there is definitely no fear at all of this ever being the case with the Hamtaro series; not the earlier versions and certainly not this latest outing. Everything is cute and nice, although probably bright enough to cause great pain to anyone playing with a hang-over...

Screenshot for Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games on Game Boy Advance

But that is not to criticise Ham-Ham Games at all, as AlphaDream (the team that worked on Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga) has done a commendable job of creating a lovely-looking GBA games. The characters are nice and large, have great detail doled upon them and zip around the screen at a fair pace, all without the slightest hint of slowdown to be found. That is really no mean feat, especially considering some other developers have trouble in that area. Charm is the key here, though, and AlphaDream has given each hamster its own range of characteristics that will please all who play the game.

After working on the superb Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, AlphaDream clearly has some musical talent in its midst. However, most of the tunes from that game were inspired by previous Nintendo ones and the tunes here are new. But that is not to say they are all bad – there are some that prove to be incessantly catchy and sound superb through a pair of earphones. It is just a shame that the score appears to be on some sort of weird random loop that will change abruptly every now-and-then…This can be quite annoying when you are just listening to one of the better tunes. But hey, life is terribly unfair, no?

Screenshot for Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games on Game Boy Advance

With the recent influx of retro titles that are filling up store shelves at the moment, you would think that gamers would be able to spot a retro game in sheep's clothing by now. Yes, as you might have guessed by now, Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games' mechanics are based around the tried-and-tested gameplay found in the age-old Track 'N Field titles that were so popular many aeons ago. Beneath the cute, young exterior is a crusty old formula that surprisingly holds up very well in today's market.

Thankfully the developer decided it best not to go down the 'button-bashing' route, though. There is one event, the swimming medley, where bashing might be useful, but it becomes amazingly clear why it was ditched. Just try holding the system with one hand, bashing the buttons quickly with the other AND try to clearly see the on-screen action. Yes, see what I mean now? Clever AlphaDream! Instead it focuses on timing and your overall reactions, which is difficult enough when you have become a lazy gamer who's reactions are barely tested to their limits...ever!

You will be treated to twelve different events, such as diving, archery, long-jump, pole-vault, swimming medley and hurdles. All of them involve concentration and quick reactions that will certainly drive some people crazy, but really do prove to be superb little games. For example, the swimming has you press a certain button at a certain time, hitting a mark on a timing bar, then repeating with a different combination of buttons instead, each time with the bar moving faster. Then there is the hurdles where holding 'B' makes you jump, but slow down and then timing the press of 'A' as you hit the ground can give you a welcome running boost. It might all sound too simple, but in play it can become gruesome, yet will bring you back for more time and time again.

Screenshot for Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games on Game Boy Advance

The icing on the cake, though, other than the little adventure parts that will have you play through the title several times, are the volleyball and tennis events that could well be full blown games from the NES or GB! Tennis, whilst not as impressive as Mario Tennis, really does get you involved and thinking more than other events. The same is true with the volleyball section, where planning must go into the play or else you fail miserably. A round of applause is required, methinks...

Short, yes, short this game may be, but you can get enough enjoyment out of this to warrant either a cheap purchase or a couple of rents from your local Blockbuster. You play through the twelve or so different events over a period of in-game days and once you have completed this cycle you either stop and throw the damn game away or do the logical thing and 'do a Pikmin', playing the whole experience a few more time in order to collect those elusive last few items, gold medals and so on. The only real let-down is the complete lack of multi-player. Sure, you can exchange the special collectable suits with your friends, but what is there no option to let friends compete either alongside you or even against you? That is a major oversight in my eyes...but the only real one.

Screenshot for Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Games on Game Boy Advance

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

I am sure that many of you will have automatically assumed that this would be a complete disaster, but you should have had faith in the genii that created the exemplary Mario & Luigi RPG! The team has taken the sickly-sweet hamsters and mixed in the tried-and-tested reactionary play mechanics of Konami's classic event-based title to produce one of the surprises of the year. Give it a rent at least...









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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