Developer: The Game Atelier
Price: $1.99 Download on the App Store
Flying Hamster manages to have it both ways: it’s a handheld game that’s light and silly, but it’s also a fast-paced action game that’s challenging and tough to put down.
Flying Hamster can be classified as a “horizontal shooter.” This means the player controls a flying object, which shoots projectiles at enemies as it movies from left to right, through linear, two-dimensional levels. In a typical horizontal shoter, the player controls a World War II era jet, or a space ship, firing missiles or bombs at Nazis or aliens. This time, the player controls a flying hamster. The object is to shoot things like bees and berries at enemies like cartoon penguins and anthropomorphized flowers.
I’ll say it again: this game is silly.
It is also a lot of fun. There are six levels of increasing difficulty. So, while at first, navigating the forest is a breeze, by the time you make it to the ancient Egypt level you’ll be on the edge of your seat. While the graphics are 2D and cartoonish, they’re by no means sloppy. The graphics are optimized for the iPhone 4’s retina display, but even on a 3GS the images were crisp and bright. The game has a definite Japanese feel, with all the animals erring on the side of cute. Newton the hamster-- the protagonist of the game-- has huge beady eyes, as do most of the enemies. The object of the game is to rescue Newton’s equally cute hamster girlfriend, who has been kidnapped by other cute animals for some reason.
Don’t get hung up on the details. Gameplay on the touch screen is intuitive and quite responsive. Newton’s flight path is controlled simply by dragging your thumb around anywhere on the touch screen, as if moving an invisible joystick. The weapons and powerups are deployed by tapping either of the on-screen A or B buttons on the bottom right. It’s just like countless arcade shooters from the past, so picking it up is a cinch.
Flying Hamster is a very well thought-out game, so much so that it’s hard to find any criticism against it. The controls can be changed, the level of difficulty can be changed, and there’s plenty of variety and replay value. The graphics and thematic material will appeal to players of all ages and genders, as will the difficulty of the game. Older players will be reminded of Reagan-era arcade classics, and younger players might think it’s just fun and novel. For this reason, Flying Hamster is recommended for just about any gamer with an iPhone or iPod Touch.