"Don't let the cuteness turn you off, this is more than a "kiddie" game & is surprisingly fun & challenging."

Probably one of the last games released for the Gameboy Color, I had a little bit of difficulty locating this game. I got it brand new for $20, and I suggest you pay no more than that; because for that price, it's totally worth it. For starters I'm going to assume that anyone who buys or rents this game to play is a fan of Hamtaro...otherwise it may not appeal to just any game player. Fans of the cartoon will love the game. All the characters you know & love are in it, their personalities are captured perfectly, and interacting with them is fun.

The plot is simple. Boss is very busy working on a secret project that, when finished, he wants to show all the ham-hams at once. He asks you (Hamtaro...although you can name him whatever you like) to help by going out and rounding up all the other ham-hams. Snoozer is the only other one at the Clubhouse (you can chat with him - he gives you hints). Hamtaro must find all 12 ham-hams throughout 6 different areas, which are depicted as a map overview when you leave the Clubhouse, and when you select an area it shows Hamtaro running down the tunnel on his way there :0)

The atmosphere accurately captures that of the tv show. You are given a notebook with which to record all the ham-chat words you learn along the way. As you learn the words, you may then use them to chat with other ham-hams, interract with them, get information, & perform actions both with ham-hams and objects. Each word, when you say it, makes a cute little sound effect & has a little action that Hamtaro performs with it (which are what you use for the dance moves in the dance hall). The more words you learn, the more options you have, and the more challenging the puzzles are. Some of the puzzles require you to use words that you may not have learned yet, and these are indicated by ''???'' in your ham-chat book, indicating you need to do some other actions or solve some other puzzles before you can accomplish that one. Thus the game is very non-linear and you are free to backtrack and go back to anyplace you'd been previously, and the order you find the ham-hams is not set in stone.

While you are walking around you are able to pick up items like sunflower seeds (money) and rocks, dig holes to find things or entrances to other areas, bang into trees to see what falls out, sniff flowers to make them grow (and receive a prize, perhaps!), etc., so the gameplay is not just a matter of ham-chatting. Also what you say to the other ham-hams gets a variety of responses depending on which words you chose, so going back to a ham-ham after you learned a new word may get you a more desirable response (or a funny one!) in order for them to follow you back to the Clubhouse. This includes possibly finding an item for them as well, and bringing it back to them. Many times, if you leave an area & come back later, the ham-hams are doing something different than they were before! So you really get a feeling that you're truly interacting in Hamtaro's world. I think I was halfway through the game before it even dawned on me that Hamtaro can't die. While this is the main goal of most games (staying alive), in Hamtaro you will be so caught up in the ham-ham world that you will not even realize that that's not the focus of the game. I was very amused by that fact. Despite the fact that you don't have to dodge fire or mash buttons, the game was so engaging & absorbing, the fun of exploring & finding the other ham-hams is not ruined by the frustration of having to start a level over or repeat anything because you died.

Aside from your quest to bring all the ham-hams back to the Clubhouse, there are a few cute side-quests that are very amusing. One is that you can buy clothing articles along the way from the shops in different areas (you purchase items with sunflower seeds you dig up and find). Once you purchase items, they will be delivered to your room back at the Clubhouse, whenever the next time you return there. At that point, if you stand in front of your mirror, you can try on these articles and if you find one combination you like, snap a picture of it. The picture you take will appear on Hamtaro's desk, and also the next time you start the game, it will be on the start-up screen. Another sidequest involves collecting songs, and going back to the dance-room at the Clubhouse to listen to them and make up your own dance moves! You can customize all the moves for each song, and even trade them with another game-pak. Another sidequest is tack-q (tackle) bowling which involves using the tack-q move you learn (rolling into something).

The music isn't the greatest, but for the GBC it's not bad. The sound effects are cute. Sometimes it gets a little annoying having to watch Hamtaro go ''hif-hif'' and sniff every direction every time you want to pick up an item, but it's not a big deal. The people who made the game really attempted to capture all the details and aspects of the cartoon; rather than making a mindless game just to slap the cartoon's name on it, they actually made a lot of effort to simulate the cartoon experience in the video game. And it's not geared just toward children; even older fans of the show (like me) will have fun playing it and not feel like they're playing a child's game. The graphics, for GBC, are wonderful.

The downside: there are a few negatives to the game but they are actually nothing major. First of all the replay value is low considering once you see all the ham-hams unite, and the neat little story play out, there isn't much you would really want to see again. The challenge of the puzzles are no longer challenging once you figure them out. So aside from the first play-through, replay would be repetitive. The other thing is that the game is a little on the short side, which is why I said in the beginning of the review, you shouldn't pay more than $20 for it. I've seen it going for as much as $40 on ebay, which is ridiculous. Search around for it and find it for the regular retail price. Trading dance moves can only be done on the Gameboy Color through the infra-red connector, and not through the GBA or with a cable. There is only one save slot, although it's not that big of a deal since there really isn't a need for multiple saves.

Those are the only negative aspects of this game. This game would make a great renter since it's short and not really worth replaying; although for the price it's worth it to buy and hold onto as a Hamtaro collectible, as most Hamtaro fans would probably prefer. I have a feeling once this game is gone off the shelves you will not see it again.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.0 - Great

Originally Posted: 02/02/03, Updated 02/02/03

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