Appiphilia: Forget reindeer games. Hamsters are loose in the App Store
I'm not even sure how I stumbled on this really. But have you noticed that there are several games featuring hamsters -- in balls, no less?
It could possibly stem from the endless hours of unusual human enjoyment derived from watching freedom-taunted rodents roll energetically around kitchens and hallways (see video above). Now, I'm not saying it's right. But it's funny.
As for the iPhone games, maybe the developers saw a bond or kinship between them and today's worker. In addition to RhinoBall, which we gave a spin earlier, we take a look at three offerings. They are mostly technologically non-offensive games that employ some dexterity but don't require serious gaming skills.
What it is: You hamster hero flies around in his plastic ball collecting treats and avoiding dangerous enemies.
What sizzles: The mechanics of the game are a gentle enough challenge that children could easily grasp them. The game is essentially a maze that doesn't take an expected route -- not always left to right or up to down. In that way, it's a pleasant change. With every level finished, you get a chance at bonus points. And the next level ups the ante -- sometimes even with ants.
When the insects and other dangers creatures do sting, your hamster doesn't die immediately (more later). His life span just gets shorter.
What fizzles: The music is like a circus nightmare. Definitely play with the sound off.
The game has a warning rating it 9+ for "infrequent/mild cartoon or fantasy violence." Um, that's the primary audience for this kind of game -- 9 and under. But that's a fair warning. Even though the hamster, Captain Weevil, doesn't die upon being stung, he is temporarily encased in a ball of fire. Plus, in the garden, there are hamster skeletons subtly scattered in the dirt below.
When you finally do die, man, talk about a negative message: "Failure! Impossible, Captain Weevil never fails! I'm ruined!"
Bottom line: Not horrible, but not for young children. A tad pricey for what mostly amounts to a simple shake-and-tilt game.
What it is: You build a maze of tubes to keep the hamster in motion. The tubes are of a predetermined shape, and you just twist them into a path to make sure this guy goes through each tube at least once.
What sizzles: This game, while fairly uncomplicated, does require quick thought. This rodent is determined to keep moving, so you have to figure out which of the tubes of predetermined shape (mostly elbows and arms) will keep the little guy from falling out.
What fizzles: This creature scurries a little too fast, even if he really is going at a constant speed. The pressure is on to keep this guy moving through all of the tubes. And you can only tap to turn them. Tubes are in a fixed position, so you can't slide them around to make for a connected path. That's a tad frustrating.
Bottom line: Probably the most tame of these hamster games. A nice, clean maze challenge.
What it is: There's truth in advertising. You juggle animals -- hamsters and pigs, to be exact -- by tapping your iPhone screen. Keep them in the air, or they die.
What sizzles: This is a very simple game. As clouds glide by, you have to keep hamsters encased in their plastic balls from hitting the ground. When they hit the ground, the ball cracks, the hamster squeaks and a look of terror comes across its face. The third drop does 'em in.
With the "Balloon Toss," you keep the pigs afloat by pelting them gently with water balloons. When they hit the ground, they oink. Ground 'em three times, and they're bacon.
What fizzles: If you care at all about animals, a bit of panic creeps in and the pressure to keep them from falling to their deaths mounts with every plaintive squeak.
Bottom line: No live animals are harmed in the playing of this game. The simplicity of concept and execution are probably what a 99-cent game should be.
Ultimately, all of these offerings are gaming gumballs or stuffed animals at Dennys. You put a few quarters in and get out a cute (but not super) treat.
-- Michelle Maltais