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Review #217

Hi! Hamtaro Ham-Ham Challenge
Publisher: Natsume
Developer: Alphadream Corporation
Genre: Mini-Games
Release Date: 09/25/2008

Although it is odd to actually type it out, if I had to name the most consistent video game franchise I could think of in regards to quality, the Hamtaro franchise would probably be at the top. It’s had three solid Adventure games, a game on the GBA that is arguably the best sports title for the system, and now Alphadream, the masters of both the Hamtaro and Mario and Luigi series have brought Hamtaro back for a fifth game. I for one couldn’t be happier. I love Hamtaro, I own all the DVD’s and hell, I first met fellow DHGF staffer Matt Yaeger through my praise of Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak

This time around though, the game is geared for very small children. We’re talking single digit age kids. Considering that I am far older than that, I was a bit nervous about reviewing this game, as what appeals to an 8 year old doesn’t necessarily appeal to me. Well, except for Pokemon. In the end, my love of Hamtaro and Alphadream got me to pick up the cart and reunite with some old friends called the Ham-Hams. So was the game at the same level of quality Hamtaro titles are known for, or is this the first black mark in a nearly flawless series.

Let’s Review

1. Modes

Hamtaro actually has three modes. The first mode is Hamtaro’s house, where you treat Hamtaro as if it was a pet sim. You can watch have him play in his feel, eat and drink, and even poop. I swear to you, the Hamtaro pooping bit is hilarious and adorable. Oddly enough this is not the first game to feature Hamtaro making bowel movements. He’s done it in every game.

The second mode is playing with the Ham-Hams, where Hamtaro can talk to all of his hamster buddies and engage in one of twelve different mini-games that are geared towards teaching very young children skills ranging from rhythm to memorization. Each of these games is sure delight your child and even at my ripe old age, I had friends crowded around my DS to see what adorable antics the game would put the Ham-Hams up to next. That’s really impressive. Also in this mode, you can collect seeds to buy your fellow hamsters gifts, and scratch and paste your Ham-Ham stickers into your sticker album. You earn stickers by beating games, making fellow hamsters happy, or by receiving them in the third mode which is for parents only.

In parent mode, you can check your child’s progress in the game, as it gives you an update on how well your son or daughter has done in each game and which games they prefer. You can also change the difficulty levels of each mini-game and finally, you can give your offspring a present that Hamtaro will open and play with. It’s all incredibly adorable and a great way to not only introduce a child to video games, but it is also a wonderful way to get parents involved with the games their kids play. As the game can be set to have a maximum time per day and it’s as educational as it is fun, parents don’t have to worry about their kids growing up to be one of those gamers that are still living in their basement when they are 30 and who do nothing but games. Ham-Ham Challenge helps both parent and child grow into a responsible family where video games are a part of family life rather than something divisive.

The twelve games in Ham-Ham Challenge are as follows:

Treasure Hunt – a line mazes that teaches children problem solving skills.

Mixed Juice Stand – A memorization game where kids memorize what fruit each Ham-Ham wants in their juice.

Chow Down Oxnard – Make this hamster morbidly obese by choosing the correct type of food it cryptically asks for.

Secret Shortcut – Memorize and mimic the path Penelope takes through the maze.

Exact Change Only – Buy items for your Ham-Ham and improve your addition skills!

Fashion Designer – Make Ham-Ham clothing by colouring within the lines and using the correct colours.

How Many – Teaches your children basic counting and numerical writing skills.

Hide and Seek – Ham-Ham’s are hiding. Find the right one amongst the clutter!

Block Puzzle – Fill in the empty puzzle with the correct shapes!

Jump Rope – Make your Ham-Hams jump rope for a specific number of jumps. Each hamster has a different speed so make sure to keep your eye on the rope. Think of it as a very early DDR.

Which Has More? Watch hamsters go between two holes and keep track of which hole currently has more. Great for basic analytical skills.

What’s My Dream? This tests a child’s deduction ability. Snoozer has a dream. From the outline of the shape, pick the correct object he is dreaming about.

With all these modes, games, and ways for a parent to interact with their child, Ham Ham Challenge is arguably the best game for very young children I’ve ever seen. There’s enough here to keep them occupied and it’s also cute and harmless enough for parents to feel safe and secure about letting their child have this as their first video game.

Modes Rating: 10/10

2. Graphics

Bottom Line – this is the prettiest game I have ever seen on the DS. The Ham-Hams look and move exactly like they do in the animated cartoon and it is non-stop adorable action. Movements are fluid, backgrounds are lush, and character models are big and super cute. The game also features the brightest most vibrant colourization I’ve ever seen on the DS. The blue hue in the colouring game? WOW. Gorgeous.

Everything in this game is adorable and well done. Again, I’ve never seen a DS game look THIS good. Ham Ham Challenge is proof that a game can be for little kids and yet still test the graphic potential of the system. It’s like watching an episode of the anime, and that’s impressive.

Graphics Rating: 10/10

3. Sound

This is probably the weakest area of the game. Although there is voice acting, it is neither the American cast from the cartoon nor is it in English. It appears Natsume tried to cut corners here by shying away from the actual voice cast and crew. This is a huge mistake on Natsume’s part as it will undoubtedly confuse children and make things hard on the parents as they try to explain why the Ham-Ham crew is speaking gobblygook.

The noises that are made by the Ham-Hams are quite cute, so there is that saving grace there. The music is also nice for background noise, but the score won’t win any awards or make fans of the game through it alone. It’s merely there to pad the game.

If any one area of the game is going to alienate the kids, it’s the sound aspect of the game. It’s by no means bad, it is just a huge drop in quality compared to the rest of the title. What’s here is serviceable and nothing more.

Sound Rating: 5/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Each game has its own specific controls, but they are easy to learn. As a combined whole, Ham Ham Challenge is an excellent intro for anyone of any age to learn how to use the touch screen and stylus. Whether you are a parent following your child’s progress , a little kid helping Boss get through a maze or a young at heart person just giggling and cooing at Hamtaro’s actions within his hamster cage, you’ll find the controls to be solid, tight, and easy to pick up. Everything is intuitive and the top screen is always constantly reminding you of how to play the game, so your little boy or girl will never be confused or pondering how to do something.

Again, Ham Ham Challenge is pretty close to being the perfect game for very young children.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 10/10

5. Replayability

With twelve different mini games, three different difficulty settings, and 120 stickers to collect, your child can get a lot of playtime out of Ham ham Challenge. Even as an adult, I was able to play all of the game multiple times and still be amused by them, even though the highest difficulty setting was still crazy easy for me. I loved the little stickers and hamster faces.

As a parent, you can actual control how much replay value the game has, as you can set a time limit per day on the game. This not only prevents your kid from becoming a gaming zombie, but also keeps them from burning out on the game.

I was impressed by the variety of options and games in Ham Ham Challenge and your little boy or girl will be as well.

Replayability Rating: 8/10

6. Balance

Although the game is VERY easily for an adult, there is still noticeable differences between each of the three difficulty levels. With the ability to adjust each of the twelve games independently of each other, a parent will be able to customize the game so that their offspring has the exact challenge it needs and can raise or lower the games as they see fit. This level of flexibility ensures a perfect balance for your youngster, and allows them to grow and develop their skills at the speed that is best for them.

Again, like the rest of the game, you can really tell how much work Alphadream put in to creating the perfect game for preschool to elementary school age kids.

Balance Rating: 10/10

7. Originality

Mini game collections aren’t new to the DS, and Hamtaro went out of vogue with kids years ago. Still both are fun and retain their core audience, so mixing the two together in a nice idea. As well, the parental mode on the game is highly original and unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s such a great idea, and it helps show parents that games can be fun and educational at the same time instead of nonstop violence and pixilated boobies.

I love that each Hamtaro game has been drastically different from the previous one, and Ham Ham Challenge is no exception. Alphadream is one of the more innovative publishers out there, and this game is a perfect example of that.

Originality Rating: 7/10

8. Addictiveness

As a Hamtaro fan, it was easy for me to overlook the age group this game was geared for, as well as the extreme ease as which it was to beat the game. Still, I played the game for several hours straight without getting bored. I tried each mini-game on the various difficulty settings, found all the different pieces of the environment I could click on (ranging from a water bottle to frogs), and loved the new stickers I unlocked for my Ham-Ham album. I’m still shocked how many Easter Eggs and interactive options were put into this game.

If I could get this much used out of the game, imagine how much your son or daughter, niece or nephew or whatever will get out of Ham-Ham Challenge. It’s so amazingly well done, your child won’t even need to know who Hamtaro is, but it might make them want to find out.

Addictiveness Rating: 7/10

9. Appeal Factor

When I first turned on the game, two of my friends watched and love the animations and little hamster actions. One of those friends is primarily a FPS fan, while the other doesn’t like video games at all. Yet they thought Ham Ham Challenge was adorable. In fact, EVERYONE I showed the game to thought it was both a wonderful idea and very well done.

Most small children will enjoy this game. Slightly older kids will probably get bored with it quickly, and I have a hard time believing most teenagers and adults would play the game for more than an hour unless they have a small child. Still, the core audience is that post toddler demographic and this is perfect for them. Everyone else though, need not apply.

Appeal Factor: 3/10

10. Miscellaneous

I would have loved this game when I was between the ages of three and eight. It’s cute, brightly colored, and offers a lot of variety. It’s a far cry from Baby Turtle and other early PC games that were around when I was in the age category Ham Ham Challenge is geared for. Hell, the tiny tot version of me would have enjoyed this more than the original Super Mario Bros.

Alphadream has made a game for an age category most of us overlook as reviewers. They’ve created a perfect interface between parent and child to get them both into gaming. They’ve created a game that is visually enticing and featuring popular cartoon characters (albeit it long after the height of their popularity) while educating their audience on basic fundamental skills that will give them a leg up on their peers.

I don’t think I could picture a better game for young children, and if you have a small child in your household, I can’t think of a better title to place in their hands and to bond with them over.

Miscellaneous Rating: 10/10

The Scores
Modes: 10/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 4/10
Control and Gameplay: 10/10
Replayability: 8/10
Balance: 10/10
Originality: 7/10
Addictiveness: 7/10
Appeal Factor: 3/10
Miscellaneous: 10/10
TOTAL SCORE: 79
FINAL SCORE: 8.0 (GREAT GAME!)

Short Attention Span Summary

Although I am not a member of the target age group for Hi! Hamtaro Ham-Ham Challenge, I am able to recognize the exceptional level of quality this game possesses. If you have a young child, I can’t imagine a better game to indoctrinate your child into the world of video gaming. If you are a parent who has never played a game before, this is the perfect way to learn why millions of people around the world enjoy this hobby of ours, and it’s a great game to track your child’s early cognitive development. Everyone else will find the game far too easy for them, and will probably only enjoy the amazing cuteness and graphics. Still, Ham Ham Challenge really is a great game and Alphadream deserves a big thumb’s up for making yet another superb title featuring the Ham-Hams.

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