There are very few potential sequels that I would pledge my unborn future child to Mephistopheles for. A box-fresh RollerGames side-scroller would be one of them, a sequel to Sky Odyssey would be another, and a sequel to Zettai Zetsumei Toshi would be yet another.

I would also do this for a new Parodius.

While it's unlikely the world will be getting any of these games soon, for this last series - Konami's Parodius - there's at least a substitute in the form of Flying Hamster HD.

A niche, within a niche, within a niche

If you thought the shmup was an obscure enough genre within shooters, then you'll be surprised to learn that within that genre is a sub-genre called cute-'em-ups - hardcore scrolling shmups that place the emphasis on cartoonish and sweet visuals.

That's Flying Hamster HD to a T: a game that's lovely to look at while providing a solid shooting challenge.

You fly your hamster through various horizontally scrolling levels, each with multiple stages and a large boss creature, using your spit as your primary attack. It wouldn't be my first choice for a weapon if I were to battle hundreds of enemies in fast-paced combat, but hamsters need to be resourceful I suppose.

Unlike in Parodius, weapon pick-ups don't stack up into an all-powerful super-arsenal. It's a double-edged sword for the game: there's not as much flash to the fire and your attacks feel extremely underpowered at times, but then you don't run the risk of losing every upgrade when you're hit. I'm mainly looking at you, R-Type.

Instead of these, you pick up alternative ammo types, spitting them at approaching foes. The sweet but odd tone starts here, really - machine gun-like sunflower seeds, laser beams made of beer, homing missile bees: Flying Hamster HD revels in its irreverence.

Hamster, Defined

While playing with the D-pad is fine, control is far more smooth and precise with the left stick. Which is fortunate, since you'll be required to weave some tricky lines around hazards and enemy fire. Circle is a rapid shot, while holding X charges your attack, changing its properties.

These properties vary wildly depending on your current ammo, and discovering their uses is part of the grander puzzle of maximising scores and beating the game with a single credit. On hand to give you a push in the right direction are the Trophies, which not only force you to think about how you approach the game, but also confer an extra continue should you attain them.

There's a mechanical density to Flying Hamster HD that shmup fans will appreciate, and while it's not as complex as a DoDonPachi it does manage to maintain this arcade junkie's attention. At some point during play - like the Parodius games - the aesthetic melts away, leaving the raw beauty of player versus patterns of pew.

As a community of shmup fans, we don't get games like this very often, let alone ones that are this good. So if you're craving a new Parodius-like experience, go download Flying Hamster HD: it's the closest thing to another entry in the series as we're ever likely to get.