Hamster Mansion
| Hamster Mansion

Hamsters have the best homes. I'm not talking about those boring, dull cages you shove a mouse or rat in (the animal equivalent of a dreary two-up, two-down in Scunthorpe), but rather, those maze-like plastic-tubed metropolises, where the idea is to build and build, adding tube after tube to expand their abode.

So, if going all Grand Designs on your hamster's home is where the fun's at, why bother with a pet at all? If that's your take, then Hamster Mansion might well look like the perfect mobile marvel.

Here's a game that has the potential to bring a new angle to the standard platformer, giving you the chance to take control of not only a hamster's movements, but also the very space he lives in.

The set-up is a fresh one. Bullied out of town by a pack of gophers, you set about completing a series of levels, picking up seeds and stars along the way, as well as gaining advice from the hamsters that remain to turn your own abode - the aforementioned Hamster Mansion - into the coolest joint in town.

You can design the rooms in your mansion in any way you like, giving the game a fairly unique sense of personalisation for a platformer.

It's a mighty shame, then, that the very levels you're charged with traversing, and indeed the hamster you take charge of, are both so completely inadequate.

Though your fluffy friend is as customisable as any other aspect of Hamster Mansion - his name and looks are both in your hands - he really is ill equipped to cope with the environment he finds himself in.

Initially, you're fairly defenceless against the many enemies you encounter, able to do nothing more than walk, climb and leap between the walls and levels that make up the bulk of play.

Jumping is equally restrained. Though you can hop a short distance into the air using the '2' key, real height can only be gained when standing near a spring - the '5' key firing you up into the sky.

Climbing up walls isn't as simple as it first appears either, with some surfaces not offering any grip and restricting your movement.

With action limited to these fairly strict terms, it's frankly bizarre that large portions of the game feel like they've been designed for a different character altogether - one that can move at pace and jump at will to scale high platforms.

Instead, Mansion's hamster trundles along with little gusto, meaning avoiding the enemies that patrol your path - namely insects and creepy crawlies - is a question of painful patience and timing.

There is a handy 'fire bonus' hidden away in the levels that allows your hamster to burn foes to a crisp, but it runs out after a short period, leaving you with one option - landing, somewhat precisely, on your enemy's head at the end of a jump. Such immaculate timing isn't especially easy when the game itself appears so bereft of precision.

Hamster Mansion is far from a smooth runner, with the game stuttering and stalling as soon as you move or carry out any action at all. This adds a delay between your key inputs and the actual action happening on screen, which disrupts play throughout, and that's ignoring the fact that tapping the keys sometimes has no effect at all.

So, even though some of the levels are quite stunning to look at, existing in them is by no means pleasant.

Which pretty much serves to stab Hamster Mansion, as a whole, in the back. Everything from its brilliant concept to its charming characters and witty dialogue is undermined by the fact that, essentially, it doesn't really work. It's a little bit stunted, a little bit slow, and rather vexing.

Back to the pet shop we go.

Hamster Mansion

Hamster Mansion is a great example of a good idea gone slightly awry. The concept of travelling through a series of levels, decorating your own abode with the items you pick up along the way gives this underwhelming adventure just the merest hints of quality
Keith Andrew
Keith Andrew
With a fine eye for detail, Keith Andrew is fuelled by strong coffee, Kylie Minogue and the shapely curve of a san serif font. He's also Pocket Gamer's resident football gaming expert and, thanks to his work on PG.biz, monitors the market share of all mobile OSes on a daily basis.