Flight of the Hamsters

I love the smell of woodchips in the morning.

Projectile launching games have long been a staple of casual gaming.  Unfortunately, they also have a tendancy to be among the most boring games conceivable.  The general concept is you have an object, and somehow you have to launch it, and you watch and wait to see how far it goes.

The problem with most of these kinds of games is that there’s just so little interaction.  You are involved with the launch, and then from there on it’s just a matter of watching what happens.  This can be interesting for the first few goes, but eventually it just becomes time to move on to something else.

So why bother posting one?  Because, like so many other games that I have posted here, Flight of the Hamsters is one of those games that is predicated upon a simple concept, but has a layer of depth and complexity that allows for an enjoyable experience that continues on beyond the most simple definition of its framework.

To be sure, there are only really two things that propel Flight of the Hamsters beyond the rather drab confines of its forefathers.  The first is a small but versatile set of items that are scattered across the board.  The second is a limited but constantly recharging glide meter.

The two combined turn FotH from a limited interaction boondoggle into an absolute delight.

Adding in Flight of the Valkyrie for background music was a nice touch as well.

FotH is still a one button game.  You hit the mouse button to pop your little hamster up into the air, and you hit it again to use a pillow to get him going in a general horizontal direction.  From there on, your mouse button allows you to “glide” as long as you have glide juice left in your gage.

Surprisingly, the physics for this game are more than serviceable, which allows the glide gage to give an appreciable amount of control even with only one button.  If you’re going low, horizontal, and fast, a quick punch of the glide juice will shoot you upwards.  If you’re coming down hard fast and verticle, the glide button will do little but maybe adjust your arc of decent a little bit.  Likewise, without the glide button, a horizontal descent lets you come to a skidding halt while a straight drop will cause a crater.

Getting a feel for the glide gage and when the right exact moment to send your hamster loose alone give you far more control over the projectile than most games grant you, and can mean the difference between a short 25 ft. hop, and maybe as much as a 100 ft. soar.

But, as I said earlier, there was a small selection of items on the course to help you keep pushing further.

Rockets propel you sideways, fans propel you upwards, and hamster balls will let you bounce after you hit the ground (the gold ones give you a significant boost, while the pink ones are more just a normal bounce based upon your velocity).

Skateboards will let you add a couple feet to your distance after you touch down (if you come at the ground from a narrow enough angle), and springboards will launch you back into the air.

At first, while you are getting accustomed to the game, FotH will be about as random and luck based as any other projectile launching game.  But once you get a feel for good timing on the launch, mastery over the glide option, and steering your guy to the right items at the right time, you’ll find yourself cruising not 25 ft. 50 ft, or even a 100 ft. in one shot, but pushing 1000 ft. launches.

Needless to say, that’s when the fun really begins.

You take pride in learning to control your hamster through the skies, and hitting items in combinations produces a nice “Oh Wow” effect (think, you’re mashing the glide furiously, arms flapping wildly, pushing for that rocket that is just inches away, you hit it, run through five rockets at a time, catch a skateboard, hit the ground, and roll straight into a springboard that sends you hurtling back into the air like a bullet).

My only gripes would have to be a rather dull background.  Part of the fun of projectile launching games comes from seeing new backgrounds and growing curious about the backgrounds you have yet to see (a la Dolphin Olympics which, for many reasons, I have tied to this game irrevocably), but for FotH, the only background you are afforded is a cartoonish tree.

My other complaint is that the item placement is too random.  Item placement is great, and helps provide much needed control to make this a great experience, but it would be nice, either through a map, or maybe a limited scroll through, if there was some way for you to pre plan at least the first bit of your flight.  As it stands, this isn’t possible, and often times the item placement just isn’t in your favor.

Other than those two things, though, FotH has plenty of humor and fun to go around.  Enjoy!

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