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"Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak" is a video game released for the Gameboy Advance console in 2003 by Nintendo. It is based on the Hamtaro animated series. In the United States, the game received a rating of "E" by the ESRB panel which deemed it suitable for all ages.
Hamtaro is a little known phenomenon based on small hamsters in a close knit community. At the title of this game suggests, relationship problems have run amok and Hamtaro must repair the hurting hearts for 20 couples in game. The Ham-Chat dictionary is a central feature in this game and brings the player into the unique in-world language shared by the hamsters. The player starts out with a short amount of words and their definitions, and must interact with other hamsters or solve puzzles in aims of adding additional words of Hamtaro's vocabulary. These words are necessary as they will be expressed to those suffering with relationship problems and restore harmony to their bonds. It is not possible to interact with certain hamsters without having acquired certain words, and should the player attempt so will be greeted with numerous question marks in Hamtaro's statement. Seeing a question mark is an indication that a hamster prior to the one the player is now engaging with has a word which is necessary to the conversation. It is generally an easy game to complete and does not offer a considerable amount of challenge besides finding specific hamsters for specific words and phrases.
The graphics of this title are acceptable though appear to be lacking in finer detail. The images do have a sense of pixelation which could have been improved on prior to release. The visuals are otherwise bright and feature a wide palette of colours which fills the display at all times. The musical scores in this title are energetic and lively but I particularly enjoyed the various "squeak" effects during Hamtaro's speak as they are unique to each individual word acquired in play.
Overall, Ham-Ham Heartbreak would likely appeal to a younger player due to the lack of any perceived difficulty. It is not something which is overly pleasing visually so would likely only reach fans of the animated series.
Hamtaro is quite the little star in Japan, he has his own TV series, toys and a GameBoy Colour game (Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite) to his name. Here in the UK he may be slightly less known. Although Fox Kids do show the TV series in the UK he isnt that widely known about and this GameBoy Advance game of his which sold well in its home country will, its fair to say, not have quite the same reception here which is a shame because Ham-Ham Heartbreak is quite a cute, fun little game.
Its all about lurve in this Hamtaro game. All was going well in the Ham-Ham world and Hamsters loved each other the way only Hamsters know how. Unfortunately a decidedly naughty little Hamster called Spat (complete with black pitchfork and costume) calls it upon himself to rid the world of the nonsense that is love. Soon the Ham-Hams are fighting, bitching and quarrelling with their former loved ones. Not good karma at all. Our hero Hamtaro along with his lady friend Bijou (yeah, shes French) set out to try and patch things back up with their little Hamster friends and restore the peace and harmony that their world is known for. This can be so easily dismissed as some sickly sweet, kid like game and from what Ive described then its a fair assumption. However the game is very charming in its own right and shouldnt be overlooked because of the overtly cute nature. It isnt deep but its entertaining and fun.
Making progress through the game and solving the puzzles that head your way is simple enough. Unlike the real world you cant drag the two people are war with each other and force them to kiss and make up. Hamtaro takes a more subdued and less violent way in bringing love back into the world. Hamchat triggers many, if not all things, in the Ham World. Hamchat is the language that the Ham-Hams use with each other for certain key words or actions. For example Smoochie means kiss, Pooie means uncool and Dingding is Hamchat for Realize. There is a total of 86 Hamchats to learn in the game. Most of them are simple enough for you to understand their translations into English but if not then every Hamchat word is stored in your Dictionary for you to look up if you need to know the meaning. Progression through the game means that you need to learn as many words as possible. Normally by just chatting to other Ham-Hams you will be able to get a new word from them, sometimes you will need to earn it and other times you will be able to get it straight away.
Hamchat is used very simply. You just go up to another Ham-Ham or object in a game and press A. This will then give you a list of possible Ham-Chats to use for the puzzle. If there is a blank space then you know you need to look for the corresponding Hamchat. Solving a puzzle, then, is sometimes simply the case of trying out each Hamchat until the wanted outcome occurs. This is fairly simple and straightforward, indeed rather too simple in some cases. Sometimes the game will basically tell you what to do, including the correct Hamchat to use, leading you by the hand every step of the way. Other times you will simply not have a clue as to how you will solve a puzzle. There will be a blank space on the list and sometimes it can take a long time to back-track to each place to try and figure out where you might be able to get the much needed Hamchat from. Other times puzzle solving is put at the right balance and you will sometimes need to do a few different things, such as use more than one Hamchat or acquire certain items before the puzzle is solved.
The game world is surprisingly large. There are six main game areas (the seventh is Spat Tower which is smaller than the rest) and each one contains many other little areas in it. Each one contains many little puzzles and a number of Ham-Hams to chat to and you will be visiting each one more than once even when you have finished in order to get all the Hamchats. As with many games not all areas are open for you at the start. You will need to go to each one and hunt out Spat and follow him to the area he goes off to next. This means that the games lifespan can be upwards of 20 hours. However because of the large game world and as mentioned above backtracking to get a Hamchat can be an exhausting affair, with you visiting each world in the hope of finding it and often having to go through them time and time again to try and spot any things you may have missed.
To bulk up the playtime a bit more there are some little extra games that are included. Collecting rocks is a big thing and, when polished, are turned into diamonds, which can also be put together for making accessories. You can also dress up your little Ham-Hams in a variety of themed costumes, including cowboys and spacesuits and then have their picture taken. Finally you can make up dance moves as well, out of Hamchats, and perform them. You can also swap them with your friends via the Gameboy Advance Link Cable. While these minigames will only really appeal to people who want to put time into them they are a welcome addition to have to an already generous game.
The graphics in the game are nice if nothing too special. Save for a few animations there is very little here that couldnt be done on the GameBoy Colour. That said Ham-Ham Heartbreak isnt really a game that needs striking visuals to make the game. The animations of the Hamsters are not that different from the Gameboy Colour incarnation but they work well enough here and for each Hamchat they use they have a little cute animation they do for each one. Luckily none of them are too lengthy for you to have to endure time and time again. Backgrounds have a little bit more detail this time round, the colours are kept soft and pastel like but bright enough to make it visually pleasing. There are a few instances when animations which can only be done on the Advance are used but they dont appear that often. Sound is also a case of basic and spruced up. The little Hamster squeaks are little more than that, blips and bleeps that a basic ports from the original game. However the music is catchy and used to great effect on the Gameboy Advance.
As mentioned there are a few flaws to the game. This does rest mainly on the puzzles and reliance on Hamchats to progress through the game. Sometimes you are often left wondering where to head off in order to get any further which can annoy. There is also little variety in how you actually solve the puzzles, basically its just a Hamchat away and so for people looking for deeper gameplay then you best look elsewhere. Simiarlity people who have just come out of a messy break up will not want to touch this game with a barge pole. Indeed, youd want to take the role of Spat and probably kill each and every Hamster on screen if you want to get the most out of the game.
Hamtaro: Ham-Ham Heartbreak is worthy of a glance if you are tired of the SNES ports and sub standard Gameboy Advance games. This one is original and tries, and succeeds, to be that little above its peers. It isnt perfect and it wont suit everyones tastes but for those that do devote time to it you should enjoy.
[6 out of 10]
HAMTARO: HAM-HAM HEARTBREAK IS
A pleasant distraction
HAMTARO: HAM-HAM HEARTBREAK IS NOT
For people who hate love