* Prices may differ from that shown
We have two of these little things, a white one and then this black and white cow-patterned one named Winkie. I honestly can't see much of a difference between the two, but they seem to hold great entertainment factor with kids, and having different ones is part of the appeal. They used to be called Go Go Hamsters, but with the emergence of Gogos onto the scene a few years ago they changed to be marketed as Zhu Zhu Hamsters instead. Winkie is very active.
One of the main features about the hamsters are their movement, Battery operated, they zoom around the place on the wheels that are on the underneath of a cosy exterior. The flat plastic panel with the wheels also houses a battery compartment to keep it going, although this seems to last forever. The top of the hamster is this well designed and realistic looking hamster with synthetic fur, cleverly etched in black and white and with a button nose and eyes.
It's activated by a simple push of the nose, which you wouldn't be able to tell is depressable when you look at it. I think its design is very good, and I've seen these retail for around the £5 mark, although this particular one, along with the white one, were presents my 9 year old had a few years ago. When you press the button, this sets it off in an exploratory mode where it zips around on its wheels, stopping every now and then and making a mewing sound a bit like a hamster would make. This in itself is quite endearing, but as with the other Zhu Zhu Hamster we have, this after a while becomes extremely annoying. I appreciate the fun factor for kids, but this is ultimately one of those noises which just starts grating after a while.
The problem doesn't necessarily come when your kids are playing with the hamsters, it's more when they put them away. The sensitivity of the nose means that it takes only the most gentle of touches to start it off, and this makes it mew and the wheels turn. If you know where you've put it then this is fine, but 9 times out of 10 I haven't a clue, particularly when our 9 year old tidies up as quick as he can to get back on the computer. Then you have to rely on following the sound to find it and try to deactivate it, which is nigh on impossible unless you remove the battery.
Having the hamsters on their own is rather basic apparently. Using the tracks and other devices that come as part of the range can add to the playability factor, although we only have the two hamsters and these have mysteriously disappeared of late. I can't say I'm too upset about this as they are potentially the most annoying toys our boys have ever played with. I'd say that 3-7 are the ideal ages for these. Our 19 month old probably isn't old enough for them, while our 9 year old has lost interest to a certain extent. Not a toy I'd personally recommend, but this is more to do with my sanity as opposed to my kids' enjoyment.
Whilst sorting through Laurens toys recently, we came across Zhu Zhu Hamster Jilly, the rest of the day was spent laughing and giggling as Jilly 'ran' around the living room floor, crashing into things, getting stuck under the settee and annoying the cat. The following day whilst we were shopping in Home Bargains, I spotted there was a selection of other hamsters for £1.99 only so I had to buy one! There were several different ones available, but Lauren choose Winkie.
Winkie is covered in black and white fur, with a little pink nose which when pressed, Winkie starts making his noises! As with all the Zhu Zhu Hamster range, the packaging of the product is yellow and black and Winkie's nose sticks out the end of the box so you can listen to the noises he makes before you buy.
Operating the hamsters is really easy; on his back he has a little button, which has three setting; sleep mode, which means he doesn't do anything, talk mode, which means Winkie just makes squeaking noises, and finally, the most mode of all, explore mode - just place your hamster on the floor and off they go. Explore mode is what provides the most fun, Lauren can literally sit for hours just chasing the hamster around the living room, making little obstacle courses for it, watching it get stuck, reverse and try and find an alternative route. As I said earlier, she loves to chase our cat around the living room with it too!
As with most wheeled toys, Jilly seems to work better on hard flooring however she still works fine on carpets, just a little slower. I would be careful of placing her on a deep pile carpet or rug as the pile may get stuck in her wheels.
The range of Zhu Zhu is enormous, there are loads of different hamsters available, all ranging from £2 - £15, you can buy clothes & jewellery for around £5 each and then larger accessories such as cars, restaurants, tubes etc. I have heard friends say that the accessories are quite poorly made, but as we have never purchased any, I cannot really comment - what I can say it we have had hours of fun without any of these.
The hamster requires 2 x AA batteries which are included, based on my experience with Jilly, these actually last for ages.
You do have to be careful if getting you hair near the hamster when the wheels are turning as it could easily get tangled up - Lauren likes to get quite low down on the floor when playing with them, so I always have to remind her about this. Also, there is a bit of a knack to picking to picking the hamsters up when it it running around the floor; you need to pick it up by the sides, being careful not to put your fingers under the hamster otherwise the wheels might nip your skin.
Overall, I would recommend the hamsters, they have provided lots of fun - more so when we brought two and I would therefore give 5 out of 5 stars.
Thanks for reading.
==Zhu Zhu Pet Winkie==
Winkie has been in our family since Christmas and probably feels slightly rejected now that we have bought a real hamster and named him Hammy (original I know). Winkie was a last minute Christmas present for Jack and to be honest he didn't really need any more gifts but as usual I just couldn't help myself.
Winkie was bought from Woolworth's online and costs a few pence under £10 which I think was about the right price for that time although now I suspect you could find them being sold for cheaper.
Winkie is a black and white hamster and he has a little pink button nose. The button which doubles as his nose activates the sounds that Winkie makes as does a hidden button along his spine. The hamster came with batteries and so far we haven't had to change them.
Winkie makes a multitude of different noises and none of them is particularly hamster like and most of them are rather annoying. Winkie wheels around in a hamster like fashion up and down our hallway and if he bashes into a wall his nose tells him and he is able to scoot backwards and wheel off in the other direction which I find pretty impressive.
He can scoot around for a good while before he goes into sleep mode and even then I can't really work out if he is completely off as from time to time he will continue to make these strange noises. There doesn't appear to be a button which will turn him off entirely and this can be frustrating a lot of the time as even when he is tucked up in his draw I often hear little squeaks.
Jack hasn't really played with him as much as the £10 we paid for him warrants and I feel he was slightly a waste of money. He looks kind of cute and it is quite a cleaver idea but on the whole I don't see that there is much play factor with him as a toy.
The noises are annoying and as there was no real instructions with the toy, we don't feel we know if we are using him to his full ability. I don't think Jack was very impressed with him and for that reason I would only award a 2 out of 5 star rating and not even give him a recommendation.
Perhaps when Jack is a little older he will appreciate him more, but now we have a real hamster I feel we have put Winkie in a corner so to speak!
I do hope that this has been of some help/interest to you.
Many thanks for taking the time to read.