Which came first, the name Hamsterdam or the game Hamsterdam? However Muse Games came up with the name for this charming tap-and-swipe beat-em up, it fits. Once little Pimm starts doling out the beatdowns, it’s like, “Damn, hamster.”
Released earlier this month for iOS, Android, Switch, and PC, Hamsterdam is a story of sweet revenge. When the vile Chinchilla Marlo and his gang of thugs kidnap his grandfather and start terrorizing the town, tiny fighter Pimm steps up. He scurries from stage to stage, taking out rodent thugs with rhythmic combinations of punches, kicks, and counters.
A single button or tap of the screen causes Pimm to attack. As Pimm punches and kicks, a circle expands around him. Hitting the attack button at the right time charges a KO meter at the bottom of the screen. When the KO meter fills, Pimm can target one of the on-screen enemies with a devastating blow. As enemies attack, players flick their analog stick or swipe towards them to counter. Should they block, holding down the attack button activates Pimm’s charge attack, breaking the bad guys’ defense.
It’s a simple fighting system that works well. When all of the elements come together during a stage—countering enemies, finding the rhythm of attacks, nailing the quicktime events that occasionally trigger during intense battles—it’s super satisfying.
Built with portable devices in mind, Hamsterdam has the structure of a mobile game. Players guide Pimm through numbered levels, each featuring a set selection of enemies to defeat and special objectives to complete. Boss battles in each stage mix up the action, tasking Pimm with dodging bombs and waiting for openings or driving a tiny hamster car while avoiding projectiles. Each level lasts a couple of minutes, so it’s the perfect game to squeeze into the cracks of the day.
Hamsterdam does not, however, have the economics of a mobile game. There are no microtransactions. It’s $1.99 on Google Play and iTunes, $7.99 on Steam, and $9.99 on Switch. That’s it. There’s an in-game store where players can purchase special hats, jackets, glasses, and gloves for Pimm, but the currency can only be earned by playing.
There’s something endearing about adorable cartoon characters doling out brutal justice. It’s the contrast between soft and cuddly and hard and dangerous. I was worried my enjoyment of Hamsterdam wouldn’t extend beyond the clever name, but the game’s kept me entertained long after the novelty of the punny title faded.
Editor’s note: In case you’re wondering, The game has nothing to do with The Wire.