Petz Hamsterz Life 2
I can't believe it's not shovelware (we're as surprised as you are).
I don't need to tell you about hamsters. You already know they make nice stuntmen and RC car drivers. Sadly, Ubisoft chose not to focus on these aspects, instead producing a virtual pet game for hamster enthusiasts. For better or worse they've successfully recreated the experience of caring for one of nature's many furballs in its natural cage environment, although it won't necessarily appeal to everyone. Then again, is it possible for hamsters to rival the appeal of Nintendo's poster child pet sim puppies? The odds are unlikely, and yet Petz Hamsterz Life 2 takes those odds and runs with them.
Things begin with your possibly retarded cousin coming over to have you care for a hamster he can't afford to keep around anymore. He may actually just be a hamster enthusiast (at least we'll hope he is), but as far as bad game writing goes, Petz Hamsterz Life 2 shoots itself in the foot. While there's not really a reason to gripe about dialog in a pet sim game, it's the only information relayed to players besides item descriptions. It just feels off. I swear to God, it's like hamsters are the only thing people ever talk to you about in this game. But the experience is what you make of it in the end.
The game isn't exactly a fast-paced one, which really is its biggest flaw (aside from the aforementioned lack of bottle rocket mini-games and such). Really, you'll spend most of your time watching a hamster go about its hamster business in its hamster cage, eating hamster food and running on a hamster wheel with little hamster decorations for added appeal. Actually, watching them run on a wheel 'til they fly off is kind of funny, but it is one of the small joys which those of you who aren't hamster or pet sim enthusiasts will find yourself partaking in should you ever play this game. Nonetheless, the beginning of the game is slow enough that it has the potential to turn off even the most avid children whose parents wouldn't buy an actual hamster.
The first few hours involve your hamster going about its business, becoming happy and rewarding you with the game's currency in the form of stars. During this time, players will become acclimated with the menu-based interactions, find their way to their cousin's house in order to let your hamster play with his for a while, go to the pet store to buy hamster necessities and extra junk to spoil the little guy (or girl), rearranging the cage, and micromanaging hamster stuff. After a while, or at least until you've got enough stars to buy another hamster, things get interesting. Your hamster can become friends with other hamsters, developing hamster relationships and even taking that relationship to the next hamster level by moving in and developing a mutual basis on sharing foodstuffs and water. Things don't actually get that deep, since you're in charge of everything, but it's hard to ignore an overwhelming feeling of watching yourself grow up as a hamster.
One of the cooler bits is the ability to have hamsters mate, breeding offspring that look oh-so cute around their mommies. Unfortunately it doesn't really open up any new doors for the game as far as ingenuity goes, you've just got a free hamster now. There's also the option to interact with other people (and I'm sure this won't be a problem for a fair portion of children), as players can link up with another person's DS to let their hamsters hang out and check out what friends' cages look like. However, if you take your hamster out too much, to real or in-game character's houses, they'll get fussy. Although the instruction booklet and game do a decent job at guiding you along the fine line of spending time with your hamster and keeping it happy, I'm not sure if I've ever seen a moodier virtual animal. If you're not patient then you'll quickly turn down the path of a bad owner who the hamster zaps with lightning... no, I'm not kidding, they really will shock you.
Ubisoft's Petz Hamsterz Life 2 is a great game for those who love virtual pets and have the patience to muscle through the game's beginning. It will eventually grow on you, at least a little bit, but rest assured that it isn't a game that will appeal to the massive audience which Nintendogs pulled from thin air several years ago. There's longevity here, and the controls are all competent, as well as the game having a few secrets to unlock by exploring its ins and outs, but overall will only entertain its target audience for the most part. It doesn't look or sound particularly outstanding, and has an overall mundane feeling unless you're into this stuff, in which case I'd call it relaxing. For those on the fence or parents in general, consider spending less on a rental. Better yet, buy a real hamster instead; they're like little people you can put into fantastic scenarios.
What's Hot: Moderately deep simulation; should be appreciated by hamster enthusiasts and youngsters
What's Not: Ho-hum presentation; nothing spectacular going on here