Hamster Cannon (mostly) hits the bullseye when it fires these little rodents
Let’s be honest about something: If you ever owned a hamster (or any other small rodent), there was a least one time when you fantasized about dressing them up in little outfits and making them look even more adorable than they already were. Don’t even bother trying to deny this— we all did it. Of course, 99% of us weren’t able to take these dreams any further than idly sketching them out on paper, but the new game Hamster Cannon provides an opportunity to see just what said hamsters would’ve looked like in goofy little outfits… and then, y’know, shot out of an equally tiny cannon.
Hamster Cannon has you turning the titular hamsters into miniature versions of human cannonballs. There’s no real story here, but the premise is that the aerodynamic rodents are trying to snack on delicious pieces of cereal (called “noms” for short). Unfortunately, these noms are floating in the air of the hamster habitats, which naturally means the hamsters need to be shot out of a cannon to grab their food. I don’t know about you, but I would’ve solved this problem with something a bit simpler like, say, a ladder.
At first, the gameplay is incredibly simple: You select the type of hamster (differentiated by the types of hats they wear), aim the cannon, and press the fire button. The aiming mechanic is nicely done, featuring a targeting assistance mechanic that lets you line up the shot before you take it.
Of course, this physics puzzler features some extra challenges, otherwise the game would get boring quick. Walls made from different materials start to appear, as do moving platforms and trampolines, all of which have to be factored into lining up a shot before you take it. Additionally, the different hats have different effects on the walls; flaming hamsters will set wooden barricades on fire (which can then be broken through when they’re next touched), bomber hamsters will latch onto and then destroy large chunks of cement walls, and the spiked helmet will bust through stone itself.
For the most part, Hamster Cannon is a lot of fun to play. As long as you snag at least one of the three big pieces of cereal in a level, you can move on, but things are challenging enough that you have to rely on a good mix of strategy and chance to get a perfect score. One of the neater mechanics is that the hamsters will continue to bounce and move for quite some time as long as they don’t hit the sawdust at the bottom of the habitat (this includes bouncing off other hamsters who’ve already landed); as a result, random ricochets may actually prove to be more effective than your initial shot.
On top of all this, there’s a cute little customization feature. Once you’ve accumulated enough noms, you can spend them within the game’s store to unlock new hats. While there are a couple of options to earn extra noms —through activities like rating the game or following the developers on Twitter— the noms generally have to be earned the old-fashioned way.
Unfortunately, the game has a couple of glitches. Because it can take so long for the movement to stop, sometimes the physics causes the hamsters to continue moving indefinitely; there were even a couple of times when they got stuck in a corner, bouncing for no discernable reason. Meanwhile, the cannon sometimes seems to detect barricades that have already been removed, and the aiming module reflects how the hamster will ricochet, even though they’ll fly straight.
Hamster Cannon looks and sounds pretty cute, but it doesn’t really break the mold. The hamsters are lovely, with cartoon-like appearances and ridiculous one-liners. But aside from the hamsters, the graphics are kind of generic, with plain backgrounds and unremarkable environmental objects.
It’s too bad that Hamster Cannon has a couple of issues that need to be addressed, and it’s also a shame that the hamsters are the only part of the game that look as good as they do. That said, the game manages to hit the bullseye most of the time, and it does so in a remarkably goofy and fun fashion.