It may have a hateful ‘z’ in the title, but this wasn’t originally anything to do with Ubisoft’s dire Catz and Dogz games. Love Love Hamster is the name it went by in Japan, and it has simply been rebranded to fit into the French publisher’s pet pampering portfolio. Over in the US it has received a further name change to Hamsterz Life – which is, indeed, how it appears on the title screen. Now that’s lazy.

hamstersb.jpgYou can certainly tell that this originates from over in the orient. Not just because of the cute anime Hamtaro-style artwork and dainty music, but because the translation from Japanese to English isn’t exactly wonderful. There are spaces missing between words in some cases, along with a couple of questionable phrases such as “he cage to small!” – the message that pops up on the screen when you try to place a large plaything in your hamster’s enclosure.

Fortunately the rough translation hasn’t affected the ability to teach your critter new words and phrases. The voice recognition works perfectly in fact, picking up our spoken words every time without fail. These are mostly used to issue commands, and the more words taught to your hamster the more articulate it becomes.

Yes, it talks. The sight of it standing up on its back legs and moving his little mouth is enough to warm even the coldest of hearts. On Christmas Day – the game uses the DS’s real time calendar, like Animal Crossing – he asked us if it had been a white Christmas and whether Santa had been. Usually though he just tells you how he feels and other general greetings.

Although similar to Nintendogs in many ways, this is essentially a better game, as there are more reasons to keep returning. Every now and then you’re given new words to teach, as time goes on your hamster gets bigger, and new cages can be acquired then decorated with goodies won in mini-games. These range from a decent clone of Break Out – complete with power ups – to sliding tile puzzles. Toys, novelty clothing, food, treats and clean water can be won as well. You can also open the cage door and let him walk around, and there’s all the usual maintenance guff – brushing, grooming and cleaning the cage. All done with the stylus, as you’d expect.

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