Download Games Roundup

Hamsters! Balls! Cowboys! Frankenstein!

Version tested PlayStation 3

Even the most promising selection of downloadable games can turn out to be right old duffers, and sadly we find ourselves in "buyer beware" mode this week. But that's all part of the fun of this exciting sector: the often complete absence of hype or pre-release info of any sort turns the selection process into a kind of digital lucky dip.

Sometimes you're dimly aware that other people are getting all excited and take a punt, but, as with AlphaBounce, what looks certain to be quirky and exciting can actually be a bit of a drag. But we're not here just to be giddy cheerleaders for the poster-children of the scene - we'll also point out the ones with faces that only a mother could love. Eurogamer: sparing you from genetically mutated offerings since 1999.

Hamsterball

  • PlayStation Network (PS3) / 7.99

SEGA proved beyond any doubt several years ago that monkeys are the cutest possible animal to run inside a ball. So what exactly is the point of Hamsterball?

Presumably developer TikGames noticed that there hasn't been a decent Marble Madness-inspired game in forever, and decided to throw in its own take on Super Monkey Ball while it was at it.

By far the most interesting part of the package is Stunt mode, which takes the already tricky Marble Madness template and somehow makes it even more taxing. The simple challenge of guiding your ball to the goal remains, but with some thoroughly devious level design and a sprinkling of pure evil, it treads a fine line between challenging and downright infuriating.

Getting to the goal is usually the least of your worries. Mostly, it's the insane time limits, the unending procession of traps, or the bits when the lights go out just as you're guiding your ball blindly down a narrow snaking ramp. At the 43rd time of asking it's enough to leave you a gibbering wreck.

1

I've got ham, but I'm not a hamster.

The other modes are less taxing, but also less interesting. Hustle's generic refresh of Super Monkey Ball is merely competent with its trap-laden race ramps, and nothing that Amusement Vision didn't do better eight or nine years ago. The two-player split-screen Race mode adds a multiplayer element to the Hustle levels, while the seven-player Sumo mode is a Fusion Frenzy-style party mode. With everyone battling frantically to smash each other over the edge, it's chaotic, but limited.

With its unwisely generic title, Hamsterball doesn't inspire confidence that it's going to do anything more than roll over old ground, and so it proves. Monkeys rule, OK?

6/10

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