A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a good introduction to simulation games for young kids. There isn't much educational content in this cute pet simulation for Nintendo's DS, but young players will enjoy it because it offers easy, non-frustrating play. Part of its allure is the fantasy element -- the hamsters talk!
What's it about?
In HAMSTERZ LIFE for the Nintendo DS, these rather realistic-looking hamsters converse with their owners and even ask how they're doing. Players can talk back to them and teach them words and commands, which the hamsters will remember and apply. Players begin by choosing a hamster. Once it's named, it will appear in a cage and kids can then either train, feed, care for, or choose other options to interact with their hamster.
Toys, cage improvements, and decorations are available to add to the hamster's environment, but the choices are limited in the beginning of the game. However, by playing Mini games players can win points and use them to add more items to their inventory. You can tackle the seven colorful Mini games randomly whenever you see a \"play\" icon at the bottom of the screen. These are simple, fun arcade-style games like breakout (a ball-bouncing game), memory, and a sliding puzzle.
Is it any good?
On the whole, while Hamsterz Life doesn't offer the depth of play that Nintendogs does, this colorful, cute game isn't designed for that purpose. Since the game appeals to younger kids, it would have been nice to include more challenging Mini games or a broader educational focus. But as an introduction to simulation games, Hamsterz works fine.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the responsibility of caring for a real pet, and how the game demonstrates the basic needs of pets, including food, shelter, and attention. How is pretending to care for animals different? Is it easier because the hamsters talk? How do real animals communicate their needs? Does this make taking care of real animals harder? Would you like to own a real hamster or do you like these talking ones better? If you have pets in your home already, how do you think they would get along with a gaggle of talking hamsters?
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