'Fraid so. CRL's latest is no ordinary martial arts thrash. Ninja Hamster has something that no other combat game has ever had. This special ingredient? The Hamster himself.
For a start he's cute. He comes complete with a nifty Ninja eye mask to disguise him, and a lot of very serious-looking, if rather manky fur.
In play, yes it's true, the game suffers from some rather obvious attribute problems, characters merging into one another and generally making a technicolour mess all over the telly screen.
Who cares? This game is terrific. The opponents are all wonderful - all the way from Sinister Rat (who does look like a monkey in boxing gloves, there's no denying that) to the Loony Lobster who, owing to the fact that he's got more arms than the hamster, is pretty difficult to defeat. Barmy Bee even has a real sting in his tail.
Gameplay is much as you would expect to find it - better than I expected actually. By waggling the joystick around and pressing the Fire button from time to time, the usual series of movements can be achieved, such as high kick, low kick, punch and run away.
Each character has his own personality, but if the truth be told, they're all pretty nasty. Mad Dog is kitted out as an American football player (I thought this was Japan!!!) and has the truly unpleasant habit of headbutting the poor hamster. Crazy Cat (that's quite enough alliteration for one game) has a set of lethal looking claws, and Perilous Parrot (no comment) has one sharp looking beak which he's not shy about using.
All these are portrayed larger than life, well, larger than your average Spectrum screen character, upon a background of charming Japanese lettering. If it weren't for the colour mixing and merging, this would be a hugely impressive visual game.
There are a grand total of eight characters to defeat to save the village. A tall order. And quite a lot of work.
Both characters have an energy allowance level at the side of the screen. The level is depleted each time you take a blow, and can be increased by running away and having a bit of a breather. Once the energy runs out, the character will lose consciousness and his opponent will get to take a bite out of his apple.
No, I've not gone stark staring mad. Each player has an apple. Once his opponent has taken eight bites out of it, and reduced it to little more than a core, Ninja Hamster will die. Uttering a very unhappy sampled squeal.
Bored with martial arts games? Don't be. Perhaps you're finding it difficult to see just how exciting Ninja Hamster is. Well, believe me, it's not the dross that you probably expected when you read the title.
Never fear! Somehow Ninja Hamster manages to keep alive the excitement of Martial Arts games. Probably because it's the most bizarre twist that we've seen on that particular theme. Or any other, come to that. Those guys at CRL need their heads testing.
Reviewer: Tamara Howard
A truly bizarre game concept to revitalise the Martial Arts style games. Tremendous fun watching hamster croak.