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Review of Wandering Hamster 
 PostTue Jun 13, 2017 11:36 pm
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This is a review of Wandering Hamster.

GRAPHICS
Overall, the graphical quality was well-formed and comprehensible, but poorly detailed.

Lighting is over-represented, which is the opposite of what you would expect to see in real life. Shadows and dark areas should be more prominent and outnumber highlights, which should be used (extremely) sparingly.
Pillow shading is rampant visually. It reduces contrast and causes objects to bleed into one another.
Many objects appear to be lit from the front. Okay, I guess, but in outdoor scenes, really?

Monsters are interesting and varied, and imaginatively drawn.
The designs of knights are downright boring. Do they have different skills/features? This should be displayed visually in the sprite.

Tiles are somewhat odd, but recognisable.
The water in Flanat appears to be purple fire (to my eyes, anyway)
There are some other examples where tiles do not work well, but on the whole, they are done well and with commendable effort.
Walkabouts are generally quite good.

Backgrounds look like they were drawn in MS Paint, which is half an insult to the author, and half an insult to MS Paint.
Please do not leave orphaned pixels all over your work, they get lonely and they get in the way.

SOUND
Music was not grating, which was a relief.
The music has a comic tone, in some cases unintentionally so.
Sound effects were appropriate, where used.
The use of dialogue speech sounds was a nice touch.
Not quite special, but not awful either. Slightly better than forgettable, but barely.

DESIGN
Quite a few strange quirks and not as much hand-holding as I would expect in this kiddy-friendly game.

Maps were often expansively large, and unnecessarily so.
The large size of maps. lack of interesting things to find, too much area to search. and the slow walk speed put me off exploring.
I would have liked to have been able to "Dash" or "Run"

The player should overtly be encouraged to explore somehow. rather than this being an implicit expectation.


The game starts with a simple cutscene, then goes to Bob standing around on the world map.
There was no introduction to the character of Bob or why anyone should care about him. He starts with no weapon and no explanation of his skills, and he only has a few skill points which are depleted in a couple of uses.
There is no real introduction or explanation of features, such as saving, items, map, and if there are, it is all optional and hidden out of the way where the majority of players cannot stumble across it.


Is the game aimed at younger players? Even if the writing and style suggest this is the case, the actual design and combat do not!
The design is cold and offers little-or-no help to new players.

Countless minor oddities abound.
e.g.: There were knights who could be defeated yet still blocked the path, and there were knights who blocked the path but could be defeated by running away.


WRITING
Pacing is good, in that it moves along the story, players, plot etc., but poor in terms of readability, tension, drama etc.,

Characters are 2-dimensional and plot is paper-thin. There is little atmosphere or building of themes.
Non-sequiturs with little relevance or connection seem to be the order of the day.
Too much "dead weight" burdens the narration and pacing.
I am not sure what I am supposed to feel or what a scene should evoke.

Ostensibly, it is written for children, yet the antiquated language/slang used is so old and dated so as to be potentially alienating to young players.

Writing is clear and competent, but there is definite room for improvement.

COMBAT
Interesting ideas, but harsh to the player, and slow-paced.
Battle animations do not make it clear what is happening, who is attacking whom, what attacks are being performed etc.,
There is little explanation of combat nuances, and players are not led through getting a weapon, do not start with a weapon, and no explanation of how a player should manage their MP/SP, where to find inns, shops etc.,
Managing a party is an important part of combat and players should be instructed in the basics of this.
For a game seemingly directed at children, the gameplay is cruel and difficult. That said, combat is reasonably well balanced, and party members have clearly defined roles, although I feel that grinding is more or less a requisite in the beginning. As in, the very beginning. Like, the start of the game. Yeah.
Consider adding an easy-mode, or simply making the game a little easier in the beginning.

SUMMARY
Good ideas but poorly implemented.
Although everything about it screams "child-friendly" it really is not.
I feel this game should be remade somehow.

SUGGESTIONS
There should be an introductory section which goes over some basics, gives dramatic weight and reduce the need for grinding.
Combat should be handled for the player at the start, either through better equipment or easier encounters. or more chances for levelling before entering the castle.
The game should be streamlined more, maps made much smaller and items/events more frequent.
Visually, less colours should be used to improve contrast and shading issues.
Speech should be tied into larger themes, and direct the overall mood and feeling of players.
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