Name: Rock Star Ate My Hamster
Format: ZX Spectrum
Region Reviewed: PAL
Year of Release: 1989 (UK)
Rockstar Ate My Hamster is a real guilty pleasure game of mine (in the best sense possible), so lets get this out of the way first...This game is mental, it's utterly stupid in every single sense and being a person who likes to court madness it speaks to me on every single level possible.
In the game you play the part of a record producer and it's your task to use your wits, guile and business management skills to take a single artist or upto 4 if your going for a super duper mega band to the very top of the music business. These artists are ALL parodies of the then famous music stars of the 80's, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Phil Collins, etc. they are all there only their names are different. Tina for example is called Tina Turnoff!!! Hehe.
You start with a very small amount of money and you have to first record a song then an album and then release them as you see fit in order to get enough sales to get a platinum record, the object of the game is to get 4 from what i can tell and if my memory serves me correctly, its the only way to see the proper ending.
Now, this may sound coma-inducing but this is where the game really stands out a mile; it's how you go about recording and the promotion of your songs/album, it's still funny to this day. Your little mixer helper will always recommend stupid names for your songs, always give you bad advice for your music video director/theme and the other helper will always try to convince you to go in the opposite direction, the game gives you all the help in the world without ever actually helping you one bit.
During the promotions the screen switches to a newspaper heading that's promoting the event and again it's fantastic as it can be something stupid like Rockstar stole my scarf to the dreaded Rockstar dies in nuclear war!!! Oh yeah, Codemasters didnt know how to do middle ground, it was always the extreme. If you got something that created a scandal your record sales soured, if your music star died and you didnt have another one in the group it was game over, extreme and brutal but so addictive!
At the end of the week after touring, again great strategy elements here as well, you got to see the charts and this set the tone for how much practice, touting and newspaper chances you took. The level of depth for a game so old is utterly fantastic.
Eventually time or money or in most cases actual death of the band resulted in the GAME OVER screen and text and commentary from your manager assistant and record label boss but even now I found I went back and started again, theres so much variation from weekly wages of the artists to the range of options for keeping them happy, etc. It never got old to play back in the day and its still massive fun now.
A game such as this fit's perfectly into a website like RetroGameGeeks as it's completely quirky, a little odd but something you just can't pull yourself away from (at least that's how I hope most of you see this place). The random luck elemets of Rock Star can at times be ultra-frustrating as you have no way of predicting if your newspaper promotion will result in higher sales or actual death of the star/band.
When it goes right you will find yourself smiling from ear to ear and when it goes wrong rather than getting annoyed to the point of quiting you WILL start again, it's so damn ddictive and is a real master stroke of game design, in a time when most spectrum games felt like they were cut & pasted from a formula Codemasters broke the mould and gave us all a corker.
My advice is to bust out the Spectrum emulator and give this a whirl, the Amiga 500 version is superior in every way especially the graphics and more importantly the sound however its the original version reviewed here that for me personally shines brightest. Sometimes reviewing a game really can make your day!
Verdict:- Games like these don't exist much now and it's a real shame, I loved this and I still do, it has that perfect mix of pick up and play charm mixed with real depth and replayability.
The music on the Spectrum version is a bit of a mess to be honest (by modern standards, at least), but the Amiga version had some lovely tunes, it was easier to play the game on there as you could tell when the band sucked...
Rock Star may have Ate My Hamster, but it's always going to be a pet love of mine!!
Second Opinion:- Rock Star Ate My Hamster is the sort of snapshot from a magical time in video game history that this Supreme Overlord can get behind.
A fiercely original, hilariously entertaining spin on the relatively young management simulation genre from some of the masters of their field. It really is utterly fantastic and rarely gets the fanfare it deserves.
...Sort of like Transbot, really. Stupid fleshlings!
Transbot Scores:- 8 out of 10