Shenmue's duck races meet Trackmania.
Lᴀᴛely, a bunch ᴏꜰ ᴍʏ friᴇɴᴅs ʜᴀᴠᴇ ʙᴇen ɢᴇᴛtɪɴg ɪɴᴛᴏ Sʜᴇnmue ᴅᴜᴄᴋ racɪɴg. Tʜᴇre's a chᴀɴnel ᴏɴ Twɪᴛch ʀᴜɴnɪɴg ʙᴇts ᴏɴ ᴅᴜᴄᴋ ʀᴀᴄᴇs 24/7, wɪᴛh tʜᴇ chᴀᴛ placɪɴg wᴀɢᴇrs ᴏɴ ᴡʜɪᴄʜ ʙᴇautiꜰᴜʟʟy bow-ᴛɪᴇd ʙɪʀᴅ ᴡɪʟʟ ᴄʀᴏss tʜᴇ ꜰɪɴɪsʜ lɪɴe ꜰɪʀsᴛ. It's ɪɴcʀᴇᴅible stuff. Fᴏʀ a sɪᴍɪʟᴀʀ ᴇxᴘᴇʀɪᴇɴᴄᴇ, Hamster All-Stars ᴍᴀʏ mɪss tʜᴇ thrill ᴏꜰ screamɪɴg "c'mᴏɴ ʙʟᴜᴇ!" ᴀᴛ a ᴅᴜᴄᴋ, ʙᴜᴛ ᴍᴏʀᴇ thᴀɴ ᴍᴀᴋᴇs ᴜᴘ ꜰᴏʀ ɪᴛ wɪᴛh ɪᴛs deʟɪɢʜᴛful rodent obstacle ᴄᴏᴜʀsᴇs.
Hamster All-Stars might best be described as horse racing meets Trackmania, painted in the wonderfully wobbly pastels that define most of Sokpop Collective's cheap 'n' cheerful monthly games. First, you've gotta build a track for your Hamsters, using a simple tile-based editor of ramps, turns, and obstacles.
Once your masterpiece is complete, it's time to let loose the rodents. Once you've bet on which you think will win, two teams of hamsters erupt from pipes, Mario-style. One side might have the numbers advantage, while the other may be nipper on the field. If your team wins, you'll get yourself cash for spending on bigger, wilder objects for your tracks—bumpers, funnels, pipes and more.
In motion, it's fantastic. Your wee guys wobble and bounce around chaotically, vaguely following a suggestion of the track but just as likely to wander off on their own. If one gets too far off-course (or if a competitor gets too close to the finish line), you can give them a little nudge to change their direction. It's not duck betting, but gosh if I'm not on the edge of my seat hoping my red fuzzball crosses the line before those pesky blues.
It's a delightful, playful toy of a game in the way that so many Sokpop games are. Over the past three years, the Dutch collective has turned Tetris into a god-game, squeezed a four-player RTS into a single screen, and released dozens of other tiny experiments. Hamster All-Stars is out now on Itch.io for $3/£3, and should hit the developer's Steam page in the next week or so.