There can be a certain expectation from pet simulation games. People might think there needs to be an opportunity for constant activity from such games. Titles like Nintendogs spoiled people, since the dogs were always in motion, ready to accept attention, eat, go for walks and participate in activities. But certain games get that actual pet ownership isn’t like it. Namely, Atlus’ Hamster Paradise series tend to understand that it can be a spectator sport and realize that is okay. In particular, Hamster Paradise Advanchu gets what these little critters are like.
Hamster Paradise Advanchu is a slow-paced game. It starts by allowing you to pick your avatar, then determine if you want one or two hamsters to start. You have eight available options and are able to go with standard or dwarf hamsters with a variety of different pelts. Not that there is any difference in behavior between the two species. It comes down to how teeny you want your rodent to be. Once your decisions are made, you are sent home with your new pet and no explanation of what to do with it. (Just like in real life!)
The day to day of Hamster Paradise Advanchu is a lot like actual hamster ownership. These aren’t pets that involve a lot of activity, like a cat or dog. As someone who owned a few in high school and college, they are essentially a step above fish. You feed them and make sure they have water each day. You keep their cage clean and provide a little wheel for exercise. You allow them to sit in your hand, pet them and maybe have them go through run in little balls or explore a safe space on your desk. For the most part, that is your regimen in this Game Boy Advance game. You keep your virtual pel’s needs met and largely spend each in-game day watching its adorable actions as time goes by.
This isn’t to say there aren’t opportunities to do other things in Hamster Paradise Advanchu. Moments come where you can take the hamster outside to visit designated safe spaces. In each encounter, it is relatively clear that, as a player, you are interacting with the hamster as you would in real life. While there are some minigames, like suggesting this critter would be capable of finding a hamster seed hidden under one of three cups, it really seems like others are merely hamster-adjacent, with your pet cheering you on or happening to be nearby as you participate in an activity.
With the instances where the rodent is taken outside, it feels more like a field trip than some magical journey where the hamster decides everything. If you take them to a park, they could sleep on a bench. If you go back to your home, they could run around on your desk. You could go into a store and it… can sit on a store shelf and stare at you. Again, it provides an opportunity to observe how such an animal would react in the real world. You don’t see anything suggesting superhuman intelligence or influence the action. You watch.
It is an opportunity to relax. Sometimes, the hamster is going to want to run in its wheel for most of the day or take a midday nap, leaving you to be the voyeur who watches it run around its wooden cage. There’s nothing wrong with that. Other times, it will decide to run near the door of the cage, and you can take advantage of that to go outside and run an errand or visit a place to see how it would react to other animals, like a dog. That’s good too.
A hands-off approach works for Hamster Paradise Advanchu. There is a lot to do here, but it doesn’t involve being extraordinarily active or constantly engaged. Instead, you can just spend time with a virtual buddy. You can watch them live out their lives and try to make them as happy as possible. Maybe, if you have time and they are willing to be near the door, you can go out, take them along and see how they react to the world around them. There’s nothing wrong with taking some time to slow down and watch the world go by.