Genre: Puzzle, Platformer
System: Steam (Windows & macOS)
Developer|Publisher: TOMO CAMP | PID Games
Controller Support: Yes
Price: UK £11.39 | US $14.99 | € 14,99
Release Date: March 14th, 2022
Review code provided with many thanks to PID Games
They Took My Boy
Pompom is a 2D puzzle platformer where you control the platforms and not the lead character. There’s a protagonist that happens to be a pretty cute hamster. A young boy, Hoshi, has been kidnapped by Space Cat Pirates. But lucky for Hoshi, his little pet hamster is on the case to rescue his boy and show those Cats that they messed with the wrong rodent. I covered Pompom last year with an Early Impressions article and was pretty impressed with the demo. Now it’s time to see how the final product fares.
Be the Platforms
Unlike a typical platformer, you don’t actually control Pompom. Instead, you play what I can assume is a higher power in order to lay platforms and objects which will guide Pompom safely through the level and keep him from harm. You are given a set amount of objects to lay in the level such as platforms of various sizes, springs to bounce off, hammers to break platforms and various other items. Usually, you are given a limited amount but in some instances, the game will give you items like a timer to freeze Pompom in place. You can also click on objects in the level environment to activate them such as fans or buttons to change platform placement. New mechanics are regularly keeping the gameplay pretty fresh.
Pompom offers plenty of content. There are a variety of worlds to explore with around eight levels each. The game does a pretty excellent job introducing new items but usually previewing them in the background so you get a feel of how to use them. At the end of each world is a boss fight with one of the cat pirates. These, I had mixed feelings about. Since you have no control over Pompom it was hard to direct him to leap onto the cat’s head. The solutions are usually clear but the execution required a lot of tedious repetition to get right.
Pompom is in constant forward motion, I mean it makes sense he is a determined hamster on a mission here. He is not entirely helpless though. When he reaches the edge of a platform he does a pretty large jump but unless you do something he’ll probably jump to his doom. But if he takes a tumble you are given a chance to replace him on a nearby platform to continue your attempt at the level.
It takes a little time to become accustomed to Pompoms’ movements and behaviours in the world so the game does require a level of experimentation with the placement of objects. There were many occasions where I failed but there is a lot of enjoyment to be had in the experimentation here. The levels may look and feel like a platformer but they’re more big puzzles to figure out the best route through. There isn’t always a set solution to completing the level and the game does allow a bit of wiggle room for the player to ask the question ‘what if I tried this.’
Controls on PC offer both gamepad and mouse and keyboard but for my playthrough, I opted for the mouse. You use the left mouse to click mostly to place objects, while holding down the right mouse will pause the action, allowing the player to take a breather and get their bearings. A useful feature considering most of the time there is a lot to digest on screen. I did encounter a problem with this mechanic though. When you pause the action the camera no longer scrolls forward so in fast levels, where you’re guiding Pompom via a minecart, often he reaches the edge of the screen and you can’t see what’s coming. This may frustrate those looking for a more casual experience. Additionally, you can change Pompoms’ direction of movement should he hit a platform the wrong way and start heading in a more undesirable route.
16 Bit Nostalgia
The graphics will tickle nostalgia for the Super Nintendo. Particularly for a known game called Super Mario World which the game’s art style clearly takes a lot of inspiration. You can opt to play with pixel perfect graphics or a more smoothed texture. You can even opt for the vintage Super Nintendo aspect ratio if you want to go all retro. Levels like the grassland area and battleship feel just a tad too close to the design of this famous game. But it does an amiable job of presenting plenty of levels of designs and enemies which are unique to this game.
Pompom himself is an instantly likeable character, feeling a lot like the hamster incarnation of Mr Mcgoo. Overly confident but determined to reach the end of the level, even if that does require heavy assistance from the player. You can’t help but fall in love with the furry chap. The general feel and design of the game is charming with light-hearted humour which is suitable for all audiences.
Conclusion – Hamsters Rule
Pompom has the look and feels of a popular 16-bit 2D platformer. But with a unique take on the formula, it ends up as something really quite special. The developers took a risk having you protect the main protagonist rather than playing as them, leading to an experimental and enjoyable gameplay experience. This may even appeal to gamers that have never been fond of the 2D platform genre. Probably the best video game I have ever played starring a hamster protagonist. Be sure to give it a look.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot