Insert Disk collects Rock Star Ate My Hamster for the Commodore Amiga.
Today’s retro game review is Rock Star Ate My Hamster for the Commodore Amiga. This retro gaming classic is a rare music / management cross-over game from Codemasters. Rock Star Ate My Hamster has a very 80’s feel to it with a line-up of 1980’s music artists. Your task is to put a band together and manage them to success by winning 4 golden records. Not widely collected in recent years Rock Star Ate My Hamster has become a somewhat retro game hidden gem with collectors.
Greetings collectors and welcome to today’s retro game review. In today’s episode We’ve got something for lovers of 1980’s music culture in the hidden gem “Rock Star Ate My Hamster”. The 80’s was a happening time in the music industry. Giants of the industry such as Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, Bowie and George Michael were all household names and at the forefront of music culture. Also around this time Sim or Management games such as Football Manager and Sim City were also becoming a popular genre with gamers. There was a music sim based hole in the market and Codemasters managed to fill it with a somewhat satirical look at the industry with elements of parody thrown in for good measure.
You’ll work with a small sleazy outfit run by Cecil Pitt. Your task is to win 4 golden records by the expert management skills of your new band. The first step is to get the band together. You’ll have the option of up to 4 artists but bear in mind you will have to pay each of them a salary. There’s a very nostalgic line up here. Stiff Pilchard, Wacky Jacko and oh dear, even a Gary Glitter doppelganger. You’ll have to be careful here as the talent can range from bargain basement to top dollar. Next you’ll have to give them some gear. Again, you can save money by skimping on the equipment or pay the big bucks for the best equipment. Already the game is leading you in to having to balance the potential success of the band against early outlay costs. Next you’ll need to give your band a name. The Diskettes. Wonderful, I can feel that number 1 in the bag already.
From here you’ll open up some new options. Since the band is new you’ll want to have them practice together a little to at least get some sort of quality in the performances. Be careful though, you still need to pay your stars so you can’t afford them too much time in practice sessions. It’s for this reason you’re going to have to take them out on the road. You can take them to local bars or even stadiums. You’ll have to judge the level of interest though as you won’t be able to rent out a stadium if nobody turns up. It’s best to start small, get some interest in the band. Go back and practice and repeat until you’ve established them as a credible group. It’s at this point you should have at least some money in the bank and a standard good enough to record your first tracks. Typically recording an album at this stage makes sense as you can release singles from it. So, it’s in to the studio. You can listen in on the performances and name the tracks as you see fit. This stage is reasonably important as you’ll only want the best for the album. I’m calling mine “Best of the Disk” or “Alright Computer”.
So, it’s at this point that you can either practice, play more gigs or release an album or single. For now I’ll just go for a medium sized gig to fill the bank up a bit. An album launch doesn’t come cheap. With some sufficient traction for the band it’s time to release our first track from the album. You’ll be able to make a music video to help boost its profile. Again, at this stage be careful with you money. You can go for the cheap option and have your assistant Clive direct or pay top dollar for Steven Cheeseburger. You’ll also be able to select the theme from some very strange choices. I quite like the idea of “Really Unreal Puppets”.
So there you have it. Your music is being released to the public. You’ll now have to wait until the weekly popular hit parade comes round to see how you’re doing. There’s a very British sense of humour throughout the game. It’s that subtle blend of where satire becomes parody. Many of the chart toppers will be based on real life 80’s bands. It’s quite charming to look back on this game all these years later. Games like Rock Star Ate My Hamster just don’t come around too often these days. Throughout the game you’ll be offered endorsements, some good and some bad. It keeps the game interesting and your fortunes could soon changes for better or worse. In the meantime, a bit of practice and some supporting gigs should see you improve the band. With your music now in the charts it’s perhaps time to release “Alright Computer”. The aim being to drip feed the other singles to sustain the album sales. At this point it may also be worth investing in some publicity for the band. This can either go well, or not so well and will have an effect on your sales.
Once your band starts getting noticed you’ll no doubt get some interest from some sponsors. Be careful not to take the first offer here as you may run the risk of passing up a better deal. At the same time though don’t pass up all offers otherwise you’ll be too late to make any investment. “The Diskettes are now proudly sponsored by Joka Cola, Drink a Joke”. You’ll also notice at this point that the newspapers will be keen to publish the stories of the day. Sometimes you’re winning and other times you’re not. There are some classic headlines here that never get old. The tabloid culture itself comes from the nonsense of the British tabloids of the 80’s. In particular the game features the paper “The Stun” which is a clear reference to the influence of the Sun Newspaper.
For those of you living outside the UK, The Sun is a typical tabloid paper full of shall we say less than serious journalism at times. It panders to the more sensational stories of the day and the real-life headline “Freddie Starr Ate My Hamster” is also the inspiration for this games title. This is fairly much the scope of the game. You’ll be running successful tours and watching those sales figures increase in the bottom right of the screen. There’s something very addictive about Rock Star Ate My Hamster. By the nature of management games there are elements of repetition. However, there’s enough content here to make the game feel a lot fuller than it probably is. Once you start to hit the big time your artists will ask for pay rises or even suggest art direction for concerts. You’ll need to keep their demands under control whilst not denying them too many times otherwise they will quit on you and it’s game over. There were several releases of Rock Star Ate My Hamster. The budget Amiga version comes in a classic Codemasters plastic case. However, there are big box first editions. Some even include trading cards and additional paper work. This standard Commodore Amiga release is very well executed with a solid tabloid feel to it. Just to continue the satire there’s a whole page dedicated to a fictional TV schedule. Some of the entries here are just amazing. 9:00 on ITV First Among Sequels: Episode 105 of this gripping mini-series. Or how about The late film: The Spy Who Came In With A Cold: Described as a thrilling spy tale about the plot to sell Vic Sinex plans to the Russians. Stun Rating: Not to be sneezed at. This schedule in itself is well worth a read and another good reason to continue collecting the physical versions of retro games.
In terms of price around £5 is about right at today’s market prices. Outside of the UK this one is a little harder to track down so expect to have to import this one. So, what’s the verdict? A number 1 chart topper or a flop. I have to say that this is a game that grows on you. It’s simple yet does everything you need it to do. The 80’s nostalgia combined with the humour or the main characters and general British sense of humour make this game very appealing. If you’re looking for a management game with a difference then this is it. It’s smart and something not found elsewhere. The gameplay certainly won’t satisfy the serious sim lover and if you’re too young to remember the 80’s then some of the humour will no doubt be lost on you. If you’re a child of the 80’s looking for a nostalgic trip of managerial nonsense then Rock Star Ate My Hamster Really hits the spot. It’s easy enough to learn on your first play through but has enough permutations and ways of playing the game that really extend the life of this one.
The conversations between Clive and Cecil are well crafted and hold up really well in terms of defining the characters. There are only simple graphics but you really do get the sense that you are running this operation from a grotty little office somewhere. This is a cosy little simulator/management game. Its not going to ring true as a must have game for everyone but for those that played it back in the day this is an excellent trip down memory lane. Right, I’m off to read the paper… oh no.