Zoom through a maze of tubes and tunnels with the aid of a rocket strapped to your back! Shoot through the passages at breakneck speed, slowing only to flip your paw at your opponent as you leave him in the dust! Such promises can only come from the ill-fated Sega 32X
game Virtua Hamster
. Made up of a cast of six furry friends, Virtua Hamster
challenged players to manuever through a series of hamster habitat
tubes in a racing environment that was a mixture of action and puzzle elements. Conceived, designed, and produced by the man who brought us such Sega Genesis
titles as Garfield: Caught in the Act
and Mega Bomberman
, Eric Quackenbush
, Virtua Hamster
was greenlit by Sega
when the 32X
still had a ghost of a chance at lighting the world on fire. Some have theorized that Sega
saw more money in licensing the six playable characters to the plush animal and animated adventures markets than in sales of the actual game, but for whatever reason the game was on track for a 1995 release until the 32X
product line was scrapped.
Was the world clamoring for a racing game starring a goggle-wearing hamster, rats, gerbil, armadillo, and mole? Doomed to an existence of legend and myth, the six playable racers were...
- "Chip": This heroic hamster races through the tubes on his jet-powered skateboard.
- "Thorn": As a badass rat, Thorn speeds along on his boss motorcycle.
- "Sherman": Who says armadillos are slow? This one, aided with a jet engine strapped to his back, glides through the habitat on a sled.
- Unnamed Kangaroo Rat: This little rat has outfitted his skateboard with a steering wheel and engine.
- "Stockpile": Living up to his name, this pack rat has built a racing vehicle out of discarded items. Powered by a battery-powered fan, his makeshift skateboard has storage space for whatever trash he should find in the tunnels.
- "Max": At the controls of his big wheel motorbike, this mole counts on his powerful engine to blast him into the lead and his powerful size to slam into other racers.
Gameplay revolved around racing through the tubes, passing the other racers, collecting items, jumping over hazards, and generally speeding around through the maze
in search of the elusive robot, Skuttle
, and moving to escape from the evil lab enrivonment that the critters find themselves trapped within. A two-player mode challenged players to race each other to the finish line. After the 32X
was scrapped, there was discussion on developing the title for the PC
market. The same policy that killed Sonic X-Treme
killed Virtua Hamster
, though; Sega
's PC division was interested only in releasing ports of Sega
's console titles, not original PC works. The game was never completed, no known copies of it are known to exist beyond a stray nonplayable alpha
cartridge or two, and the entire project itself has been long forgotten by just about everybody involved with it. Sega
still owns the license, but it probably isn't aware of that fact. Sega
has rejected projects before
because it was unaware that it owned the property. Nevertheless, perhaps someday we'll see a modern day revival of this rodent racing rally.