Zhu Zhu Pets DS does well at mimicking how kids can interact with the real-life versions of the insanely popular toy hamsters. As a standalone game, however, it probably doesn’t stand up against the fleshed out pet simulators that populate the DS library. Zhu Zhu Pets is more of a touch-screen based Tamagotchi with colorful graphics and an action game built into it. Unfortunately, your Zhu Zhu Pet is likely to meet the same fate as your old Tamagotchi.
You begin the game with one Zhu Zhu Pet with the goal of adding the eight remaining hamsters to your collection by completing in-game goals. The controls are completely stylus-based and straightforward. Gameplay is split between two modes: nuture mode and adventure mode.
In nurture mode, Zhu Zhu Pets will tell you when they are hungry, thirsty, tired, or want to exercise, and you will have to drag them across the screen to their food bowl, water dish, bed, or hamster wheel to take care of them. Think of a Tamagotchi, but with a nicer touch-screen interface, more options and more critters to care for. You can also drag hearts and carrots, which you collect in adventure mode, to your Zhu Zhu Pets to boost their happiness. If you neglect the Zhu Zhus in nurture mode, they simply look sad until you start taking care of them again.
Adventure mode puts Zhu Zhu Pets on maze-like racetracks, which are like more extreme, fast-paced in-game versions of the Hamster City playsets. You use the stylus to direct your Zhu Zhu Pet through tubes, over ramps and around obstacles to collect items and find lost Baby Zhu Zhu Pets. The different levels have varying, simple objectives, such as collecting X amount of item Y or finding the finish line, but only take a few hours to complete in their entirety. While the Baby Zhu Zhus you find in adventure mode go to a nursery where you can see them and watch them, you cannot interact with them or play with them as you do with the grown-up Zhu Zhu hamsters.
The music and sound effects are good, but because there are only a few sound effects in the whole game they can get very repetitious, very fast. The Zhu Zhu Pets, for example, all make the same chirping noises when you play with them.
For kids who enjoy the Zhu Zhu Pets series, this could be a good way for them to take the virtual versions of their toy hamsters on the go. Just keep in mind that the brevity of the game might not hold their interest that long. If you’re not at all a Zhu Zhu Pets fan, then you might want to steer your hamster ball clear of this one.