Not to be confused with other virtual pet games that simulate the Hamster owning experience (e.g. Ubisoft's Hamsterz Life and Petz: Hamsterz 2), Virtua Hamster was a Sega Genesis 32X game that had players guiding rocket-powered hamster test pilots on mini skateboards around a maze of tubes, collecting stolen blueprints in a mad scientist's laboratory.

According to pre-production design documents posted by former Sega game designer Eric Quakenbush, Virtua Hamster was meant to have "the look and fast paced action of Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter combined with an amusing puzzle strategy game and an unlikely group of heroes and enemies."

Unfortunately, the game was never released (planned for 1995), presumably due to the 32X add-on's unpopularity. Quakenbush said a British company picked up the title for a possible PC release after Sega cancelled the project, but that also never made it to market.

Spanish Sega community Sega Saturno, however, procured a Virtua Hamster prototype for around $250 recently, and plans to post the ROM for public download this Wednesday. The site even has a countdown timer for the ROM's release.

In the meantime, you can watch this choppy footage from the dumped prototype, which really doesn't look as exciting as the game's cover suggests. I'm not writing Virtua Hamster off just yet, though, as the pre-production notes mention a veteran hamster with a steam-powered rocket backpack, an idea so wonderful that I wouldn't mind seeing an entire movie based on the concept -- it couldn't be much worse than G-Force.

Other intriguing Virtua Hamster characters that serve as opponents seeking to hinder test pilot:

  • a Kangaroo Rat with an Australian ‘out-back’ style rocket
  • a Mole or shrew that lurks around like Peter Lorrie
  • an armored, Armadillo-like, rodent from Brazil that chants soccer crowd anthems and yells “Goooaaal!” when he makes a point against another player
  • a Pack-Rat who will grab any object he comes across and stuff into one of his many pockets
  • and a pack of alley rats with black leather and chrome rockets
  • I'm setting an alarm clock to make sure I'm there the minute this releases.

    [Via ASSEMblerGames]