Rock Star Ate My Hamster is a video game created by Colin Jones and released by Codemasters in 1989 for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, Atari ST and Amiga. The game starts with Cecil Pitt and his put-upon employee Clive who realise their theatrical agency is all washed up and decide to give the music industry a try. Hiring between one and four rock stars and staring out with a small inheritance, they have one year to make it big. It doesn't take itself too seriously.
The game is named after a (fictional) incident where singer & comedian Freddie Starr was reported to have eaten a hamster in a sandwich.
The costs of hiring the stars are based on their at the time profile and popularity which can look odd to modern players - the most expensive star is "Bill Collins" (Phil Collins) who was at the peak of his career in the late 1980s. The cheapest is "Sidney Sparkle" (Gary Glitter) which given his current popularity (i.e. zero) is curiously prescient.
The only way to win is by getting four gold records - even if you become a multi-millionaire you'll still lose if you don't achieve this within the time limit.
Rock Star Ate My Tropes:
- The Alcoholic: The fake TV listings page included in the instructions lists the show Ffloyd on the Ffloor with the description "hic!", a reference to then-popular TV chef Keith Floyd who was well known for enjoying a glass or two of wine on his cooking shows.
- Anti-Humor: The inside cover is a so-called "Funny Page" and has four comic strips which are parodic in nature and don't actually have good jokes with punchlines on their own, which include a cat making impressions and a dog's random thoughts.
- Anyone Can Die: A Publicity Stunt always has a chance to kill one of your stars! This hurts your group's popularity and abilities and it takes time for the remaining members to overcome the setback.
- Bland-Name Product: "The Sun" is present in parody form as "The Stun".
- Cordon Bleugh Chef: The instructions include a fake TV listings page including a listing for an episode of the fictional show Cookery Corner touting "Pig's Brain Soufflé" as the dish.
- Deadpan Snarker: In the instruction sheet of all places when explaining how to play the game on unsupported systems:"ZX81: You'll need a small add-on for the game to work properly. Go to your nearest computer dealer and ask for a 'ZX Spectrum'. Unpack and test it, then follow the instructions Cassette: Spectrum above."
"MSX: buy yourself a Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari ST etc."
"CRAY IIXMP: Load and run your Spectrum emulator program, then follow the Spectrum instructions above.
"HAL 9000: Engage HAL in musical conversation. Ask if he's heard of the game 'ROCKSTAR'. At this point, HAL may go into Spectrum emulation mode (instructions above) or instead hum the entire score of Tubular Bells, which is only marginally less interesting."
"IBM SERIES 34: Have you operator mount the Rockstar punched cards in the feed hopper, then ask him to load them during the next free time slice."
"We are sorry if you own an abacus - due to the present state of the market we feel that we can no longer convert games to this format economically."
- Fake Charity: You get offered charity gigs, some for genuine (in-game) charities such as "The Princes Truss"note and some for not so genuine such as the "Nuke Your Granny Society". Turning down a genuine charity or agreeing to a fake one will hurt your rock group's popularity - unfortunately, you don't get told the name of the charity until after you agree to or refuse the gig!
- Infinity +1 Sword: More like "Infinity +1 Rock Star", but Bill Collins has the highest stats (which is no surprise considering his popularity during the game's release), but he's also the most expensive, with a wage of 30000$ a week.
- Mud Wrestling: One option for your band's video is "Busty lovelies mud wrestling".
- Nintendo Hard: "Unforgiving" is a fair description of this game's difficulty, as it is based around extremely difficult win conditions and an extremely angry random number generator. To wit:
- You start off with £50,000. Good musicians cost around £15,000 a week and rising, with the most expensive costing £30,000, and you have to pay for good gear upfront out of this £50,000. You can go for the cheapest possible musicians and the cheapest possible instruments, but you will literally never be able to win because your band will be of such poor quality.
- Your first week will inevitably have to be spent practicing for your band to go anywhere. You won't be able to make money otherwise, but you also won't make any money practicing, and in the meantime your band still wants to get paid.
- Because of the above two facts, it is extremely possible to go bankrupt within a month. If not a week. It is as such functionally impossible to pair the best musician ("Bill Collins") with someone else because of this.
- You can never change your band's lineup or appoint new musicians. If you've started off with "Dorrissey" and "Sidney Sparkle" to save money, you could be rolling in money but not be able to ever win because your band is so poor quality-wise that it never hits the charts.
- Any money you earn is disregarded. The only metric for success is getting four gold records. The means of getting gold records is by going up the charts, which may be impossible (see above) and is decided entirely by an extremely unforgiving random number generator.
- You are given no metrics or other information to decode whether your band is doing well or not. You'll hear them in practice getting (hopefully) slowly better, a sales graph without any numbers is shown in the bottom right of the screen and you can stage a gig and see how many people turn up, but that's it. This is borderline unforgivable given how much of the gameplay hinges on an unseen "popularity" score.
- You need to stage publicity stunts in order to raise money. Any publicity stunt can, at random, permanently kill one of your band members, immediately costing you a heap of popularity and therefore earning potential and sales. This too makes the very best musician completely impossible to play as your sole band member, as you won't be able to afford the wages for both him and someone else and he could die at any moment and give you a game over.
- Every so often you get a call asking you if you want to do a charity gig. The charity is decided at random after you say yes or no, with no indication beforehand as to whether you're agreeing to do a gig for "Deaf Aid" (good!) or "The Nuke Your Granny Foundation" (bad!). Choosing "wrongly" based on this immediately slaps your popularity down hard, whereas choosing the correct option gives you very little of a boost.
- You get sponsored by a company for a fair amount of money upfront! Inevitably, the company's products are defective or dangerous in some way, and you lose lots of popularity. If you refuse the offers, they keep coming until you accept.
- Your "stars" are very divaish and unless you shower them with gifts (on top of their massive wages) they are liable to quit the band at a moment's notice if you don't indulge them in some ridiculous (and very expensive) whim right before a show. As mentioned, you can never replace them.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Averted. Every single rock star is a vicious and unflattering caricature of a real one, ranging from the nearly harmless "Bill Collins" to the downright frightening "Bimbo Baggins".
- Non-Standard Game Over: Running out of cash or losing all of your rock stars lead to an immediate game over.
- Page Three Stunna: One of these will appear on the front page of "The Stun" if your publicity stunt fails.
- Parody Names: Every single star you can hire is a parody of a then-popular star. The other groups and acts on the charts are also parodies of real bands and artists. See the characters page for a full list.
- The Prima Donna: Some stars can be like this, demanding expensive presents or stage accoutrements and threatening to quit if they don't get them.
- Send in the Clones: There's nothing to stop you hiring the same star up to four times, so you can have a group consisting of four Madonna parodies if you want to.
- Take That!: Some of the parody names are a bit mean spirited - "Witless Houston" (Whitney Houston), "Izzy Azbeen" (Ozzy Osbourne) and "Rick Ghastley" (Rick Astley) for example.
- Timed Mission: You have one year of in-game time to get four gold records and win the game. After one year it's game over, no matter how successful you've been otherwise.
- Title Drop: One of the headlines you can get from a publicity stunt is literally "Rock Star Ate My Hamster!"
- Totally Radical: The amount of 80s lingo used such as "groovy", "outasight" or "heavy vibes" is massive. Partially justified, since this is a game about rock stars.
- Unwinnable by Design: There are a fixed number of record companies and deals that will be offered and you can only learn how many by experience. If you turn down the last one then you can't win the game - you can continue to tour, rehearse and do publicity stunts but without a record deal you can't record an album, release any singles or get any of the four gold records you need to win the game and eventually you'll run out of time.
- A Winner Is You: Your reward for winning the game is just a couple of lines of text before the generic "Press Fire to Play Again" popup.