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Ah, Hungry Hungry Hippos. I remember playing this game years and years ago, and being quite excited to play it as well, until we lost all the plastic balls the hippos eat. Those hippos were pretty hungry for a long time after, I think, slowly losing their minds as their already insatiable hunger became absolutely uncontrollable. Maybe eventually they became one with the hunger, the ways some monks fast until they begin to see visions of higher realms. That’s my thought, anyway. Without the chance to lose those tiny plastic balls and subject the
hungry hippos to existentialist self-reflection, how does the game stack up on the mobile platform? Read on to find out.
For those of you who never played the Mattel classic, Hungry Hungry Hippos is a game for up to 2 players where each player controls an eponymous hungry hungry hippo. The 2 hippos take positions on opposite sides of a round board where a number of what look like peaches and a single bonus cluster of bananas bounce around. Controls are tap-based, simply tap to have your hippo stretch out its neck and try to gobble as many peaches as possible.
Hungry Hungry Hippos, in its physical incarnation, is one of those games that children love. It’s simple, it’s visceral, there’s little in the way of strategy or complexity. You mash on your hippo and try to eat as much as possible. That’s basically the extent of gameplay in this game. As such, older gamers might shy away from it, but I could easily see younger mobile gamers being absolutely taken by it. To the game’s credit, there is a single device multiplayer feature, though the fact that there isn’t multi-device multiplayer is a little strange. Sit two children down in front of each other with this classic game and tell them to tap away to their little hearts’ content.
Hungry Hungry Hippos is from that Mattel school of game design where really simple actions give you specific feedback. Spaz out on the controls and try to eat as many peaches as possible and you’ll probably have a good time. There’s no tactical element to the game because of the random bounce motion of the fruit, but it doesn’t matter. Much like how games like Monopoly relies completely on RNG, HHH relies entirely on you providing the fun. Playing Hungry Hungry Hippos in a calm, rational way where you carefully time your taps is boring, it’s a completely boring game. You need to tackle this one with energy if you want to get any enjoyment, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
It might have been easy to go with a bare-bones version of Hungry Hungry Hippos, but Mattel actually tried to give the game some additional features. In addition to the multiplayer mode and AI versus mode, there’s also a single hippo mode where you don’t have to compete against anyone, you simply eat. I’m unsure as to why you would want to play single hippo mode, maybe some players find it relaxing, but I couldn’t see it. The fact that there’s no 4-player mode is bizarre to me. I played the game on an iPhone 4, so I can understand if it was an issue with resources or screen real estate, but still, a 4-player mode with 2 iPhones would have been the best option.
Mattel also chose to go with full 3D models for the Hippos and peaches. While this does make it possible to replicate the behind-the-button look of the original game, it does come with some drawbacks. There was noticeable lag during the first few seconds of any game, which did decrease noticeably as peaches were eaten, but it can be frustrating to start tapping away and watch as your hippo lags behind trying to eat a peach. Again, this is coming from the perspective of an older, more serious gamer. Most children may not care as much about whether or not there’s lag when they’re probably tapping away as fast as they can.
The rest of the production values are at the level you’d expect for a free game. There’s a single music track which you can mute if you want, and there is an option to have the game display text in any of 4 languages. Considering the game has barely any text, it’s not quite as useful, but it was nice to have a french option just figure out what the french word for hippo was (apparently it’s still hippo.)
Hungry Hungry Hippos is a perfectly decent game. It’s free, which is nice, and the most Mattel tries to do is get you to click a link to their catalogue of other games, which probably include a few games that older gamers might prefer (Scrabble comes to mind.) There’s nothing glaringly wrong with the game title, but there isn’t anything that immediately jumps out at you. If you have a young child and you just want to play a game with them that doesn’t need much in the way of strategy or hand-eye coordination, Hungry Hungry Hippos is a pretty good choice. I’d recommend it as a supplemental game rather than the sole piece of entertainment for a long car ride, but you could do far worse.
- Fun for younger gamers
- Accurate representation of the classic Mattel game
- Some lag at match starts