Name: Hammerin’ Hero
Genre: Action, Platform
Platform: Sony PSP
I have a pretty unhealthy obsession with hammers. In my last three Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, including the one I’m in right now, I always make sure my character, no matter the class, is equipped with at least a warhammer of some sort. Shoot, my latest character is even called Hammer. See what I mean? When the opportunity to play a game called Hammerin’ Hero came up, my hand reflexively shot up into the air to claim the review. This was before I knew anything about the game other than its title. Thankfully, Hammerin’ Hero ended up being a pretty enjoyable game, and my love for all things hammer remained untainted.
Hammerin’ Hero feels very old school when you’re playing it. The game’s platforming elements, side-scrolling levels and “one hit and you’re dead” health system, keep the updated 2.5-D graphics rooted in the traditions started with Super Mario Bros. The main characters in the game are cel shaded, and stand out against the 3-D backgrounds with surprising clarity. Despite being on a smaller screen, you can still notice plenty of details in main character Gen’s attire, as well as the objects in the foreground. Enemies have just as many details, and on subsequent playthroughs, you’ll notice things you may have missed the first time around. Even though the genre has evolved, particularly in the last few years, Hammerin’ Hero doesn’t feel dated. It’s more as if the simplicity of the design was paying homage to the games that came before it, while at the same time developers Irem were able to add their own twist.
The game consists of twelve levels, ranging from your hometown to a baseball stadium to the depths of the sea, and along the way you’ll have no shortage of things to look at. Even though Gen only moves from left to right, the depth of field in the game provides plenty of eye candy for gamers. The levels are well thought out, and even though the platforming elements are never difficult, adding verticality to the boards changes things up just enough to keep areas from getting stale. Each area also has a distinct personality. Whether you’re knocking your foes into the stands at the ballpark, or you’re dispensing justice at the TV station, no two boards feel the same. And don’t just think you’re limited to dispensing justice with a hammer. There are plenty of different ways for Gen to lay down the law.
Gen is a jack-of-all-trades. While carpentry is his first love, hence the hammer, when playing through the game, he earns the ability to play as a sushi chef, DJ, scuba diver, or any of the other ten jobs available. Each job has its own special attack, but I preferred to stick with the hammer for as much of the game as I could. Unlocking the costumes is easy, and you can choose any of the jobs you earned at the start of a level. You also have the option to bring along a career specific bento box when starting a level, and all you have to do is consume the sushi to be transformed into your alternate career path. Ingredients are earned by defeating your enemies, and picking up their random drops of carrots, fish, or whatever other foods you might need to create the meal.
There’s certainly some replay value in trying to unlock the various jobs, character profiles, and playable characters, but outside of a second or even third replay of the single-player story, there’s not a whole lot to do. The multiplayer consists of replaying a level and vying for the highest score, and while that’s fun once or twice, a game like this doesn’t really shine in that type of game mode. Playing with another person might have been more fun if there was some sort of co-op mode; but there isn’t, so it wasn’t. The voice work in the game should also be mentioned, as the scripting and the characters are given much more personality thanks to the acting, and helped make this one of the first games I’ve played in a long time where I didn’t just skim over the dialogue scenes.
There’s quite a bit to like about Hammerin’ Hero. It’s a simple game that’s easy to get into, and provides a decent amount of fun for the price. The issues I had with the difficulty curve (one hit deaths are quite annoying) and the length of the game were certainly outweighed by the design and production values. The PSP shelves at your local retailer may not be brimming with new releases, but if you’re looking for something new to play, and enjoy a good side-scrolling platformer, Hammerin’ Hero should be right up your alley.