Thursday, May 28, 2009

Hammerin' Hero (PSP) Review

When I first saw screen for Hammerin' Hero, I got an immediate Viewtiful Joe vibe from it. It just screamed "awesome". Did my vibe lie to me? Here's my review of the recently-released (April) Hammerin' Hero for the PSP.

Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em

Has anyone ever told you to get a job? Well, how about several? Now you can with this new installment of an old classic. It's Hammerin' Hero, a PSP exclusive that harkens back to the days when old-school was new-school for better or worse. Does this goofy action game nail what it sets out to do, or does someone need to hammer in some sense to the developers?

Evil businessman and sharp-dresser, Hyosuke Kuromoku, and his construction company have their eyes set on our hero Gen's neighborhood. Their plan is to evict all of Gen's neighbors so they can demolish the town for their own uses. At the very least they're sensible enough to kick the denizens out before demolishing their houses. It's up to Gen to stop the Kuromoku Group from their master plan. Utilizing multiple jobs each with different powers and uses, you control Gen through twelve varied stages on his adventure to take down Kurokmoku for good. It's a very wacky story told through in-game cut-scenes with admirable, if not tongue-in-cheek, voice acting which can be switched between English and the original Japanese.

That baby will pump up the jam and the damage.

Hammerin' Hero has a very old-school approach to its design. At its heart, Hero is a 2 1/2D action beat-em-up with occasional platforming elements to it. The game can be quite difficult, but it's always fair in its challenge. You will never be bombarded by twenty enemies from all sides of the screen. Your deaths come from your own mistakes. Perhaps you thought you could get more hits in than you actually could on a boss whose in-between attacks. There's four difficulty levels in Hammerin' Hero, and each have different enemy placement, enemy health, and times you can get hit. In the normal mode, one hit from an enemy and you lose a life. Thankfully there are power-ups that give Gen a small safety net to work with in the form of a hard hat which will nullify one attack from an enemy. Safety net or no, it would have been much more enjoyable and much less stressful to have a health bar instead of constantly being on edge of getting hit just once.

Thug life, yo! Representin' on my cute horsie!

There are twelve levels in Hammerin' Hero from a haunted hospital to an amusement park to a baseball stadium where the goal is to run the bases while dodging oncoming sliding baserunners and other baseball-related baddies. While the game is played in a 2D field, there are various 3D tricks such as Gen turning a corner of a street or hallway. Even with twelve levels, the game is very short to run through. It can easily be beaten in one sitting as each level takes anywhere from 1-3 minutes to complete. Again, the difficulties to change enemy placement and challenge up a bit, and constantly being one hit away from death makes these short levels a relief in retrospect.

Like the real sport but without the steroids.

Just like the rest of us, the folks in Hammerin' Hero have their share of problems, too, but who needs a shrink when Gen can remedy their problems with a whack of his weapon? That's exactly what Gen does. Certain citizens have thought bubbles over their head proclaiming their current emotional suffering. Gen can attack the bubble to have it go away. Not only does this unlock various bonuses, but it can also be beneficial to Gen in levels. In one level, getting rid of a person's problem will cause that citizen to shoo away a group of enemies for him. They make getting through levels a little less painful and "problematic".

As Gen completes each level, his list of available jobs increases. Gen is a regular working man as he can become a DJ, baseball player, chef, deep sea diver, and more. While Gen as a baseball player uses a bat for his weapon for close-range attacks, his DJ profession allows him to chuck vinyl records at foes to expand their tastes in music. You select what job you want before you enter a level, and prior to entering Gen's friend-who-happens-to-be-a-girl, Kanna, can give him a lunch that allows Gen to change jobs once while in a stage.

Little mini-games like this are inside many levels.
This one requires you to time your
swipes to beat the baddy at volleyball.

There's a whole bevy of bonuses and rewards in Hammerin' Hero from accomplishing in-game tasks, helping out stressed-out citizens, or simply by playing through the game. There's a trophy case which holds every souvenir you've earned. Souvenirs are collected by performing certain game goals. Think of them like Playstation trophies, but they're not just for show and you don't have to compare them with other players to make yourself feel better about your gaming skills. These are goals like playing for a given number of hours, defeating a number of enemies, learning new jobs, and so forth. You can also read up on the aftermath of citizens you've saved as well as top-secret information on the various enemies and bosses you've encountered. Regardless, ittle doodads and dossier info may not motivate most players to bother playing through the game for the extended amounts of time it takes to unlock everything.

Variety is the spice of life, and it shows in the levels.

Meanwhile, the presentation package of Hammerin' Hero is quite good. Backgrounds are lush with color, characters and other models have a cel-shaded-like approach to them with thick black (friendly) or red (enemies) outlines. Things can get slow down to a crawl more often than I would have liked to see when playing Hammerin' Hero, however. Additionally, ad-hoc multiplayer races are borderline broken because of slow-down issues.

Hammerin' Hero comes from a design ideology of games that we don't see to often nowadays-- an unforgiving side-scrolling action game. For those who like an old-school difficulty, there's plenty here in Hammerin' Hero to love. For others you'll probably be satisfied just playing through an entertaining game just once for the brief time it takes and pushing the game off to the side for something else.

[SuperPhillip Says: 7.5/10]

1 comment:

Val said...

Thats halarious! It faintly reminds me of Animal crossing, except in this game you get to bonk people with hammers! Course it would be a bad influence on the youngins..

I have to ask you though SuperPhillip, when WiFiWorld turned on you, what did you do to resolve the problem? Quite simply because I want to know how to deal with some immature teenagers who exist elsewhere on the internet..