Hammerin' Hero

Walk Softly and Carry a Big Hammer

We step into the small shoes and big ass mallet of the titular Hammerin' Hero. Impressions inside.
Author: Sam Bishop
Published: February 18, 2009
Atlus has come to be known as many things; savoir of the niche Japanese RPG, a crack team of localizers and translators (despite having a staff a fraction of the size of, say, a Square Enix) and import-friendly house more willing to take a chance on a game than publishers 10 times their size. It's meant they've been able to foster a kind of report with their consumers that few companies can match, which in turn helps buoy sales and drives what the company decides to take on next.

It's not hard to see why Hammerin' Hero was picked -- it's pretty enough game, developed by Irem, who know the PSP hardware well, and features accessible little character designs, all of which can be plainly seen in the screens and movies we've uploaded. What you can't glean from watching the game passively is how simple and effective it is at being a straightforward, challenging little platformy action game.

There's almost nothing to the game, honestly. The story goes that Gen, your friendly local fighter for justice, hears a commotion outside, heads out to investigate, and quickly starts beating the crap out of things with his trusty hammer. The controls offer options for ducking (L), munching on a snack you have made by a doting female friend pre-mission (R), attack with a straight swing (Square) or an overhead strike (Triangle), jump (X) and... well, no and, really, that's it. There are some advanced moved, unleashed by jumping and pressing down + Triangle, but by and large this is a fairly straightforward little action game; move to the right, attack enemies, fight boss, win stage.

But don't mistake simplicity for a lack of fun. Gen hold within him the ability to take on multiple jobs at one -- literally he can grab a class-changing bento lunch, chow down and suddenly switch professions -- and each job (ranging from the default carpenter to a sushi chef right on through to, uh, a DJ that hucks records) has its own unique attacks, both regular and special. This allows for adaptability in fighting bosses or traversing multiple environments, and it actually gives the game more variety than would appear at first glance or even after playing the first few levels.

It's a good thing, too, because this isn't what we'd call an especially forgiving game; usually one hit and you're down for the count, but you're welcome to continue as much as you like, so it becomes a careful act of rationing your lives and trying to get through the stage as cleanly as possible because everything from the difficulty (selectable right before you start the level) to the number of lives left is graded at the end of the stage, and that in turn unlocks more goodies that you can view in the hub screen between levels.

While smacking around enemies, Gen also runs across townspeople in need of... something. It's not always obvious what it is beyond the fact that they'll have big balloon over their head, but the solution can be solved by just smacking the balloon around a little. Interestingly enough, these emotional problems of random people can actually affect enemies or cause the people you've helped to join your fight. In the first stage, we helped a ramen vendor out and he returned the favor by splashing a nearby enemy in the face with some steam.

It's been so long since we've been able to sit down and really dig into our PSPs that we were a little surprised by how quickly we took to Hammerin' Hero. It could be the simplicity of it all, or the little bits of extra unlockable stuff gleaned from retrying stages for better grades, but it's far more likely that this is just a great little game, and one that both uses the PSP hardware to nice effect and feels like nothing else on the system. We've got more than enough time to tear through the whole shebang before the game ships on April 7th, and once we've explored Gen's world a bit more, we'll return with updated impressions. Be sure to check out the screens and movie we just added in the mean time to get caught up. We'll have more soon!