Keeping a single gig in this economy can be a tough task, but Hammerin' Hero protagonist Genzo Tamura somehow manages to juggle 10 different jobs – big league slugger, sushi chef, and deep sea diver among them. Gen's wide-ranging skill set serves as the hook for developer Irem's PSP platform/action game, a charming update to the early '90s series of Hammerin' Harry games.
Hammerin' Hero spotlights Gen's battles against the Kuromoku-gumi, a despicable construction company hell-bent on evicting his neighbors in the name of profit. You'll start the game as a carpenter, wielding the massive titular hammer, but you can choose from nearly any of the unlocked jobs prior to each progressive stage or eat a bento to change jobs while playing. Despite the distinct costumes, each profession gives Gen a pretty similar set of light and heavy physical attacks (though a couple costumes substitute a projectile attack), along with a limited-use special move.
Gen's pursuit of the corporate goons takes him through a dozen highly unique stages, including an amusement park, television studio, and baseball stadium. Though the overarching format of bashing baddies on the way to a boss fight is retained across stages, each level uses its unique aesthetic to liven up the action, such as riding a Ferris wheel in the theme park or beating a boss via a volleyball match at the beach. You'll also come across distressed citizens that you can help by smashing the text bubble above their heads; some may even repay the favor by attacking nearby enemies or throwing cans at a boss.
Most stages take only a few minutes to complete, but on the standard difficulty level, each is presented as a survival run of sorts. Just as basic goons can be dispatched with a single hit, so can Gen - although frequent checkpoints ease the pain to some extent. The one-hit-kill approach can be frustrating, but the game thankfully opens up an easier difficulty (which allows three hits before death) after failed attempts. Luckily for the hardcore set, a couple of advanced difficulty levels are also included.
Hammerin' Hero is notably short, and the action rarely diverges from the established platform template, but it's hard not to be won over by the humorous scenarios and vibrant personalities of the characters (accentuated by excellent voice acting). We would've gladly traded the amusing bonus materials (like corporate HR profiles for downed foes) for additional stages, but while it lasts, Hammerin' Hero remains a pretty entertaining handheld experience.
Apr 13, 2009