It's interesting that games are similar to movies in the fact that certain genres fall in and out of popularity, sort of like the ebb and flow of the tide. There was once a time when the romantic comedy ruled the silver screen, and there was also a time when platformers were the hottest ticket in gaming. These days, however, the emphasis is on horror titles and shooters, and games that require you to jump, attack and wander across the screen are in short supply. For those few holdouts, Atlus is trying its best to provide you with a jumping, smacking fix via <i>Hammerin' Hero</i> for the PSP.
The hero of our story is Gen, a young carpenter whose hometown is threatened by an evil corporation. The suit-wearing villain wants to destroy all Gen holds dear and likely build a parking lot or skyscraper on top of it. Of course, no true hero will stand back and let such things happen, so Gen sets out with his trusty hammer to bust a few heads and whack some sense into those who would dare infringe on his quiet life.
The game plays out like every other old-school 2-D platformer, with Gen wandering across the screen attacking bad guys, dodging boss attacks and navigating a few tricky jumps. Players start off with Gen's standard hammer as equipment, but throughout the game, you can unlock new outfits that grant Gen special abilities. For example, the diver suit allows Gen to throw an anchor attached to a chain at foes, while the DJ costume gives him the power to hurl records at baddies. There are 10 different outfits in all, and each is just different enough from the others that players will find an incentive to try them all.
In fact, replaying levels with different costumes is the only way to unlock all that <i>Hammerin' Hero</i> has to offer. As Gen progresses, he'll run across people with problems (expressed as thought balloons), and it's his job to smack their cares away. Since different suits allow for different talents, it'll take Gen's whole wardrobe to unlock every bonus feature available. The mechanic adds a bit of replay value and makes it so that the game is about more than simply running through a series of levels and then watching the credits scroll.
One word of warning, though: If you are the type of gamer who doesn't enjoy fare with a heavy Japanese tilt, then you may be turned off by <i>Hammerin' Hero</i>. The story line is quite goofy, though it rarely ever manages to be funny. The result is a somewhat weird plot and character interactions that will likely only appeal to a narrow band of gamers. If you don't care much about story or plot, then you probably won't even notice, but those who demand their games be serious or at least mildly coherent could easily end up frustrated.
<i>Hammerin' Hero</i> is shaping up to be a nice little distraction for gamers who long for an old-school game to play on the go. Also, anyone thinking that maybe platformers have gotten too hard due to the unmerciful nature of titles like <i>Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?</i> will be happy to hear that the game features five difficulty levels, including a very easy Apprentice mode that will allow even the worst platformer players to make it to the end relatively unscathed. Those needing a little platforming fix could definitely do worse.
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