Saturday, March 21, 2009

PP Hammer (C64, 1991)

Heeeeeere's Johny!! Oops, sorry, I meant to say here's PP Hammer. So here's PP Hammer, placing you in the role of an Indiana Jones type archaeologist. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to travel around the world in several ancient temples - find whatever treasures there and flee for dear life. Flee for dear life? Why? Well, that's because there's traps galore, as well as the odd enemy. And they're out to get you!

Ahem, let's take things one at a time. Essentially this is a puzzle-platformer. It ain't your average walk left to right, kill all enemies, face the boss and get done with it type of game. The main catch is this: you've got a pneumatic drill, and with it you can demolish blocks of stone. Usually, the treasure (in the form of gold) is hidden in these blocks, or the blocks obstruct the path to the gold. The thing is, once you demolish those blocks, they don't stay demolished but reform after a while. This means that they can trap you - if you don't get out the way soon enough, or even kill you. Now, consider this, there might be a pile of four lines of blocks obstructing your way to the desired treasure, and they can be intersected with solid stones which cannot be demolished. That's the part of the game where you have to think carefully about how to proceed - and all the within the time limit.

As if that wasn't enough, the game slaps you in the face with an eclectic mix of level design - ranging from the chaotic maze to the tricky logical test, as well as an arsenal of additional elements. There's keys with which you can open doors, there's teleports, as well as essential power-ups like jumping boosts, drilling boosts, invisibility potions and so on.

Make no mistake, PP Hammer is an addictive game. Whenever I started playing a level, I had difficulty putting the game down. I'm not exaggerating here, this really is addictive stuff. It's not the kind of game you will finish in an afternoon - but that's okay because each level has it's own password so you can continue from where you left off without repeating earlier levels frustration.

There are criticisms. First of all there seems to be a tendency towards invisible elements later on: invisible ladders, invisible teleports and even invisible blocks. There's also the odd bug, with enemies getting trapped in walls for example. Also, while the original 16-bit version has over 60 levels, they only bothered to convert 38 for the C64 version - which is a bit of a shame. Nevertheless, this is really playable, with solid graphics and tunes, and did I mention the humorous Legoland bonus-level? Well, now I did!


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