Hammer Heads

by PocketGoddess on February 5, 2007

When I first heard about Hammer Heads, I wasn’t too excited. After all, I fondly remember my early days, when every trip to Chuck E. Cheese would include at least one round of my favorite game, Whack-A-Mole. I’ve seen many clones over the years, including a rather sad incarnation on the Nintendo DS that should be avoided at all costs. Since I’ve reviewed so many Astraware games over the years, I’ve come to expect that every one of their games will be of good (if not great) quality, so I decided to give Hammer Heads a try.
When I first loaded the game I was prompted to enter my name to create a personal profile. After that, I had just one option–Classic Bash. I tapped the onscreen button and started the journey with a brief description of what to do–use my stylus as a “hammer” to bash those pesky gnomes who have taken up residence in my garden. Sounds simple enough, but each level introduces a new character and new gameplay elements. I really like this approach; instead of a boring tutorial that most folks would be prone to skip entirely, Hammer Heads slowly brings you into the game while you’re playing it.
At first things are quite easy–the beginning gnomes require only a single tap to dismiss. Things change quite quickly though, with some gnomes being more powerful than others, or downright dangerous! One gnome has a helmet made out of a bucket, and if you hit him at the wrong moment you’ll lose half a heart (from your life meter). Other gnomes are merely decoys that shouldn’t be hit with your hammer because they’ll explode and take several hearts from your life meter. My personal favorite is the gnome with the Napoleonic complex!
Just bashing the gnomes as they pop up would be fun enough, but Hammer Heads has several additional elements to extend the challenge and improve the player experience. Bonus levels pop up randomly, and can net large rewards in the form of gold coins that can be used to purchase supplies in the shop such as hearts that refill your life meter, blue hearts that permanently extend the life meter, hammer upgrades with extra power to banish powerful gnomes with fewer taps, and so on. The special hammers really do make things easier, but they cost a lot of coins and unless you’re an exceptional player, you’ll need to extend your life meter first.
Some of the supplies such as the lucky clover (defeated gnomes drop more coins and hearts) and ice cream (freezes gnomes so only one tap is required to bash them) can be purchased in the store or sometimes found on the playing field in the regular game. A camera also pops up after every five levels, allowing you to save your game at that point and come back to it at any point.
The difficulty level ramps up gradually but persistently, and by the time I got to level 21 I found it very difficult to get any further. That’s because it isn’t just missed taps that cause you to lose health, but also missed gnomes that you allow to escape. The action can get quite frantic, but thankfully Hammer Heads has an intelligent save option that allows you to pick up exactly where you left off whenever you need to take a break.
There’s also a more relaxing Marathon Bash mode, if you’re just in the mood to bash some gnomes without going through the more story-driven Classic Bash Mode. The Trophy Room is the final touch, where unlockable achievements range from the” “Gnome Crusher” medal awarded for bashing 100 gnomes to more challenging awards such as the “Mogul” and the “Gold Marathon Medal” for superior accomplishments in the Marathon game mode.
Hammer Heads is utterly charming and completely addictive. What could have been a mindless distraction is greatly improved by the strategic element of purchasing supplies and upgrades. The new challenges each level, along with unlockable trophies, will keep you playing Hammer Heads for a very long time indeed. This game is destined to become a handheld classic, and is the latest entrant into the PocketGoddess “Perfect 10″ Hall of Fame. Hammer Heads will soon be available for $19.95 from Astraware, in both Palm OS and Windows Mobile versions.
A Perfect 10!

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