By James Whittle
A whack or smack is all that's required to solve your problems in the new PlayStation Portable game Hammerin' Hero.
Gamers have the mission of helping carpenter Gen save the town from the evil schemes of the Kuromoku Corporation, which seems to operate rather like the yakuza (Japanese mafia), forcing small businesses to sell so it can take over.
An old-school, 'side-scrolling' game, Hammerin' Hero takes players back to the early days of eight-bit and 16-bit gaming - remember the old-school games Contra and Final Fight?
Carpenter Gen has two main types of attack - weak and strong. The weak attack hurls items back in the direction they came, while the strong attack - although somewhat slower - sends things hurtling into the distance, with fun results.
Gen also has a special mode of attack that can be used three times in each stage of the game, though skilled gamers will likely make it through each level without having to use it.
Our carpenter has to fight his way through 12 levels - each full of cartoon-character bad guys - in locations that include city streets, an amusement park, a TV studio and a baseball stadium.
Starting out armed only with a giant mallet, as he completes levels, Gen acquires new professions, such as sushi chef, baseball player and diver. These provide him with new uniforms - and modes of attack.
He also collects groceries along the way, and these are made into bentos - lunch boxes - by his girlfriend, Kanna. The nutritious power-ups give Gen points and they can be eaten at any point during the course of the game. Bentos also provide Gen with points that make it possible to change jobs when his current one isn't working out.
Unfortunately the game's two-player mode is a major disappointment. All it does is allow players to compete for the best score on each level over wireless play.
In summary, Hammerin' Hero is a simple side-scrolling 'beat 'em up' game of the old-school variety - an exercise in nostalgia - that provides gamers with a few hours of fun. But it's not worth breaking the piggy bank for - even if Gen probably would.