Saturday, May 26, 2012

S&S Indie Review: Hammerfight


Title: Hammerfight
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux, PSP
Release Date: October 29, 2009
Publisher: Kranx Productions, 1C
Developer: Konstantin Koshutin


Ugh, jeez... Hammerfight. *slow drawn-out sigh*


Premise
Hammerfight is a 2D arcade-style game where you fly around in a steampunk trashcan trying to hit another trashcan with your flail. You have a freaking medieval weapon hanging of your flying trashcan. Read that sentence a few more times. Go on, I'll wait.

It sounds exactly like something Robert Brockway would come up with.

I picked this game up in the third Humble Indie Bundle pack, and at first, I thought it was going to be great. It's such an amazingly original idea, and I wish I could say the game is blast to play, has a wacky sense of humour, and is ridiculously fun.

But it isn't.

Gameplay and Mechanics
The the game is entirely controlled with the mouse. Not the mouse buttons either, just the movement of the mouse.

Which means the game where you fly around in trashcans and hit each other with flails is pseudo-physics based. And it just doesn't work. In order to move, you have to swipe your mouse in the direction you want to go, and in order to bring your weapon to bear, you must swirl your mouse around madly in a circle, and this turns into an absolute nightmare.

Building up momentum for your flail is hard, and it's nearby impossible to swipe the mouse while boring a donut-shaped grove in your mousepad, which is a fancy way of saying you can't move and attack at the same time. This is a massive problem because your AI opponents can. Since they aren't bogged down with atrociously awful controls, they can whiz up to you and bring down their brand of flail-based justice with very little effort. And because they're darting all over the place, it makes smacking them extremely difficult. Especially if you lose momentum and have to start again.

You have to smack them the right way, too. If they're below you, you have to ensure your flail is whirling clockwise to smack them back down. If above, counter-clockwise to smack them back up. And as I said, you can't be mobile and on the offensive at the same time, so often you're sitting there with your flail whirling madly around, while the opponent either waits or gets into a move advantageous position.

Art, Sound and Visual Design
The art in general is alright, but the 3D parts (where it shows a person's head talking) have that old, cartoonish 3D feel (kinda like those old Firefly games - Space Colony and Stronghold in particular) but it looks terrible. It looks like it's done on a zero budget, and suffers for it.


The HUD also leaves a lot to be desired. Your health is indicated by a basic, unimportant-looking gauge, like the speedometer on a car dashboard. Where I would have put a very noticeable needle with a big chunk of green, yellow and red, they decided a slim needle was sufficient, and pale green, yellow and red markings on a black background instead of big bold colours to indicate how dead you are. It means in the heat of battle you can't immediately see at a glance how much health you have, without taking your main attention away from the fight, and that's a huge problem in action-oriented games.

Also, whenever you spin around really fast, you start hearing spluttering noises and sparks fly out of your trashcan. I get that they were trying to make it really apparent that the flying trashcan is held together with cellotape, but it makes it look like I'm taking damage. Maybe I am, I'm not sure.

Conclusion
Hammerfight is infuriatingly disappointing. It could've been a lot more, but it just goes to show that controls make or break action-oriented games like this.

I hate seeing this. Someone makes a really visually interesting game, and they get it in their heads that 'visually interesting and different' goes hand-in-hand with 'new and different control scheme'. It doesn't. It makes it confusing and frustrating to play, and makes the design team look like a bunch of pretentious tosspots.

And don't mistake controls for mechanics - Braid had time manipulation as a core mechanic, but you still used the arrow keys to move. Mouse-only control schemes are dangerous to work with at best, and in my eyes, Hammerfight failed to pull it off.


Two Sentence Summary:
"Great idea, terrible execution. Soundtrack was alright though."

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous5/26/2012

    Good review, sad about the game though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks :D

      Yeah, I really wish the game had better controls.

      Delete
  2. Jazznazz1/19/2013

    (facepalm)... the mouse control IS the best thing the game can offer. It just needs mastering.

    ReplyDelete

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