Hammerin' Harry is a game of epic proportions. This story has it all: suspense, action, and enough twists and turns to keep you guessing until the final reel. OK, that's not really true. I stole that from the back of a DVD box. Actually, I stole it from the back of about 2,000 DVD boxes. Movie critics need to learn not to be so fucking trite. Hammerin' Harry was released by Irem into arcades in 1990. Irem is best known for R-Type, their exceptional series of scrolling space shooters. Those games kick some major ass. In retrospect, I probably should have reviewed one of those. But I didn't. Fuck it, let's begin...
Our story takes place "not too long ago". Why that's just vague enough to work! Meet Hammerin' Harry, a young man with a comically large wooden mallet. The last time I saw a wooden mallet like that was when Jerry used one in a Tom & Jerry cartoon about fifteen years ago when I found that crap entertaining. Harry has no natural predators, so I have no idea why the fuck he would need such a thing. Maybe he's a professional croquet player. Or maybe it's for protection, he probably gets his ass kicked a lot. I mean look at his outfit: baggy red pants up to his armpits, a white tank top, and that fruity sweatband. He makes Richard Simmons look like Charles Bronson. One day, Harry merrily prances out of his house and skips down to the local flower shop. While he's gone, something horrible happens...
As soon as Harry is out of sight, some workers from the neighboring construction site sneak over and demolish his house. If I had to guess, their boss is probably trying to build a mall or something and Harry wouldn't sell his house. Since capitalism is an evil unstoppable force, Rusty Nailers Inc. simply destroys his house and takes over his property. After all, what could Harry possibly do about it? No one can defeat a well-oiled corporate machine. As it turns out, Harry actually has several options:
1. Call the police
2. Hire a lawyer
3. Write to his Congressman or Senator for help
4. Stage a protest outside of Rusty Nail Headquarters
Of course, Harry doesn't do any of these things. While the American legal system is fascinating, it turns out that kids don't want to play Donkey Kong Bar Exam or Super Jurisprudence Brothers. So Hammerin' Harry does what any self-respecting fictional character would do in his situation: he takes the law into his own hands. I guess that ridiculous mallet doesn't seem so useless now. As Harry warns us in his digitized voice, it's HAMMER TIME!
The white man's obsession with afrocentric slang was just beginning in 1990. So instead of your standard PLAYER ONE GO! screen, Irem encourages you to get busy. Just to be safe, you should probably do it like it's your birthday. Taking your revenge on the Rusty Nailer won't be difficult, they're fucking everywhere. Every pothole, every poorly insulated window, every building that is slightly unappealing in any aesthetic sense has become a Rusty Nail project. Their omnipresence in town makes finding them very easy; Harry just wanders into the street and starts swinging. The only corporation with a tighter grip on your poor city is Irem, who has apparently cornered the real estate market. Christ, look at all those Irem buildings in the background.
The first level takes place in what appears to be a promenade. You walk by several fine outdoor eating establishments. Oddly enough, Sasa's Pasta, Drew's Diner, and Neal's Noodles all serve nothing but ramen noodles. Even stranger is the fact that the same fucking noodles that the Rusty Nailers eat will kill Harry if he touches them. Harry suffers from a disease that afflicts many video game heroes, one known as paper skin. Paper skin is when your body's defense systems are so weak that coming in contact with any enemy or environment hazard will instantly kill you. Scientists are not sure what causes it, but it is believed to be a mutated version of AIDS. Eventually you reach a point where the screen the stops scrolling to the right. That can only mean one thing: boss time! Six words come to mind: what the fuck is this shit? The boss is an old man with gold chains, sunglasses, and tight sweatpants who hurls orthopedic back pillows at you. This is what Dice Clay will look like in another 20 years. This guy definitely has some affiliation with the bad guys though, because he has one of those stupid hard hats on. Speaking of which, why the fuck do their helmets all have the letter M on them? They work for Rusty Nailers Incorporated, dammit. This guy is easy as hell to beat. When he throws something at you, use your hammer to hit it back at him. End of story.
One way or another, you end up at a Rusty Nail development project. There are probably dozens of them in the city, so God knows why Harry picks this one. Your primary enemies in this level are wrecking balls. These particular wrecking balls have spikes on them. The spikes make the balls less effective at demolition, but they also make it painfully clear that they are a hazard to Harry. You know, in case you were retarded. In a move that Resident Evil would copy ad nauseam, enemies burst through windows without warning. These jackhammer fuckheads are pretty annoying. Not only do they bounce all over the place, they also drill away sections of the floor to reveal pits of rusty nails. So if you ever wondered what was under your floorboards, the answer is spikes.
Your rampage through the unfinished house eventually takes you to the cellar. This is where you meet the Level 2 boss. It's some sort of wrecking ball tank machine or something. I have no idea what it has to do with construction, let alone basement-specific construction. Generally, there's very limited applications for a horizontal wrecking ball. Oh yeah, and they're IMAGINARY. Rumor has it that the Rusty Nailers bought this device at Dr. Robotnik's yard sale. That would certainly explain why it's so easy to beat. I guess it's Level 3 time.
If I've learned anything from movies, it's that nothing good ever happens at the docks. They're filled with rats and creepy old warehouses. People get murdered at the docks. Drug deals happen at the docks. Sailors go off to fight in wars and never return. Stay the fuck away from the docks. These docks are actually fairly boring. You fight your way past reserved parking spaces and guys on forklifts. At this point, I begin to wonder if Harry's doing the right thing. Sure, Rusty Nails Inc. is an evil faceless corporation, but does Harry really have the right to take out his anger on ALL its employees? After all, these guys are just looking for a paycheck. Look at forklift guy, he's not doing anything evil; he's just moving boxes around. I mean, come on. I hate Wal*Mart a lot, but I'm not gonna shoot a greeter in the face.
For many years now, rumors have been floating around that the construction industry is owned and operated by organized crime. Apparently those allegations are indeed correct. At the end of this level, Harry is confronted by professional hitmen with guns and Molotov cocktails. They drive around in tacky green sedans with cheesy flame details and attempt to burn you, shoot you, or just plain run you over. It can be a fucking pain to dodge them, especially since there's two cars. Once you get used to their patterns though, they're not that bad. Unfortunately, they die before you're able to ask them where Hoffa is buried.
Level 4 is a construction site. This is the last place I'd expect to find construction workers. Their natural habitat is actually just outside the construction site where they can lean up against the chain-link fence and sexually harass passing women. It also might have been prudent for Irem to follow this level up with one that took place either at a nearby deli or Dunkin' Donuts, since construction workers are also more likely to be found at those locations. I don't understand why this is the fourth level. In the game's opening sequence, there was a construction site right next-fucking-door to Harry's place. This level pits Hammerin' Harry against some of the toughest guys he's ever had to face: demolition ninjas! Superfluous ninjas are a telltale sign of a cheesy video game. Do badly dressed backflipping dynamite-tossing construction workers count as ninjas? I say yes.
It's a crane. At least, it's a reasonable facsimile thereof. Generally when there's a crane at a construction site, it is used for lifting steel girders. This crane does no such thing however. It functions as more of a wrecking ball. Hmmm... maybe that would have been more fucking appropriate back in Level 2. Nice work, Irem. Once you hit the wrecking ball part enough times, it turns into a drill. It also exposes a giant purple orb that apparently powers the thing. Much like the Harry-smashing machine that we encountered in Level 2, this boss looks kinda cool but ultimately it's badly designed and easy to beat. Outsmarting the Rusty Nailers is like outsmarting Wile E. Coyote: way too friggin' easy. Fuck this, let's move on.
Apparently the Rusty Nailers are building a secret underground fortress, complete with fire and inappropriately placed manhole covers. You'll encounter a whole slew of new enemies in this area, such as shovel-throwing construction workers, cockroaches, and an earthworm with laser beams that looks like it came straight out of R-Type. One thing that can definitely be said about this game is that it looks fucking fantastic. This game came out in 1990 and looks a hell of a lot better than other games released that year such as 1941, Pit-Fighter, and Magic Sword. To see a comparison, click here.
As it turns out, this whole level was just a thin pretense for a cheap joke. Harry's novelty hammer will finally be used the way that God intended it: for killing moles. This isn't just any mole, however. It's a GIANT mole and in an affront to mainstream science, it has the power to spontaneously generate baby moles. The mole is wearing a classic mind control helmet which lets us know it is isn't really evil. That's great, by why the fuck is it 15 feet tall? The mole absorbs a lot of hits before it dies. This becomes problematic because even though the mole isn't particularly hard, the game does have a timer. This isn't one of those games where every time you die, the boss retains the damage that you've inflicted on him. If you die, you have to fucking try all over again. It takes at least 20 whacks to kill this thing. That's bullshit. I did some tests in my backyard, and most real animals die after 2 or 3 blows from a standard sledgehammer. Well, whatever. Onward to the last level!
After raiding the secret underground Rusty Nail fortress, you move on to the corporate headquarters. At first, there doesn't seem to be much difference between this location and the last one. There's cockroaches, wrecking balls, and entry level employees with deadly caulk guns, all things that one generally doesn't see at a well-kept office building. Once you ascend enough of the shoddy wooden ladders that litter the premises, you end up on a floor that closely resembles an office building. That can only mean one thing: the end boss is close at hand. What could the boss possibly be? Who would run such a ruthless construction company? Before you try and guess, remember everything we've seen so far and keep in mind that this is a Japanese game. It could be a giant talking monkey wrench or a hammerhead shark in an Armani suit. It could even be Super Lucky Cowboy Jesus.
But it's not. It's a fat balding businessman in a flying chair. His primary attack is money. If his stuffy old money touches our hero, he dies. That falling money can be a bitch to dodge too. It's a good thing that Harry is imaginary... he'd have a hard time surviving in Japan with violent allergies to money and ramen. The Rusty Nailers CEO also a magic ring that fires laser beams. I want to know what the hell those awards on his desk are. Biggest Asshole? Most Evil Contractor? What the fuck? This guy really isn't that interesting, especially after all the wacky construction workers and the giant fucking mole. Eventually Harry beats him, unless you get sick of this shit and give up. For the sake of argument, let's say you defeat him. It's *so* worth it. Let's see what happens:
Wow. I don't know what to fucking say. For beating this game, all you get is a cheesy message about how money can't buy everything. As is turns out, the Rusty Nailers weren't really evil, they just fell under the dark spell of corporate greed. Once Harry beats the shit out of them, they realize that greed is bad. They apologize, rebuild Harry's house twice as big as before, and no one goes to jail. I bet those fucks at Enron wish they had thought of that. Sorry America, the money made us do evil things, please forgive us and we'll be good from now on. Then everyone would have lived happily ever after. Well, except all the stockholders who got fucked over. Going back to the actual game, who in the hell is that girl? Harry's little sister? His girlfriend? This is the first time she's featured in the game. Way to fucking explain things, Irem. Aaaaaaaargh, this ending is so stupid that it makes me want to hit things. Like children. If you know any children that deserve to be hit, please e-mail me and we'll discuss it privately. This review is over.
If you'd like to know what Irem is up to these days, good fucking luck. You can visit their official website, but the English version doesn't tell you shit. If you can read Japanese, you might be able to find out what they're currently up to. I wouldn't hold my fucking breath though. They've released some PS2 games over the last couple years. From what I understand, they're working on a sequel to Disaster Report. I've never played it, so I don't know if that's a good thing.
Posted by: Syd Lexia