PP Hammer and his Pneumatic Weapon logo

DEMONWARE * £24.99 Joystick

It's Hammer time! PP Hammer that is, council worker and archaeological vandal, not the duf rapper. For some reason Hammer and his pneumatic weapon have been sent to raid a horde of treasure filled crypts. A thorough professional, he brings the obligatory baggy jeans, hard hat and road drill in for the job. Can a corporation chap cut it as a cute computer character though?

The world Hammer inhabits is of the platform-and-ladders variety, but with one major difference. Certain blocks can temporarily be destroyed if he drills them, which is a simple matter of pressing the fire-button. These then disappear for a few seconds, allowing him access to what lies below: normally other drillable blocks or a hunk of treasure. If he is unlucky enough to be standing where a destroyed block reappears though, he dies. So, drill work has to be fast and precise.

Stop the clock!
Hammer has to collect all the treasure from every level before he can leave. On top of the drilling he will need to climb ladders, find keys, use magic potions, avoid teleports, dodge enemies, leap over invisible blocks, stay away from traps and still be well enough to reach the exit within the generous time limit. A combination which demands some hefty stick work and quick thinking.

Most elements in the game are standard platform fare but, the drilling takes some getting used to. Hammer cannot drill straight down, only diagonally. He stands on one block and rills, the next one along. This causes all kind of problems and is the game's major source of puzzles. Which block should Hammer stand on and which should be drilled?

Leaping into a 'one block hole' means he can drill no further; so a route has to be planned that gives him somewhere to stand and enough space to get his weapon out. These problems are further compounded by Hammer's need to escape from any hole he has dug before the blocks he drill start to reappear.

Graphically the levels cycle around a number of themes, Egyptian, ice worlds etc. While different in look, all behave identically and simply provide attractive set alternative stages on which the game is played. The Hammer sprite tries to be cute, he stops for a cigarette if you need to pause and think, hiding under his helmet as he crawls along. The act isn't always totally convincing, but it doesn't matter, because puzzles, not cuteness, are at the game's heart.

PP O'Tool!
PP Hammer is a solid platform puzzler, the pneumatic weapon adding extra spice. Hammer will appeal to those who enjoy hours of mental angst, under the guise of 'gaming fun'. The balance between control accuracy and quick thinking is expertly judged, giving it a refined feel. It is, though, a refinement of an established genre and offers few real surprises. PP Hammer shouldn't be overlooked on these grounds, but fate will probably decree that it is.

Those folks who are brave enough to try it will not be disappointed, as long as they like their platforms peppered with particularly problematic puzzle posers.



PP Hammer and his Pneumatic Weapon logo

Wer von den ewigen Barbaren und Raumfahren die Nase voll hat, sollte mal bei Demonwares neuem Geschicklichkeitstest reinschauen. Hier treibt sich ein besonders exotischer Computerheld herum - Pepe, der netter Bauarbeiter von nebenan!

Pepe ist ein Handwerker von echtem Schrot und Korn: wenn es nichts zu tun gibt, steht er der Gegend rum und rauscht erst mal eine Kippe, ansonsten terrorisiert er seine Umwelt mit dem Presslufthammer. Hier wird aber nicht gepafft, hier soll Pepe unter Zeitdruck diverse Platform-Labyrinthe nach Schätzen, Schlüsselen, Zaubertränken, usw. Abgrasen. Vorzustellen hat man sich das als eine Misschung aus "Loderunner", "Rick Dangerous" und ein paar eigenständigen Elementen.

Pepe läuft durch komplizierte Gangsysteme, klettert Leitern rauf und runter, flüchtet vor Gegnern (z.B. Gespenster), und sammelt dabei alles auf, was er findet. Mit seiner "pneumatischen Waffe" kann er auch Steine weghämmern, die aber bei kurzer Zeit wieder nachwachsen.

Die andere Möglichkeit, um an abgelegene Stellen zu gelangen (Pepe muß sämtliche Schätze eines Levels aufklauben, um in den nächsten zu kommen!), ist eine Art "Schildkröten-Modus": Drückt man den Joystick nach, kriecht Pepe unten seinen Schutzhelm und krabbelt so selbst durch engste Röhren. Außerdem lassen sich per Funktionstasten die einzeln Gegenstände aktivieren, die unser Held der Arbeit schon eingesammelt hat - Schlüssel, Sprungverstärker, Öl für schnelleres Hämmern, etc.

Die Level sind sind sehr abwechslungsreich gestältet (Ägypten, mittelalterliche Burg, Legoland...) und strotzen nur so vor kleinen Gags.

Es gibt zahlreiche Bonusabschnitte, versteckte Überraschungen und sehr intelligente Gegner, die keinen Moment Langeweile aufkommen lassen. Die Grafik ist liebevoll animiert und wird so perfekt gescrollt, wie man das gerne öfter sehen würde. Auch die Steuerung ist nach kurzer Eingewöhnung kein Problem mehr.

Über den Sound können und wollen wir nicht allzuviel sagen, unsere Test-version war in dieser Hinsicht noch nicht so ganz hundertprozentig. Was wir gehört haben, ist aber auf dem gleichen Niveau wie der Rest vom Fest - keine Frage, die Programmierer haben hier wirklich gute Arbeit geleistet! (mm)



PP Hammer and his Pneumatic Weapon logo

With the cuteness of Pang, and a slightly dubious sounding 'pneumatic weapon', P.P. Hammer digs his way out of ancient 8-bit roots and onto the Amiga.

Pneumatic weapon, eh? Just thank your lucky stars Gary isn't doing this review, that's all. P.P. Hammer And His Double Entendre is a puzzle-platform-arcade game type of thing, featuring the eponymous hero (and indeed his eponymous 'thing') in dozens of levels of treasure-gathering fun and larks. Anyone who remembers the 8-bit cult legend Lode Runner will find P.P. Hammer And His Palpitating Mechanism strangely familiar, but for everybody else, here's a quick rundown of the basic principle.

P.P. (Peter Purves, perhaps?) finds himself ina maze of platforms and ladders, which is also full of lovely treasure. Before P.P. (Prince Paul?) can leave the maze and move onto the next one, he has to collect every single piece of booty, a task which is made harder than it might seem by the fact that many of the desirable facts are found buried deep below several layers of seemingly-impenetrable rock.

Luckily, P.P. (Penelope Pitstop?) had the foresight to bring along with him his pneumatic weapon (or 'drill') with which he can dig through the rock and get to the treasure, but he is handicapped by the fact that he can only dig through rock which is below and to the side of him, and not that directly underneath.

Also (a bit of a departure from the laws of physics at this point), after a short while any rock which P.P. (Pretty Polly?) has blasted his way through will re-form itself in the space it originally occupied, so our hero can find himself trapped, or even worse, caught in the middle of the re-forming rock and turned into a human fossil.

Oh, and if things weren't tough enough, the levels are also infested with nasty little animals, pools of water (P.P. can't swim), fire pits (P.P. isn't made of asbestos), shaky bits of ceiling that will plummet to the ground at the slightest provocation (like P.P. being somewhere in their general vicinity), sticky ground that slows his movement, and icy floors that he skids across uncontrollably. P.P. i sn't the kind of chap to let such trifles dissuade him, but he's going to need some help to come out in one piece. And that's where you come in.

P.P. Hammer And His Quivering Implement is essentially a very simple game, so it's an easy one to just pick up and play. Once you grasp the basic concept of the drilling mechanism, it's all very straightforward. Complications set in very straightforward. Complications set in very quickly though, in the form of locked doors, apparent dead ends, unscaleable walls and more. These are dealt with by means of various keys and potions which P.P. can find lying around in the mazes and pick up, to be used at a late date. (Up to five can be carried at one tie).

This makes things just a little too involved for my personal taste and smacks of lazy design (the strength of Lode Runner was in the amazing flexibility the small number of gameplay elements allowed, but in P.P. Hammer And His Vibrating Tool the programmers have too much scope for faffing around with the basic principle, and it makes the game feel less and it makes the game feel less cohesive), but many people will probably disagree with me, and it's not too disastrous in any case.

What I can't forgive is the uncomfortably heavy reliance on that ancient cop-out, invisibiity. After the first few levels the game is plagued with invisible floor squares and invisible teleports, which is a ludicrous and unfair way of making a game difficult.

To my mind, progress through a game should be a product of skill and reactions, not the result of a series of stab-in-the-dark guesses. In a very similar vein, the appearance of no-warning spike traps (like the ones in Rick Dangerous 2 is indicative of an unpleasant smugness on the part of the programmer, and has no place in a puzzle game, which is what this is. It's all very well to say, 'Ah, but after you've seen them once you know where they are, so you can avoid them subsequently', but if that's the case, why bother putting them in there at all? Being killed by something you had absolutely no way of anticipating and no chance to react to is an annoying and pointless thing to have happen in a computer game, and it gets my back up in a very major way.

While I'm in a moaning kind of mood, another thing I don't like to see when playing a game is a message saying 'Disk Operation, Loading Level 2' (with a little picture of a disk just to emphasise the point). Call me romantic, but I don't wish to know that, I don't want to know what's going on in the mechanics of the game code. Playing a game should be like transporting yourself into another little world for a while, and something like this spoils the atmosphere and the continuity and brings everything crashing shabbily back down to Earth. It's something far too many games fall victim to, and the campaign to put a stop to it starts here.

And one more thing while I'm about it - is it strictly necessary for level codes in a game like this to be things like 'GQDJKITR'? Would it really kill the programmers to think of a few proper eight letter words? Dictionaries are full of them, it's not hard, and it's always better to be able to say to your chums, 'Hey, I found out the code to level 2, it's, erm, GFRU - no, DJT, erm, well, I've got it written down at home, anyway...'. I'm being really picky, I know, but I just can't see the point of being so willfully bereft of imagination.

Okay, gripping over, what are P.P. 's good points? Well, the little chap himself is full of character, especially when he ducks down and hides inside his hard hat in moments of danger. He really puts his heart into it when he's digging, too, and his wiggly dance after completing a level is cheeky and cute.

The graphics are generally good - just large enough to have character and just small enough that you can fit a decent number of puzzles on the screen at any one time. Playability scores highly too, as does addictiveness (with loads of differently-styled levels, secret rooms to discover and so on), and if the sound is bloody awful (okay, the actual sound is fine, but the music is just plain hideous), well, that just goes to show you can't have everything.

So the question is, 'Do the good points of P.P. Hammer And His Throbbing Instrument outweigh the bad ones?
And the conclusive answer is, 'Well, erm, maybe.

This game is extremely irritating in many ways, and distinctly mediocre in others, but its playability has kept me coming back to it quite a few times this month. There's a code after every level, so it's easy just tp pick it up for an hour, do a couple of screens, and then leave it again to come back to another day. In this way it's a game that could last you a pretty long time, and even if it never raises the kind of thrills of a Switchblade 2, it's a pleasant way to spend a few days of game playing. Whether 'pleasant' is a good enough reason for you to fork out 25 or not is up to you.


PLEASE HAMMER, DON'T HURT 'EM (WITH YOUR WEAPON)
The world of P.P. Hammer is packed full with little surprises. Even a hard hat isn't sufficient protection against some of the things waiting for our P.P. Forewarned is forearmed though, so here are some features to watch out for...
PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponA washed-out P.P. ascends to Hammer Heaven. Does this mean he'll be P.P. Hammer Of The Gods? PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponBored with the incessant action, P.P. stops for a quick drag. There's absolutely nothing big or clever about smoking. PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponRock? Yeah, you can dig it? (P.P. certainly can). PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponA level completed, and P.P. can't resist a quick dance of joy (the saucy little minx).
PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponP.P. chooses the wrong way to get a suntan - falling into a deadly firepit. Ouch! PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponWalking on water? Not quite, but this invisible block saves P.P. from a horrible death by drowning. PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponScattered throughout are nasty rock-falling traps like this. Watch out for the tell-tale quiver just before they crash down, P.P.! PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponThis teleport will whisk P.P. to some other part of a level. (Many teleports are invisible, though).
PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponAnother use for P.P.'s keys is to let down drawbridges like this one. PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponOh no! The exit's still closed, so P.P. has to crawl back under the spike trap and go looking for more treasures. PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponIf you look closely, you can just see that this floor is covered in slippy stuff that P.P. just can't stand still on. PP Hammer and his Pneumatic WeaponDon't be an old-stick-in-the-mud - jump your way across this gooey stuff.

PP Hammer and his Pneumatic Weapon logo CU Amiga Screen Star

Demonware have a dig at the opposition with this brilliant Rick Dangerous style platform romp which recounts the everyday story of a young man and his road loot as they go excavating for treasure.

The star of this jump 'n' run puzzler is a short-arsed little git who happens to carry a pneumatic drill with him wherever he travels. He must use his trusty tool (innuendoes aplenty here, methinks) to burrow his way through countless stone slabs in search of the priceless treasures that have been hidden in various castles, caverns and icy caves.

It's not quite that easy, though, as each block that's cut away magically reappears a few seconds later and can ether trap our luckless hero in a concrete prison or crush him to death if he gets in its way - or any ghosts silly enough to fall into them. In other words, you have to be damned quick or else you'll end up flatter than a pancake.

Also, you can only drill away at a stone slab that's immediately adjacent to the one you're standing on, so if an object is buried several blocks downwards, you're going to have to dig up an awful lot a stone slabs to get at it. If you're not very dextrous with a joystick, steer well clear of this one!

Starting out with six lives, you have to complete each level within a set time-limit or you'll lose a life and be sent back to the start of the section. Extra lives can be found along the way, as can a number of magic potions which can ether turn you invisible, replenish depleted energy levels, boost your jumping powers or enable you to dig at a manically fast rate.

Be on the look out, also, for coloured keys which open or close similar coloured doors, an hour glass which adds valuable time units, scrolls which give handy hints on how to complete each level and blue crystals which mark the entrance to Lego-style bonus rooms stuffed full of high-scoring fruits.

In all, there are over 2500 screens to travel through making up 70 brain-straining levels. Although most of the treasure is easily accessible. some is hidden under stone blocks or even in pools of energy-sapping water. It can be mind-numbingly frustrating to have completely explored a level, collected all the treasure and still find yourself one piece short and unable to exit to the next challenge.

There are also invisible platforms and hidden transporters dotted about which makes moving around some levels nigh-on impossible at times - and PP's troubles are added to even further by energy zapping flying bats, scampering rats, fearsome gladiators, ghosts and the rather less-than-chilling snowmen all of whom are after your butt. You have to be quick to avoid their deathly clutches or you can dig holes for them to fall in (ala the classic arcade game, Space Panic).

Graphically, PP Hammer is reminiscent of MicroProse's Rick Dangerous. Both use a tiny sprite for the main character and are platform-based puzzle-and-trap affairs. Many of the levels are based on Grecian or Egyptian themes although some involve icy temples with huge crushing snowballs and ice-demons on the loose.

The animation isn't spectacular, but it doesn't need to be - you'll be too busy darting about the levels scooping up the treasure to worry about that. Sonicwise, there are a number of in-game tunes, although the MC Hammer piss-take we were promised is not included (possibly for legal reasons?). Each time you lose a life, you ascend heavenward with a tiny pair of wings attached to your back and a jolly jingle ringing in your ears. Demonware have even sampled an actual pneumatic drill for added authenticity and a ghastly shriek arises each time our titular hero is robbed of energy. There's even what sounds like the Lambada blaring out of the speakers when Hammer walks through the exit to the next level.

Overall, Demonware have hit the nail firmly on the head with this brilliant platform romp, and you'll be extremely PP-ed off if you miss it.


EMERGENCY DRILL...

Thankfully, PP's drill is used for the purposes of good, but in the past pneumatic drills have had a hit of a rough time of it - rivalling the chainsaw for on-screen infamy. obviously the now-banned Driller Killer started the trend with its cautionary tale of a madman and his Black And Decker, but the first use of a road tool was in a little-seen horror film called The Destroyer. Starring Norman Bates himself, Anthony Perkins, The Destroyer centres around the making of a low-budget horror flick set within a disused prison. As can be expected, a muscle-bound psycho who was killed for a crime he didn't commit (yawn!) decides to take his revenge on the film-makers, using whatever comes to hand - including the aforementioned drill.

More recently, big Arnie himself added to the poor drill's reputation by drilling Benny the traitorous Taxi driver in Total RecalI as he tried to run our hero down. As for the future, apparently a sequel to Driller Killer is on the cards, but, more excitingly, stones abound that Evil Dead III will also star one of our pneumatic chums...


PP Hammer and his Pneumatic Weapon logo

It's big, it's throbbing and it's dangerous. Lord Paul Lakin stocks up on innuendos and double entendres before checking out Demonware's PP Hammer And His Pneumatic Weapon.

At a recent meeting of the Keep ZERO Clean Committee, chaired by Mr McWhirter, it was decided that childish innuendos and copy littered with the phrase "Oo-er" were definitely banned. "It's not big and it's not funny," said Mr McWhirter. "Oo-er," chorused the ZERO crew (who were immediately put on a week's notice unless they "Cut it out this instant").

A dreadful silence descended - everyone paced around the office in fear of their jobs. Conversation was limited to discussions of the use of anomatopoeia in the novels of Virginia Wolf. All was going well until PP Hammer arrived. For it was not just PP Hammer. It was PP Hammer And His Pneumatic Weapon. Before you could say "P45", the innuendos and unemployment figures were rocketing through the roof.

Mr Hammer's pneumatic weapon is a holly useful tool - whenever he's in trouble he just whips it out and has a quick drill. There's no knowing where he'd be without it. Actually, that's not true. We know exactly where he'd be - still on the first screen of the first level of what Demonware describes as "a jump 'n' run game". Since the game has 70 levels that would be something of a waste of time, so we all say "Hurrah!" (and "snigger, snigger") for goold old PP and his pneumatic weapon.\

Each of the 70 levels is littered with keys, potions and, most importantly, treasure. Hammer must collect all the treasure on a level before he can start looking for the secret door that leads him onto the next. Some of his treasure is just lying scattered over the ground - easy pickings. However, some of it needs digging and drilling up. "A piece of pee" (or even "PP"), you might cry. But you'd be wrong.

For starters, drilled blocks don't vanish for ever, and if you're standing around when they reappear then it's bye bye PP. Also, if you have to dig through more than one level of blocks you'll need to do a bit of thinking. (How much we're not saying - we don't want to make things too easy for you, do we?)

As the levels progress, puzzles become more tricky and beasties more beastly. Use the wrong potion at the wrong time, or use all the jump potion at the first sight of a big leap and you'll be well jiggered. Compared to all this, those guys digging up the motorways have got it easy.

Amiga reviewPaul: "What a waffly old intro," you though, "why doesn't he get on with telling us about the game?" Well, to be perfectly honest there isn't a lot to tell. And if I don't manage to write at least 600 words I have to clean all of David's cares for a month. So waffle it has to be.

The fact that there's not much to say about it doesn't mean that PP Hammer isn't good. It's a well put-together, smooth and challenging platform game. However, once you've said that, there's little left to say.

You all know that 'platform game' means traps, bonuses,monsters, treasure and bonus levels. They're all in there. There's also the novelty which every platform game has. In the case of PP Hammer (lesser-known brother of MC Hammer) it is, of course, his pneumatic weapon. This adds a bit of logical challenge and a lot of double entendre to the proceedings but isn't exactly going to set the world on fire.

Apart from the obligatory novelty there's some attractive animation, particularly when Hammer pulls his helmet over his head for protection or has a crafty fag. Difficulty is pitched just about right with easy early levels giving way to some real basts later on and it all looks and plays very well. Even the sound is pretty good for a platform game.

Hardly a revolutionary leap forward in the world of platform games, but a neat little number with sufficient challenge and cuteness to appeal to platformies everywhere. Stop