If Gauntlet and Diablo had a baby and ported it to Switch
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Port by: BlitWorks
Players: 1-4, offline and online (online coming later with free update)
File size: 238 MB
Available now on Nintendo eShop for $9.99
Originally released on Steam in 2013, Hammerwatch has found its way to the Nintendo Switch and boy, am I glad it did. This release includes two campaign modes and two extra modes in the form of Castle Hammerwatch, Temple Of The Sun, Survival and Hero Defense, which is a mode where you have to kill enemies before they cross a certain point in a tower-defence fashion.
Taking inspiration from classics such as Gauntlet or the first Diablo, Hammerwatch can be basically summed up as a beautiful pixel-art combination of those games. You will hack, slash, loot and kill hundreds of enemies beginning with your adventure to get through Castle Hammerwatch. After you got your fix, you can move on to Temple Of The Sun campaign for a change of scenery and even more ass-kicking. Easy, medium and hard difficulty are offered, with modifiers to customise your experience.
BRING YOUR FRIENDS
The whole game can be played co-op with a buddy with dual joy-cons or a Pro Controller. While the game can be incredibly fun as a single-player title, the quick, accessible multiplayer helps it shine. Regarding online multiplayer, that is an option in the game’s menu but with a notice saying it will come with a free update later on. At the time of writing this review I couldn’t test the online multiplayer mode but I will let you know my thoughts about it once it comes out and update this review. But I have to be honest, even without online features, this game is fully worth the asking price.
There are six heroes to choose from, all of which come with their special abilities and primary attacks. The heroes are; Paladin, Wizard, Ranger, Warlock, Thief, Priest and Sorcerer. For my review play-through I went with the Thief character, a high-attack, low-defense hero which I believe perfectly suited my play style, even though I did give other heroes a test run in Survival mode. The game starts with you going through Castle Hammewatch. From there the game eases you in by slowly introducing a variety of enemy types and dungeon mechanics. Not once did I feel lost or frustrated, thanks to the game’s incredibly helpful, functional and easy to understand map which can be accessed on-screen without pausing and breaking the flow of gameplay.
Whether you’re playing with dual joy-cons or a single one for co-op, the controls are rock-solid, responsive and offer a twin-stick mode as well, allowing you to attack in multiple directions by turning the stick around while standing. Everything works as it should. Your character has a primary attack and abilities that vary between heroes. The primary attack is the standard one you will always use, while the special abilities consume mana. Your mana can be replenished with time but you can find mana crystals spread here and there, either by killing enemies, breaking pots or exploring around the map. Get hit by an enemy and, you guessed it, your health goes down. Apples, oranges or rare steaks (pun intended, no apologies) replenish your health. Once a room is explored, the items in it will be displayed in your map. Low on health? No problem, just check your map for any health items nearby. Of course, my constant search for health was a result of my hero choice. You can always go with a healing character, buy more potions or new combos/abilities from vendors.
PULSE OF THE MAGGOTS
What gets your health so low all the time, you ask? Everything from bats, maggots, mite-looking things, skeletons, archers and many more. The enemies you will encounter can damage, poison or slow you down and you will need to devise the best way to tackle each situation. But worry not, even though the game depends on lives, there are plenty of checkpoints that save your progress. Not only that, but moving from floor to floor also saves your progress and you can find extra lives if you solve some basic puzzles or by defeating bosses. If you happen to run out of lives then you can just load your last saved progress. I can’t stress how thankful I am for the perfectly placed checkpoints. They saved me a lot of time and suffering after making some dumb mistakes. Those maggots man, they gon’ getcha.
OLD SCHOOL IN THE BEST WAYS
On the visual front, the game is striking. A lot of games use pixel-art nowadays, but Hammerwatch catches your attention right away. Levels are pretty to look at, incredibly atmospheric and can include hundreds of enemies on screen at once. Really impressive. What caught me by surprise is the game’s ‘CRT mode’. Activating this applies a filter on the game, making it as if you’re playing on an old tube TV. It makes dark tones darker and gives a feeling of bloom around fires and torches. I found it makes the game even prettier, but it might not be for everyone. Check the comparison I made below to see what I mean.
Pair that with an awesome soundtrack and well-done sound effects and you’ve got yourself a nice package. My personal favourite is the tune that plays in the mode ‘Survival’.
All in all, with such an incredibly low price for the amount of content and the fun, high-quality experience you get, I have to recommend Hammerwatch for anyone looking for a fantastic hack n’ slash to play on their Switch. It has the perfect price for an impulse buy, plays great and offers a multiplayer experience unlike any other you can find on Switch at the moment. What else do you need? Get Hammerwatch, it’s worth it.
Review copy provided by BlitWorks for Nintendo Switch