16th Jan2018

Digital Shorts: ‘Hammerwatch’ Review (Nintendo Switch)

by Matthew Smail

In DIGITAL SHORTS we review some of the latest video games that are only available digitally (at least in the UK), in a short-form review format. In this edition we take a look at Hammerwatch, a new 16-bit inspired twin-stick shooter.

hammerwatch-nintendo-switch

Stop. Hammerwatch time! Sometimes, you have to let Games reviewers get away with an appalling pun, but it seems especially relevant here given the 16-bit throwback gameplay that Hammerwatch features. It’s also considerably better than starting the review by explaining that Hammerwatch has just become the 850th twin-stick shooter to land on the Nintendo Switch.

Features wise, Hammerwatch seems to have a decent number of genre must-haves. Slightly updated 16-bit visuals, interesting dungeons, a challenging checkpoint system, a local cooperative mode and a decent selection of characters, upgrades and bosses to fight. What it lacks in story and online multiplayer, it makes up for in solid couch based cooperative slaughter that is very reminiscent of Gauntlet.

Much like the 80’s arcade classic it is modeled on, Hammerwatch is a lot less fun when you play on your own. The plot is literally nonexistent (although the levels are interesting and varied enough to keep players interested) and so is NPC dialogue. I found that the game entertained me in relatively short solo blasts, but it is actually a game that rewards longer sessions than most in the genre, which was a mix that felt less than optimal to me.

On the subject of plot, the people you’ll meet in Castle Hammerwatch serve only to sell items such as combo upgrades and special attacks. In general, each level features just one such vendor, so character development is relatively slow, which limits the players to just a basic and a special attack for quite some time.

Controlled with individual Joy-Cons, much of the character mobility is lost, which makes co-op on the move slightly less appealing. With a Pro Controller and a docked pair of Joy-Cons, things are much better and the graphics are rich enough to look good on even a large, upscaling television. Solo players playing in handheld mode will get on fine, but I did find it a nuisance having to press the shoot trigger as well as a direction to fire – why not just autofire when the stick is pushed?

Hammerwatch is definitely better than average compares broadly against all available Switch games, but there are better twin stick shooters out there. It’s disappointing for me to say so as the game really appealed to me, but I think I’ll stick with Enter the Gungeon or something else instead.

*** 3/5

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