Setting off on an adventure which transcends various realms beyond your own. Taking a magic, talking hammer in hand by which to slay the undead, and rebuild a broken mess of a world. Doing all of this with a grandiose soundtrack tracking every step on an epic journey sounds like the best experience any gamer can have. Unfortunately, The Magic Hammer takes all of these ideas and cobbles together something that doesn't quite hit the nail on the head.
The first thing that is plainly obvious is that The Magic Hammer is a rather heavily inspired by Minecraft. It's an adventure game, yes, while in Story Mode it's a simple experience. In fact, lots of what The Magic Hammer delivers is simplistic in execution - from its presentation, to its premise and its basic quests. As the game is made up of block-inspired aesthetics, the world is just that. Mountains, houses, trees are made of sharp blocks and edges of solid colour; you can expect palettes with no real textures or details here.
Your character and townsfolk are pretty boxy too, distinguishable only by the colour of their shirts which represent which jobs they do - for instance red clad folk will sell you health potions, while purple clad ones are eccentric collectors who send you on trade quests between towns. Your hero is created from a very limited set of choices which include clothing colour, facial expressions, and male or female (which translates into wearing trousers or a dress), and will change some cute jumping animations. From there, the adventure begins with a prompt to speak to the Village Elder.
For some reason (plot device!), the town you start in is the one that is home to a magic hammer stuck in a rock. A quick conversation and scene later, in which your character is destined to wield the Hammer, it's off to dispel evil in the world by in search of boneyards. Boneyards and villages are plentiful, each represented as a question mark on the map. At the boneyards restless spirits and demons roam in hordes and attack on sight. It's easy to be overwhelmed and die by these hordes in The Magic Hammer, but it's easy to regain health too as there are healing spots nearby each area. Your character can level up stats for health, magic use, melee attacks and mining prowess.
Clearing boneyards will also help your hammer regain its magical powers, because a talking hammer needs to live up to the title of the game. Eventually slam, swing, fire and ice powers are unlocked for the hammer, which are useful against different coloured enemies. The system is quite easy - for example, fire will work well against blue enemies, and ice will work well against red enemies. It's a good thing zombies, wizards and enemies are thoughtful enough to be so colour-coordinated. Clearing a set number of boneyards allows the hammer to teleport you to new realms, which are sadly overlaid skins on your home realm with the same boneyards and towns; the realms are just different colour schemes and maybe a few new plants to trick you into telling one apart from the other.
What's a grand adventure without some bosses? The bosses are the best examples of how barebones The Magic Hammer really is. There are a few bosses who are all re-skinned versions of a few designs. For instance, you could run into a Ghost Angel once you've cleared the boneyard hordes (bosses always show up after you clear those numbers), and in the next boneyard you could find a Crimson Angel. While their colours may change their attacks never do, and some may be stronger but that's the extent of the variety on offer. Fighting them also means it's merely a matter of running away, waiting for them to do a special big attack which leaves them momentarily vulnerable, attacking them and then rinsing and repeating those actions. Once a boss is destroyed you can then mine the area for its diamonds and gold, and move on into the direction of a new question mark, where you can repeat the entire process of town visiting or boneyard clearing.
Other than stocking up on supplies in town, getting tips, hiring miners, selling "soul blocks" (which can be obtained by killing enemies with a critical hit) or hoping to complete trading requests (for which you will get experience points and money), players will be able to get into the actual mining experience of the game. Each town has a special temple area that looks like a giant gazebo full of missing blocks, and it's up to you to fill these spaces. Switching from third person view to first person is easy enough, as well as controlling your character while in this mode. Completing these quests will give you experience and a lovely harp sound to mark the occasion.
The music in The Magic Hammer uses an orchestral soundtrack. Like the rest of the game, it really tries to stand out from the crowd. There are moments where the music's actually not bad at all, but not always providing the sweeping sounds that it wants to convey. If anything, the music - like its story - can feel quite bland, and also a little ridiculously serious for its sweeping arrangements and vocals for a block-inspired game.
There's a thin line between overly serious and silly throughout the game from its story to visuals, how you're able to interact with the world and the company you can keep. Take the rabbits, for example, which can be tamed. Or dogs, goats, and other animals. They're probably the most fun parts of the game - taming these animals to fight by your side - for no other reason than it's quite a trip watching a rabbit hit zombies. They'll run away when their health gets too low, thankfully.
Hired miners are a bit more problematic. Keeping pets cannot be done at the same time while in the company of a miner. Miners never get attacked when traveling with your character, which means enemies really just have a grudge against you, it seems. As they're expensive to hire this is not so bad because they'd surely die. However, they often get in the way of battles, and you can hit them; miners also have to be led to buildings to do their mining, which while expertly and quickly done is rather frustrating. The result means the miners get stuck behind walls, and positioning them just right to do what they should can be tedious.
There's a creation mode in The Magic Hammer, in which the world is yours to build. Players are given materials to build to their hearts' content, as well as the option to litter the world with animals, water and trees. For the creators and miners in players this mode is functional, but barely so. The controls are not the problem as they work fairly well, and it's relatively easy to pick up and lay blocks, or destroy them. However, it lacks a crafting experience and materials to mine are limited; these aspects may disappoint young gamers expecting more.
The game also has a multiplayer option for local co-op and online play. In this mode players will be able to have a friend help them out in the story mode to clear out boneyards, tame animals and rebuild towns. It's everything that can be done in the Story mode with an extra helping hand. It makes for clearing boneyards faster if you have a friend who is willing to help out, and boneyard events are not triggered until both players are present there. The second player also levels up (and mysteriously has a magic hammer of their own) as your character does. Multiplayer also covers creation mode too, and it feels more fun to just spend time causing chaos together while building and destroying. Chat is limited to one word options - it's not very useful.
The Magic Hammer is the sort of game a child may have fun with for a couple of hours of distraction. For the story mode, the somewhat sassy Hammer and the mindless quests of getting from point A to B while mashing the A button to attack might be entertaining for a short while. Creation mode may give a couple more hours to those willing to build some things without any real options for detailed creation. However, there are better games out there to fulfill any real desires to build or go adventuring; The Magic Hammer tries to emulate the best of them but misses the mark for being too simplified and repetitive.