Gamebridge seems to love bringing quirky, Japan-exclusive WiiWare games over to the west. Overturn, a fun mech fighting game, was their first, and although for some reason it's not out in Europe yet, we reviewed the North American version and thought it was surprisingly good.
Happy Hammerin' is their second WiiWare localisation effort. Based on the simple concept of the whack-a-mole game often found in arcades, you must smack moles over the head as they pop up in a variety of locations (with your Wii remote's pointer functioning as the hammer), rather than the standard three rows of holes you're probably used to.
The Adventure mode consists of four themed locales: jungle, space, Japan and horror. Each theme is put to good use; for instance, in the Jungle stage you'll have to hit moles dressed as tribal warriors as they pop out from bushes and swing by on vines. Likewise, the Horror stage features mole ghosts, mole vampires and other variations. Points are awarded based on how fast you strike and your streak.
You can take on the challenge in three difficulties. The higher it is, the more time you'll have and the more moles will pop up, meaning it'll be much harder to play something close to a perfect game. At the end of a stage, your total score will be tallied and possibly award you a medal. The game also offers online leaderboards so you can upload your score and see how you stack up against the world's best mole-whackers. Adventure mode can also be played with two players.
Marathon is a bit more like the original concept everybody's familiar with. You start with a small number of holes, which moles will randomly pop out of. But as you hit more and more, you'll "level up," adding additional holes and speeding them up slightly. Every time this happens, you will also need to hit more moles before reaching the next level. We're not sure if it ever actually ends, but if it does, good luck getting that far — after five misses, you'll be awarded with a game over. We managed to whack over 350 moles and still didn't have an ending in sight! Just like the Adventure mode, after finishing, you can upload your score to the online leaderboards.
Party Battle is basically a competitive version of Marathon. Up to 4 players (of which up to three can be AI-controlled) can compete in two game types: Numbers has you simply trying to whack the most moles within a certain time limit or to reach a certain amount first, and Colours throws in moles of different, yes, colours. Here, you can "hold" four moles at a time, so your objective is quite simply to hit four moles of the same colour in a row. Each player has a life bar and getting good matches will lower your opponents' life. Last man standing wins!
There's a good deal of replay value here too — aside from the leaderboards and medals, there's a fairly big assortment of achievements to unlock.
The graphics and sound are pretty simple, but they do their job well — the moles come in all sorts and sizes, making for good variety. The stages are also nice and colourful. The music is decent but still very fitting. The tune that plays in the Japan stage sounds exactly like something you'd hear in a Goemon game, which is far from a bad thing!
Overall, Happy Hammerin' is a nice take on the classic whack-a-mole game. Rather than simply releasing a barebones recreation of the most well-known incarnation of the game, developer Agenda chose to liven things up a bit by providing different stages, new moles, multiplayer and even achievements. For 500 Wii Points, that's a pretty good deal. Even if you were never fast enough to win a prize in the arcades, it might be worth downloading — now you can hone your skills without spending quarters and get revenge on those little burrowing devils.