The gameplay is solid, but the lack of variety and a downright depressing visual style detract from the overarching experience.
Clearly inspired by Nintendo's own flag-ship strategy title, Advance Wars, Star Hammer Tactics is a simple turn-based title for the PlayStation Minis service. Putting you in charge of a fleet of space rangers, you must use a mix of wit and strategy to outsmart a group of enemy ships, known as the Nautilids.
Spanning a lengthy campaign mode, Star Hammer Tactics' gameplay resolves around the understanding of four unique battle-ship class types. Classes range from smaller, agile ships with low health thresh-holds, to slower war-crafts with the ability to fire ranged missiles. The game plays out across a grid, in which you use Action Points to navigate. Action Points can best be compared to fuel — it takes more to shift the bigger space-crafts than it does the smaller ones.
Star Hammer Tactics is a turn-based title, in which each player gets a time-limit of 45 seconds to move their crafts and initiate any attacks, before the other player assumes their turn. When playing the campaign mode, the AI's pretty smart at getting you to move your ships forward (by picking off smaller static crafts with ranged rockets). This forces you into thinking cleverly about the battle situation because the temptation can be to move smaller crafts forward too early, leaving them stranded and open to attack. We found the best strategy was to move with patience, ensuring that larger, more powerful battle ships were never far away from the smaller crafts. Doubling up against opponent ships proved a winning tactic, but the campaign's good at placing you in different situations where you'll need to adapt your strategy.
The campaign's fun, but it lacks the variety to elevate the whole package to a greater level. The depth of variety and visual fidelity are disappointing in equal measure — with the game showing it's full hand pretty early on. Graphically, the game's extremely poor, with weak sprites making up the most attractive elements of the image. It's true that a game of this kind doesn't require outstanding visual fidelity, but it's also true that it wouldn't have harmed.
With that said - Star Hammer Tactics is a solid attempt a recreating a degree of what's made the Advance Wars series such a hit on the Nintendo portable platforms. If you've been looking for something akin to those games on the PlayStation, you'll certainly get some enjoyment out of Star Hammer Tactics. We can't guarantee that your enjoyment will be long standing — but there's certainly a few hours of entertainment in this Mini, providing you like to use your head.