A good puzzle game that’s not exactly Kosher
Hambo is an iPhone game like many others; your goal is to solve numerous puzzles to slay your enemies within a single-screened environment. But unlike, say, Angry Birds, you are not launching your character in a slingshot, nor are you stuck using weapons from the middle-ages as in Crush the Castle. You are Hambo, a pig with access to numerous firearms featuring different attributes, each of which are necessary to succeed in your mission.
As the story goes, Hambo and his buddy Bacon have just come back from fighting in an unspecified war, only to find they aren’t exactly being warmly welcomed at home. Some bad pigs kidnap Bacon, and the obvious solution for Hambo is to make sure there’s no one left to keep his buddy captive. This means killing every pig in sight using pistols, Uzis, exploding arrows, and more, though sometimes you don’t have to go for the direct kill; manipulating them so that they get knocked off a ledge into the unknown is often enough, for example.
In the process of slaughtering pigs, you’re greeted with some… well, questionable imagery. This isn’t coming from a vegetarian, vegan, or even someone who just keeps Kosher– we enjoy a good ham sandwich or the occasional slice of bacon as much as anyone. But when you kill one of the opposing pigs, they often explode into a cartoonish variety of pork products, while the loading screen depicts slices of bacon (that’s the name of your war buddy, don’t forget) being cooked in a frying pan. Given that you’re playing as a pig yourself, it just makes the whole affair seem… well, oddly cannibalistic, and slightly unsettling as a result. Imagine playing Call of Duty and seeing the term “Manwich” taken to its literal extreme. Yeah.
Or maybe we’re just overthinking this.
On top of that, some might be put off by the spoofing of the cold reception which many a Vietnam veteran received upon returning home, many of whom are still alive to this day. We realize it’s likely to be meant in good fun, but if someone who has heard the tales from soldiers themselves, or had even served themselves were to be a little put off by this, we could probably understand why.
That said, if you can put all of that out of your mind (or if none of it bothers you in the first place), then there is actually quite a fun little game here. As noted, you use a variety of weapons to clear stages of enemy pigs, and you’re often given two at a time while being free to choose between them at any time. Sometimes you’ll even have to be quick, blasting a platform to drop a pig and then firing again (sometimes with a different weapon) to hit them before they fall behind cover. It’s rather simple, but engaging and effective.
Unfortunately, there are some issues here and there. One is in the way the bow and explosive arrows are used, as even at full power the range seems very poor, and it can be rather difficult to figure out where your arrow is going to hit. The guns allow crosshairs to determine where you want your shot to go, but the arrows are unreliable guesswork which feel sloppily implemented compared to other weapons, including the grenades which are thrown in a similar fashion. When you get to the bow and arrow stages, expect to either miss a lot, or blow yourself up a lot.
The other main issue is that scoring is a little bit… finicky. It would seem the designers have very specific ways in which they expect you to complete your objective, and if you don’t follow it to the letter, you can end up with a lower-ranking medal– even if you manage to find a more reliable way to dispose of the enemy. In one instance we encountered, a stage acted as a tutorial to show you a new method of dispatching foes, and there’s really only one way to do it, yet we could not complete it with any higher than a silver medal.
On the plus side, you earn coins as you progress, which can be used to skip levels, view solutions, or best of all, purchase new costumes. Instead of being Hambo, you can select from a wide variety of other costumes, including “Star Pork,” “ExtraHam-inator,” “Just a Beaver,” “Hambo the Grey,” “Hamrisson Pork,” “Hog of War,” and our favorite, “Pork Ranger.”
In the end, Hambo has some quirks which are more a matter of personal preference as to whether you would appreciate them or not. Beyond that, with the exception of a couple of gameplay issues named above, Hambo is a pretty solid, fun game with over 200 levels, so you should be kept occupied for quite a while if you go with it.