A technique as simple and basic as grabbing the hammer can easily be taken for granted. But, as a player improves his skill and knowledge of the game, it is important to explore and become familiar with the wide variety of WAYS that the hammer can be grabbed. Once this array of techniques becomes mastered, you will then have a wider range of options available to you in order to increase your scoring efficiency and your safety.
In general, it is important to understand that your Jumpman sprite has a height and width of a certain number of pixels. The hammer, before it is grabbed, also has a "hitbox" of a certain height and width in pixels. When these two hitboxes overlap, Jumpman grabs the hammer. So, Jumpman can perform a broad jump to the left, a broad jump to the right, or a straight up jump in order to grab the hammer. Obviously, you should often choose the one that best takes you where you are already trying to go in order to improve your efficiency. But, there's more to it than that. Because of the collision detection between these two hitboxes, you have some flexibility as to HOW and/or WHERE you are performing these broad jumps or straight jumps. For example, you can straight jump and grab the hammer from directly underneath it. That should be obvious. But, a more subtle maneuver is that you can inch yourself a couple of pixels to the left or to the right from this location and then jump straight up and you'll STILL grab the hammer! That is because those hitboxes have dimension and they need only slightly overlap in order to grab the hammer. Knowing and using this knowledge in a split second can often mean the difference between life and death. It can also allow you to aggressively risk a hammer grab in a tight spot that otherwise
would be impossible and therefore would cause delays while waiting for a better opportunity. That's increased efficiency, which means an increase in points. Notice that this concept also applies to the broad jumps, which can be initiated from a small RANGE of horizontal positions, all of which will enable the hammer grab.
For example, on Level 5+ barrel screens the fireballs move very quickly. A common point pressing tactic is to wait underneath the bottom hammer until the fireball begins to climb up the small lower right ladder. As soon as the fireball begins climbing the ladder, the player jumps straight up and grabs the hammer and quickly smashes the fireball. But, if the player is directly underneath the hammer or is accidentally a bit further to the right than this and if his reflexes are slow and/or is facing the wrong direction, this fast moving fireball can actually climb all the way up the ladder and kill Jumpman before he lands and smashes the fireball. To compensate for this, simply move a couple of pixels to the left of center under the hammer and when the fireball climbs you will have created enough of a buffer for yourself to give yourself enough time to easily smash this fireball, and yet you are still close enough to the hammer to be able to perform a straight jump to grab it. Becoming familiar with this positioning and taking advantage of this technique makes this portion of the game much easier and allows you to take increased risks in setting up better bottom hammer setups, which means increased efficiency and more points.
Another example of this technique is when grabbing the bottom hammer on the conveyor screen. Imagine that you grab the bottom prize and climb up the right side bottom inner ladder to the conveyor level just before a pie closes this route off, moving from the right. So now the conveyor is moving to the left and the pie is directly to your right. At this moment a fireball begins decending the left side central ladder, down to the conveyor to your left. A common mistake is to broad jump to the left to try to grab this bottom hammer, but the momentum carries you into the fireball, which quickly reversed back to the right, before you can smash it. Somewhat counterintuitively, a better option is to quickly RUN to the left (WITH the grain of the conveyor), to provide yourself just enough seperation away from the pie and then perform a STRAIGHT jump along the RIGHT EDGE of the hammer to grab it. When you land, you'll just barely avoid landing on the pie and you'll just barely provide yourself with enough of a buffer to land and smash the fireball before it crosses all the way over to the right side to kill you. This is an aggressive play which is survivable only with the correct combination of techniques, but when successful it adds a lot of efficiency to this situation.
Similarly, on the rivet screen, when using the weave, you'll often be looking for a split second opportunity to run into the central area and grab the top hammer among 5 fast moving firefoxes. If you remember that you only need to run far enough in to be able to jump STRAIGHT up along the LEFT EDGE of the hammer, you might be able to manufacture an opportunity to grab the hammer with just enough buffer to smash an oncoming firefox when you'd otherwise be forced to retreat and face considerable delays and lost points. Another option in this particular situation might be to overrun the hammer slightly and then backwards jump back to the left (while still facing to the right if possible, but is usually unnecessary), attempting to grab the LEFT EDGE of the hammer while BROAD jumping back. This has a similar benefit of creating some buffer away from an oncoming firefox, while also reducing the risk associated with "missing" the hammer grab. Note that this option was unavailable in our specific conveyor example above due to the presence of the pie, and in this rivet situation if another firefox were to decend down the left side ladder this option would be closed as well.
Another point to remember is that if you are approaching this rivet top hammer from the ladder below (star pattern) and you immediately jump straight up for this hammer after climbing to the top of the ladder, you will always land facing the same direction (I believe you will be facing to the left), regardless of which direction you were last running before climbing up the ladder. So, the time that it takes to turn around with the hammer in hand COULD be just enough to kill you if there is an oncoming firefox from the right (due, in part, to the annoying "feature" that certain frames within the animation occasionally cause Jumpman to make a "wide" turn with the hammer and enables objects to get "inside" the hammer and kill Jumpman which ordinarily would have been smashed). To avoid the wide turn affect, many players attempt a technique of pulling a pixel or to away from the object with the hammer in hand and then quickly turning around for a smash, which seems to have less than 100% effectiveness. Instead, in this specific situation, a tricky technique can be used where, at the top of the ladder, run just a couple of pixels to the RIGHT, towards the oncoming firefox, and then quickly reverse and BROAD jump backwards to the LEFT, grabbing the LEFT EDGE of the hammer, providing yourself a better buffer, and therefore generally
avoiding the wide turn death when smashing the firefox.
Note that a couple of the hammers in the game -- specifically the top hammer on barrel screens and the bottom hammer on rivet screens -- can be grabbed while wall jumping. You can take off from slightly different locations to create different wall jumping angles while still grabbing the hammer, or, alternatively, there are places where you can initiate these wall jumps WITHOUT grabbing the hammer. In general, wall jumping while grabbing these hammers should usually be avoided due to the increased safety and efficiency gained by performing a standing jump to grab these hammers.
Beyond this, there are several additional hammer grabbing techniques, particularly on the barrel screens, that aid in point pressing. For example, when grabbing the bottom hammer, as a barrel is rolling towards you, instead of jumping up for the grab just before the barrel arrives, try waiting for the barrel to get very close to you and then perform a back jump over the barrel (jumping in the same direction as the barrel as it just barely rolls under you) while simultaneously grabbing the hammer, and then reach back and smash this barrel that you just jumped over! This adds to your efficiency in multiple ways. First, you are scoring 400 points from this barrel object instead of just 300 because you jumped over it for 100 points first, and then smashed it for another 300 points. In addition, while you were performing this technique, you allowed ALL other barrels to roll another few girder sections and you allowed Kong to get about half way through another barrel release cycle before you grabbed the hammer as compared to jumping straight up and grabbing it
before this oncoming barrel arrives. This will often translate into one additional object smash with your bottom hammer, creating an additional 300 point smash. Even if you consider that this happens only about half of the time and most of the time you would have jumped over this last barrel for 100 points anyway, you are still creating about 100 additional points on the back end with this technique, for a total of about 200 points in added efficiency. In addition, by back jumping, you will often be in a better position (closer to the right edge of the screen) to begin performing the complex barrel steering techniques with the bottom hammer, including possible jump steering while in the air while grabbing the hammer! Wow, nice multitasking Jumpman!
There are additional variations on this technique. For example, if two barrels are rolling right next to each other such that an easy standing jump can clear both barrels for 300 points, a great technique to master is jumping and grabbing the hammer in such a way as clear both of these barrels for a 300 point jump and also reaching back and smashing the trailing barrel for another 300 points. At first, it would seem that this is the same as just grabbing the hammer earlier and getting two smashes for 300 points each. BUT, any technique like this one that involves delaying your hammer grab without any lost points on the front end will often translate into an increase in points gained on the back end through additional hammer smashes as already mentioned.
On the top hammer, players can learn to master a riskier technique of performing an Early Jump forwards over an oncoming barrel while grabbing the hammer and then reaching back and smashing this barrel as it slowly rolls off of the edge of the girder. The advantages are similar to the back jump technique for the bottom hammer in that you get an extra 100 points for jumping over this barrel, and you increase the chance for an extra hammer smash on the back end.
There are other subtle hammer grabbing techniques as well such as "Matrix smashing", pie
distribution timing, and the dreaded and contraversial fireball jumping (which I do not recommend except as a last resort) which begin to move beyond the scope of this Basic Techniques primer. The point is, learning to master fundamental aspects of the game such as Hammer Grabbing to a high level can enable you to make more aggressive and efficient decisions throughout the game, which will lead to higher scores.