— Abraham Maslow, The Psychology of Science (1966)
A character has a limited offensive repertoire, but the writer wants to make him look clever anyway, so he faces him off against something which requires a little bit of strategy. Unfortunately, this strategy ends up being "Just do what you always do, but slightly better." It's not that our hero is uninventive. He may be an outright MacGyver, but he just doesn't have much to work with.
Most often, this offensive capability ends up being "punch the other guy really hard", and the "solution" to the current dilemma is "punch the other guy really hard in the face."
Sometimes, this is a little more elaborate, and the hero has to do something totally different. Then he gets to fall back on his usual strategy. "Cast 'dispel invulnerability' on him. Then punch the other guy really hard. In the face."
A justification can be that there are many ways to arrive at what looks like the same conclusion. For example, all of General Patton's strategies were elaborate ways to shoot stuff with tanks, and all successful modern infantry tactics ends the same way: "and then we shoot them/call in the artillery."
This generally happens due to the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality; the more a character specializes in combat, the smaller the characters' repertoire. If the character is so attached to his 'hammer' that he cannot adapt to, say, a screwdriver, see Crippling Overspecialization.
Damage-Sponge Boss can be a justification for this trope.
The All Solving Hammer is when this becomes a Running Gag. Can sometimes be related to What Kind of Lame Power Is Heart, Anyway? (and Heart Is an Awesome Power if used creatively) and Death of a Thousand Cuts. See also Plot Tailored to the Party, Smash Mook. Your Answer to Everything may be said about this. Contrast Every Device Is A Swiss Army Knife when something does have enough functions to tackle a wide range of problems. Subtrope of Quantity vs. Quality in the sense that skill with one tool beats skills with other tools.
Not related to characters who use hammers as their (primary) weapon unless they use nothing but this hammer at every opportunity.
Also known as the Law of the Instrument, or the "Golden Hammer".
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Anime & Manga
Fist of the North Star: Kenshiro hits people and then they explode. If he loses a battle it's not because he needs to strengthen or do more training: he's just hitting them wrong. Once that's figured out, he hits them and they explode like they're supposed to.
Light Yagami's only weapon is a Death Note. It kills people. It has a few functions related to the task (which Light exploits the hell out of), but in the end, all it really does is kill people, so every crime tends to receive the same punishment. By the end of the series, the worst criminals in the world are things like purse-snatchers, so they receive the axe as well.
Voltron frequently fell into the pattern of having a monster require a clever strategy to weaken it, but then it was always time to form the blazing sword.
Yu-Gi-Oh! in general. Oh no! A giant that could kill us all with a flick of his wrist is coming at us... well, time to get out the cards.
Kaiser was the epitome of this trope, before he had a Freak Out and got new cards. His entire strategy consisted of summoning Cyber End Dragon OVER AND OVER again.
In fact, most main characters in the all four series' to date will typically default to strategies built on their signature cards to win the big duels, even if other options are available. Kaiba never let a duel pass without summoning at least one Blue Eyes White Dragon, if not all three.
For NERV as a whole, Unit 01 is this. Got an Angel that can't be beaten? Throw Shinji at it. Shinji can't beat it? Piss Shinji off. There are a couple aversions, but generally Unit 01 is treated as the Ultimate Hammer. There's a very good reason for this, since Unit 01 is a Super PrototypePhysical God
Naruto uses this trope a lot. About halfway into the series, the title character learns this nifty technique called a "Rasengan" and from then on whenever he encounters a problem he infallibly resorts to punching it in the face with this technique. If that doesn't work, 9 times out of 10 he resorts to some variation of it to win.
Before he learned Rasengan, his favorite (only) tactic was to bum rush with his shadow clones a lot, then when that by itself inevitably failed, use it in combination with his disguises to sneak his real self into position while his clones distract the villain.
Generally speaking, a lot of the timeeveryone sticks to what they're good at. However, the trade-off is that most of these abilities overlap. For example, Naruto's favorite technique is Shadow Clone Jutsu. While he is by far the most proficient user of the technique, there are a ton of abilities that do a similar effect. The same is true of other types of jutsu, and most of the best ninja tend to find ways to copy abilities from others using their unique skill set. For example, if there's an ability too difficult for Naruto to pull off, he usually uses a shadow clone to assist and comes with his own unique variant.
Ippo from Hajime No Ippo is an in-fighter with exceptional power. Unfortunately, that's all he has going for him, so he makes up for it by focusing on being a purebred in-fighter, despite the drawbacks.
Pointed out when Ippo learns the Dempsey Roll. At first, he wins a lot of fights by using the massively powerful technique, but after fighting Sawamura Ryuuhei he realizes that he needs to seal the technique in order to ensure future victories; otherwise, all his opponents will start figuring out ways to capitalize on it.
Bleach has a couple of examples. Kenpachi Zaraki has no interest in the sort of tactics, strategy or sophisticated moves used by other shinigami (he considers using two hands on his swords to be a "power up"). He relies heavily on his sheer physical and spiritual power in fights, simply allowing himself to be hurt while he hits them. When pitted against opponents who negate this strategy it is quickly revealed that his is a clever strategist, if a somewhat linear thinker. After Tousen's bankai cut off his senses Kenpachi realized that it still caused him pain, so he stopped defending himself and waited for Tousen to go for a killing blow knowing that he would survive the attack and Tousen's position would then be obvious.
See also Ichigo. When all you have is Getsuga Tensho and a tendency to rush in, everything's a contest of power, which he has in spades.
Hitsugaya and Harribel get trapped in a battle that consists of this. No matter how pretty or powerful their strategies get against each other, every single tactic boils down to Hitsugaya trying to throw more ice at Harribel than she can cope with and Harribel trying to throw more water at Hitsugaya than he can cope with.
Yasutara Sado's El Directo was his hammer for a very long time, until he got his second hammer, La Muerte.
Contractors in Darker Than Black get only one ticket in Superpower Lottery. Some adopt the "hit it with a hammer" approach and act like walking guns with a single type of ammo, but smarter or badass ones are more than just their powers. Hei and Wei, as martial artists, use sound tactics and combine powers with normal moves. In addition, some contractors are very versatile and find a Mundane Utility or dozen if possible. Force whip cuts bottle necks, people or incoming projectiles just as well. Ice may immobilize, stab or shield. Electrical discharges allow to attack via various conductors, repair a TV, crack electrical locks, defibrillate hearts, tweak particle beams, alter substances...
Mahou Sensei Negima!: If Jack Rakan has anything to say about it, just about every problem can be solved by summoning a sword or multiple swords or a sword the size of a skyscraper. He calls this his "Rakam Smash" technique and he uses it so often because he keeps his intelligence a secret. Much of his apparent invincibility comes from his flexibility, knowledge, and cleverness. When intelligence and strategy prove useless against Fate, he shows just how ridiculously strong his "Rakan Smash" technique is regardless.
Negi has a tendency to solve problems by making Pactios with his students. It's a joke in the fandom that he can solve any problem by finding the right girl and snogging her.◊ This is HOW he unmasks Shiori/Luna of all people.
Captain Luffy of One Piece tends to get caught up in adventures of political intrigue, corrupt governments, and false Gods. His general solution to the problem is to find the most powerful guy on the opposing side and beat the crap out of him. He's even been known to run off while the other characters were planning their elaborate strategy because he figured he could get to the guy whose ass he wants to kick faster on his own.
This is in general true with more or less all Devil Fruit users, who usually have no other combat abilities whatsoever, but learn to utilize what they have in extremely varied ways. Luffy himself is no exception.
It's even mentioned at one point that the devil fruit's powers don't get any stronger, but the user gets more inventive with how they use their ability.
Bartholomew Kuma deserves a specific mention. His DF power is to push things. Somehow, he figured out that this includes "pushing" abstract concepts, meaning he can "push" pain from somebody's body.
Roronoa Zoro, the Straw Hats' swordsman, when confronted with a problem, his first idea is to cut something.
CP9, the World Government's top assassin squad, uses a martial art called the Six Forms which has only six moves. However in the course of the fights at Enies Lobby every member of CP9 uses those six moves in various ways. Some even use them to complement their Devil Fruit powers.
In the manga series Fairy Tail, the main character Natsu has the power to project/eat/breathe/be immune to/etc. fire. He fights an opponent whose main power is the ability to shoot fire, so he's not affected and goes to deliver a flaming punch. Natsu then learns that his opponent can control fire, so he makes the hero punch himself in the face. Natsu's response to learning that his only weapon can be used against him? Use more fire! He did this until he finally makes a fire blast too big for the enemy to control, thus winning the fight.
Another time, Natsu faced an opponent who could cripple Natsu's offensive ability by using his wind armor to blow away Natsu's flames. The winning solution? Make more fire.
One more, he goes against a opponent who can nullify magic covers himself in a shielding that hurt Natsu if he punches into it. Natsu's solution, use his flames on his elbow to give him the velocity to break through the barrier. Let's just say Natsu good at improvising with his flame magic.
Getter Robo: "If it doesn't work, we'll just have to make it work!" Though the series uses comparatively more strategy in its battles than other Super Robot shows, an awful lot of problems are solved by just getting a bigger axe and hitting things with it.
And then things get crazy when we get into combining.
Pokémon's Team Rocket trio up to no good? Use a Pokémon to shock them or pop their balloon. A giant serpent gone mad, destroying the countryside? Why tranquilize it when you can defeat it with a couple of two-foot tall monsters? All of time and space in the process of being destroyed? Good thing we've got just the Mon for the job. Every once in a great while, a Guest Star Party Member would throw a tranq dart at it, or calm it down with The Power of Friendship, but 99% of the episodes have been solved by "battling it with a Pokémon until you can throw a Poké Ball at it." This is especially painfully obvious in the episode where Ash fights Brock for the Boulder Badge. What does he do when his Pikachu can't beat Brock in a straight fight? He charges his Pikachu up with MORE ELECTRICITY! Sadly, this tactic works, even though no amount of electricity should've made any difference.
That's a weird example, too — Misty offers to loan him a water Pokémon, which would have solved the problem and is the obvious solution. Ash goes with the lightning.
Ash was the Idiot Hero back then, and a combination of pride and stubbornness made him stick by his decision. Either way, he always prefers to defeat an opponent with his own Pokémon and strategies than rely on the easy way out.
When he faced Drake, the leader of the Orange Crew, Ash used this tactic to take down Drake's first Pokemon. That first Pokemon was a Ditto that would copy the appearance and moves of its opponent, which caught Ash and Pikachu off guard when the match began. Misty suggested that Ash change Pokemon, but he pointed out that Ditto would simply change shape again into whichever Pokemon he sent out next. He eventually defeated the Ditto by simply having Pikachu blast it with everything he had, realizing that while the Ditto might have copied Pikachu's abilities, it couldn't copy Pikachu's power level and couldn't take as much punishment.
In Blame!, Killy's solution to everything is "shoot it with the GravitationalBeam Emitter". Granted, when you have a pistol that can leave a 70km long hole in absolutely everything, that's one hell of a hammer to just swing around.
Rurouni Kenshin's Saito Hajime follows the philosophy that a warrior does not need several special moves. He needs only a single move refined to the point of perfection. Thus, his only named attack is his Gatotsu and uses variations when the situation calls for them. Opponent above you? Gatotsu second form. Opponent dodging? Gatotsu slash form. Need to bust down a door? Gatotsu. Need to clear rubble? Gatotsu, of course! In the final series of battles, when Saito's "perfect" attack is foiled by his opponent and Gatotsu is defeated (or so the opponent thinks), Saito shows that all he needs is a slight variation in his move to win.
A point is made that Saito only needs two things: his Gatotsu and Aku Soku Zan. This is because two warriors generally met in battle once, since most ended in death; thus if you had one move honed to perfection with which you could defeat any opponent... why not?
Kenshin: If Hajime Saito could be defeated just by defeating his Gatotsu, the duel between him and I would have been settled long ago in Kyoto during the Bakumatsu...
Sanosuke also adheres to this philosophy. Tough enemy? Take the blow, and return the favor with a punch. Not strong enough? Hit even harder with Futae no Kiwami.
In Tegami Bachi, the Letter Bees' heart bullets are not only their typical way of killing armor bugs, but for main character Lag Seeing, they can apparently show people what's in others' hearts, resulting in him learning about and sharing other people's pasts and solving seemingly impossible problems — often in the middle of killing the bug of the week.
Mermaid Melody Pichi Pichi Pitch has all enemies defeated with song. The only time this didn't work was when an enemy COVERED HER EARS (shock, horror). They steal her hat, and the song defeats her. Music also apparently cures illness, brainwashing, and changes the weather... so might be a flexible tool?
JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: "Punch him really hard in the face" is literally the hero's big plan for defeating the final villain. Word for word. AND IT WORKS.
Also Mikoto, who ends all fights with her trusty Railgun and Accelerator, who end all by changing vectors. Given that most, if not, all people their owns one kind of power, we might say that most heroes in the series ends their problems with the only hammer they have.
Accelerator also starts to subvert this after he loses his powers because he can only use them with the help of a very fallible radio collar with limited batteries. He turns to none other than good ol' guns when he wants to conserve electricity.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the Sengoku Basara anime has his strategist Hanbe make plans for him: the man himself approaches problems mainly by punching them, and if that does not work, punching them harder. His introduction sees him defang the Uesugi and Takeda clans by punching all their arrows out of the sky (and punching a hole in the cloud cover in the process), and he defeats Chosokabe Motochika and his enormous floating fortress by punching the sea so hard that it splits.
Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt: A little quiz, shall we? It's the Darkest Hour. Your partner in crime-fighting has been Put On A Bus, you've been left depowered, and the friendly neighbourhood Big Bad has kidnapped the closest thing you have to a Love Interest in order to open a gate to Hell with his penis. So, what do you do? If you have any idea what this show has been like previously, you should know that Panty's answer is fuck a guy. The best part? It turns out to be EXACTLY the right thing to do.
Durarara!! has Saika, a demonic blade that truly loves humanity and wants nothing more than to express that love. Unfortunately, its a sword, so the only way it knows how to do anything is to cut it.
Virtually every episode of Mobile Fighter G Gundam ends with Domun ending his battle with the same move. When he learns a new move, he doesn't increase his repertoire, he just replaces the hammer. Given the name of the first two finishing moves he uses, you could say that he effectively wins fights by giving his enemies The Finger.
Kekkaishi has a good deal of this. As a Kekkaishi killing monsters typically comes down to 1) Form Barrier. 2) Explode what's in barrier. It starts to get interesting when characters realize that there's a hell of a lot you can do with just a box shaped barrier. Thin, long ones are like spikes, many small ones act like restraints, a barrier inside another barrier explodes exponentially harder. They have other powers, but they typically don't need them.
The Prince of Tennis: Some of the characters in the series have a limited arsenal of shots. Kaidoh only has one called "The Snake"...along with many variations to confuse opponents.
Special mention goes to Ishida Gin, who only has a single move, the Hadoukyuu that happens to have a hundred and eight variants. Said variants are simply the same move with more power. The illogical situation is even lampshaded by Ryoma Echizen, calling him stupid for having several identical variants of the same thing.
This is arguably the entire point of the series The Law of Ueki in which Junior High students are given a single power (usually transforming something into something else) in order to compete for the next candidate for God. The titular character Ueki is granted the ability to turn trash into trees, and for the first half of the series he must find creative ways to do so. Played with as the series progresses, characters are given a "level 2" version of their power when they get stronger which gives them access to a whole other range of abilities. Also Ueki is a heavenly being, which gives him access to a whole other arsenal of attacks that only people of his kind have. He starts relying on those a lot
The manga only sequel Law of Ueki Plus has Ueki going on an adventure with new friends and his new power is literally controlling a mop, but not just any mop a special mop.
Part of what makes Ueki's power so versatile is that it's the power to turn trash into trees... and just about anything can be considered trash.
Lampshaded early on in Ultimate Spider-Man, when Peter gets his ass kicked by The Kingpin and Electro, and realizes that just because he can shoot a web at someone then punch them really hard, doesn't mean he should stop using his brain. He goes back for a second round but with a plan this time — the Enforcers end up in jail, The Kingpin has to flee the country as a known murderer, and Electro is taken into S.H.I.E.L.D custody.
Later on, when Miles Morales takes up the helm, he has this approach to super-heroism. Miles isn't particularly aggressive, so he typically bounces around until he can get in close and then pokes the villain with his paralyzing venom strike. The venom strike has so far been instantly debilitating to villains twice Miles' size, so it's the only strategy he needs. Also relevant:
Spider-Man: Okay. Guy's crazy.
The Ringer: YOU WILL NOT TOUCH ME!
Spider-Man: All I need to do is smack the crazy off his face...
Groo The Wanderer by Sergio Aragonés. Aside from being the godchild of Fate herself, which protects him from all manner of schemes both vengeful and proactively self-defensive, Groo has... swords. And lots of skill with swords. Not that he's beneath taking an errand or two, but he usually messes that up, or else does the errand far too late, or talks about it to the wrong person. And then a couple of armies storm the village and he kills everybody with his swords. Swords rule!
One of the older Thor annuals in his Marvel Comics series involved Loki stealing his hammer (see Mythology below) in order to escape from his mystical prison. Thor fights through much of Asgard in order to get it back, solving various problems by making hammers out of nearby materials.
In a Crisis Crossover in The DCU a few years ago, Superboy Prime, who was previously Ret Gone, punched his way back into continuity. He punched at the walls of time and space until he existed again.note He was in a (rather large) Pocket Dimension at the time; the "walls of time and space" were a reachable, delineated area.
Spider Jerusalem from Transmetropolitan usually doesn't use firearms except for self-defence, but for everything else, there's the (usually) non-lethal bowel disruptor to incapacitate painfully and messily.
Well-Spoken Sonic Lightning Flash of the Super Young Team is a speedster. When the team temporarily disbanded, he did the one thing that felt right: he walked aimlessly. His thing is forward motion, and it's all he knows. That's why his immediate reaction to most problems is to simply run directly at them.
The Incredible Hulk frequently violates the "clever trick" aspect of this by simply beating things harder and harder until they break anyway, regardless of how cleverly designed or how skilled they are at absorbing or avoiding damage. He is thus the ultimate "hammer" and disabuser of the notion of rock/paper/scissors story design.
Although he's intelligent, and is capable of coming up with plans and tactics, Superman's default method of attack is just to fly up to a problem and punch it. Given that he's Superman, this does solve a number of problems. Likewise for Supergirl, Superboy, Power Girl and any other Kryptonians. Even moreso in fact, since Superman is a scientist and also takes the effort to find creative applications to his other powers, while the others are more reliant on muscle.
Very common for most X-Men, especially more minor characters, to fall under the trope and be reliant solely on their mutant powers. This is not completely universal for every mutant though. For example, Gambit very notably has many non-mutant skills and can manipulate his powers in a lot of different ways. Generally, his well known Death Dealer approach is most emphasized when he plays a minor role in a comic.
Another X-Men example is their reliance on the Fastball Special, especially during Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing. Lampshaded by Emma Frost when she once told Colossus, "You can't just throw people at all your problems, dear."
Justified in part; a usual aspect of mutants was that they had only one power. Still, they were able to use it creatively: Cyclops' optic blast serves as an attack, can be used to slow his falling, allows him to fly...
In War Machine's case, it's "When all you have is an electric minigun, a missile box and a crapload of other guns".
In the third Runaways series, Nico developed a really bad habit of resorting to magic to fix every single problem, often with great complications. She finally got called out on this after using a magic spell to force Klara to stop crying after the latter was seriously traumatized by an accident.
Films — Animation
EVE, from the movie WALL•E. Her problem solving tree is something like "blast it with my arm cannon. Does it still need to be blasted more? [Y/n]"
Fix-It Felix Jr. from Wreck-It Ralph literally has a hammer as his only weapon. Unfortunately it's a magic hammer and its only function is fixing stuff. Likewise, his co-star Ralph is incredible when it comes to wrecking things.... but finds out when he's game-hopping that he's not so good at anything else.
Ralph: I told you; I don't make things. I break things.
Films — Live-Action
In the Police Academy movies, Tackleberry's solution to any problem is to shoot at it. This includes putting out a cigar, getting a boy out of a car to force him to go to school and rescuing a cat out of a tree.
The corridor fight scene in Oldboy. On the way to confront Woo-jin, Oh Dae-su meets a corridor filled with over two dozen mooks armed with almost every simplistic melee weapon under the sun, including metal poles, baseball bats, chunks of 2x4 and knives. Despite having little more than the clothes on his back and a claw hammer, Dae-su proceeds to beat each and every one of them down. Given that the entire scene is done in a single take and lasts the better part of three minutes...
Speed RacerThe Movie: When told that racing isn't going to solve the world's problems, he says, "Racing is the only thing I know how to do, and I gotta do something."
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Nevermind your complicated bypassing of the security system, Breaker. Snake-Eyes can just do what he does best and stab it with a sword.
In Shoot 'em Up, the hero uses his gun to do just about everything, including cut the umbilical cord from a newborn.
Gwen: I have one job on this lousy ship—it's stupid, but I'm going to do it, OK?!
An electrician, a chemist and an IT technician get on a car, but the engine deosn't start. "There must be a problem with the spark plugs", says the electrician. "No, it's the gasoline that has the wrong octane rating", replies the chemist. "What if we got off the car and on again?", says the IT tech.
Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter, who could do only one spell with any degree of competence: memory erasure. With a few exceptions, if it's a good guy, they will use Stupefy (stun) and Expelliarmus (disarm). If it's a bad guy, they will use Cruciatus (torture) and Avada Kedavra (kill).
This became a problem for Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Granted, the Force isn't so much a hammer as it is a complete garage full of the best power tools money can't even begin to buy, but even the Jedi of the old order, flawed though they were, knew that Jedi had to have tools and training beyond lightsabers and the Force. It was "fixed", temporarily, by one author, who noted that Yoda, Obi-Wan, and so on didn't use the Force except when forced to make a point, and that excessive Force use — coming to see the Force as a sonic screwdriver — was the equivalent of making a whole lot of noise all the time, making you unable to hear even important whispers.
Again in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: when he established the Academy, Luke initially doesn't see the use for any weapon but lightsabers. Corran points out that lightsabers have no stun setting, and convinces Luke to have the trainees study basic unarmed combat too. This is justified when you consider that he was taught in a few months an art that should have taken years, all Yoda and Obiwan had time to do was teach him the hammer.
In the 4th and later books in Spider Robinson's Callahans Crosstime Saloon series, mass-telepathy becomes the go-to solution for whatever horrible conflict is currently facing our intrepid barflies, even referencing the quote at the top of the page. It almost turns into the literary equivalent of Overly Long Fighting Animation. In the first three, the problems are on a much more personal level, and the solutions are far less predictable. The group telepathy doesn't even show up until halfway through the final story in the third book.
Subverted in Gromyko's Witch as Profession series. The heroine once explains: "A battlemare can't win by just dishing fireball after fireball, you must THINK, and fast!"
Another example from the same book would be Johnny initially keeping firing when the aliens in his video game try to surrender. After all, there wasn't a Don't Fire button.
Anita Blake. Except all she has are her genitals and a gun. Made even more blatant with the same author's Merry Gentry series. There are no problems that cannot be solved by the main character having sex with someone.
Late in the Animorphs series, Jake makes this assertion regarding Visser Three.
Jake: "Visser Three doesn't do tactics. He fights with a sledgehammer."
General Doubleday: "If you have a big enough sledgehammer, that's all you need, son."
Given that it's literally their only weapon, the Animorphs' practice and use of the morphing technology far surpasses the Andalites' skill with it. This to the point of shocking Andalites like Ax and Aldrea, who watch the humans perform morphing acts that would count as legendary to their species yet let it pass without comment.
Concentrated now in the one Sword was all of Vulcan's power, and all his hope. He knew that he must win with it, or die.
The page quote comes back often in Liberty's Crusade, seeing how Mengsk' primary strategy to solve every problem is to plant a PSI Emitter near it and let the Zerg take care of the rest (followed by the entire planet being incinerated by the Protoss).
Lawrence Pritchard Waterhouse in Cryptonomicon is more or less useless in any situation that doesn't involve mathematics. It's rather astounding the number of different ways he does manage to bring this particular hammer to bear.
Send The Marines by Tom Lehrer ("Fortunately, in times of crisis like this, America always has its number one instrument of diplomacy to fall back on...").
In the early seasons of Smallville, as Clark's powers are limited to invulnerability, Super Speed and Super Strength, his default attack is "throw the villain hard at something". In season two he gains heat vision, but his default attack is unchanged because it would otherwise be messy. As his Super Speed increases, he seems to starts using "punching you at mach 10" more often against tougher opponents. Hey, it worked even on Brainiac, Zor-El and Zod! Not to mention he took down Darkseid with one of those...
Power Rangers is a particularly egregious offender, almost every episode requiring that they devise some special technique to render the monster defeatable by one of the stock finishing moves. Several noteworthy examples:
The second season's Mecha-Mooks, Z-Putties, were completely indestructible unless you knew their weakness. This weakness: being punched really hard at a point in the middle of their chest which is conveniently marked. (Despite learning this weakness during their first encounter, the heroes never aimed for it immediately, which would've made the show both realistic and boring.) This once led to them being defeated by ten-year-olds with dodgeballs.
In another early episode, the Power Rangers are faced with evil doubles that they aren't able to beat, so Zordon gives them new weapons...which look exactly like their old weapons. (Specifically, they're stronger versions meant to overpower the Mutant Rangers' weapons)
SPD: Reflections: Sam, who can turn into a ball of light, realizes that a monster's weakness is the mirrors built into its chest. So, is his brilliant tactical strategy to somehow leverage his light-form to turn those mirrors into a liability? Nope, the answer is "punch him really hard in the chest."
Operation Overdrive: Man of Mercury: Future Sixth Ranger, Tyzonn, has the power to turn himself into mercury, T-1000 style. Faced with the need to stop an alien army from escaping their imprisonment in a mirror, you might think that he'll use the reflective qualities of his mercury form in some way, as he'd been seen to do a few scenes earlier. He does end up using his powers: he extends his reach and smashes the mirror. Power Rangers writers seem inordinately fond of smashing mirrors.
A different example is pointed out in at least one review of the episode "Both Sides Now" in which the Black Ranger seemingly defects for the purpose of stealing back an artifact from the bad guys. While it's clear that it wouldn't have gone as smoothly if the Rangers didn't have a career criminal on their team, it's also likely that they would never have even thought to try the Fake Defector plot if someone with Will's skill set wasn't around.
But finally something different in Power Rangers RPM: "Doctor K": Faced with a monster that can duplicate anything it can reflect in its mirror, Dr. K does a well-timed feint, causing it to duplicate not her weapon, but a generator the rangers need two of.
Still, it wouldn't be Power Rangers without falling back on the old chestnut. While all this is going on, the Rangers defeat a larger version of the same monster by a well-placed flying kick to the chest-mirrors.
Despite being surprisingly sophisticated in its character drama and plot development, Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future was prone to resolving all its moments of suspense by the simple expedient of having it turn out that the heroes were not hurt quite so badly as it had at first appeared.
Several times in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when the story required a less than super character to handle a situation on their own, it was suggested that Buffy sit that one out as it didn't require slaying, citing Buffy's tendency to respond to even minor conflict with violence. And while she has quite a repertoire, her go-to weapon is a good-ol' pointy stick.
Buffy: "Why don't I just put a stake through [Anyanka's] heart?" Giles: "She's not a vampire." Buffy: "You'd be surprised how many things that'll kill."
How I Met Your Mother: Lily Aldrin solves all of life's problems by treating them as she would in a kindergarten class and recommends her friends do the same.
Claude Raines stopped Peter Petrelli from turning New York into rubble in Heroes with a well-placed right cross. Given that he was played by Christopher Eccleston, it was awesome.
This is similar to the method used to stop the alien villain in the Doctor Who serial "City of Death."
Cameron in The Sarah Connor Chronicles, being a literal killing machine, tends to view any problem in the context of how many people she has to kill, treating alternative methods with anything from bemusement to derision. That she is willing to apply other methods (including but not limited to her epic levels of Fetish Fuel) as the series progresses is an important point of Character Development for her.
In Stargate Atlantis, the eponymous city is invaded by aliens in powered armor who have come to steal a device. During their escape, one provides cover by throwing up an energy shield which blocks bullets. Undaunted by this, the heroes unload on this guy for nearly 30 seconds, eventually breaking the shield and killing him.
Subverted by Doctor Who. Sure, all The Doctor has is a Sonic Screwdriver, but it has more features than a swiss army knife with extra hammer space. If we're to judge by Doctor Who, the grand unifying theory of science is that everything is controlled by screws. In fact, it was temporarily taken off the show because it was feared it would become a Game Breaker, so to speak.
Also, it's specifically never used to solve the episode's big problem. And in the revival series, The Doctor rarely uses the same trick twice to solve the episode's big problem.
Ten references this in one of his audiobooks as the reason he never carries a weapon. "If all you have is a gun, then all you see are things to destroy, and that's not who I am." It's not that he doesn't think there are situations that call for violence, he just doesn't want to risk it becoming his first resort. When all you have is an amazing intellect, and tools to get you access to all the most relevant data on what's going on, things are much less likely to end in a tragic misunderstanding.
The Daleks were very clearly designed with one purpose in mind: Exterminate. They were given two appendages, neither of which even functions as a hand: a gun, and a plunger like device that can interface with technology (and even that can be used to kill). While early episodes showed that they can stun someone, it rarely comes up as an option; their general tactics are kill, kill, and kill some more. Even when performing tasks like interrogating someone who would have willingly shared intel with them, they make it lethal because it's what they do.
Rose: You didn't need to kill him!
Dalek: Neither did we need him alive.
Across assorted tv and live shows, Australian comedy troupe the Doug Anthony All Stars had a running gag involving moral dilemmas, each of which would describe a particular quandary in varying amounts of detail, including situations involving alcholism, losing a job and so on. The last line of each dilemma was inevitably "You have... a hammer."
Except for unwanted pregnancies where it ends with "You have... a coathanger."
The titular character from Angel will often claim to have a plan to solve the current crisis. If any of the other characters bother to ask for details, it usually involves going in the front door of the bad guy's lair and stabbing it/them. (In another humorous case, the plan to avoid security was "walk really fast", and then, stab something.)
Handheld phasers borders between Every Device Is A Swiss Army Knife and this trope — on the one hand they can be used in a fair number of non-weapon ways (plus, they can serve as improvised explosives), but on the other hand a lot of problems were solved by firing at someone/something until it fell down/exploded/disintegrated.
There is an interesting variation on the Leverage episode The Rashomon Job where each of the various thieves tried to steal the same rare dagger on the same night using their designated skills and inadvertently sabotaged each other, only to realize that the mastermind of the group had really ended up with it. This was before any of them ever really met, mind. it also turned out that the dagger was really a fake and that it was all just an insurance scam.
Eliot often plays this straight as well. His primary means of gaining a proper disguise is to beat up the person wearing it and steal it.
A nonviolent variant from MythBusters: No matter what the problem, Grant has the same solution: build a robot.
And a "violent" variant from the same: if a myth is even tangentially related to explosions, there will be an explosion, even if they have to resort to calling in the bomb squad.
In the Red Dwarf episode Meltdown, Pythagoras believes there is a solution to the war, possibly involving triangles. Einstein is annoyed saying "Always with the triangles".
Babylon 5: John Sheridan's motto appears to be, "When in doubt, nuclear warheads." No wonder SyFy keeps hiring Boxleitner for their similarly inclined movies. It gets to the point that the saying can be rephrased "When all you have is a hammer, everything else is also a hammer" in his case.
Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear is particularly fond of hammers, using them at every opportunity even when it's not the best idea in the world.
James: Don't hit it with the hammer. Jeremy: Why not? James: Because it's the tool of a pikey.
In Kamen Rider Wizard, the monsters of the week, Phantoms, are tasked with making special humans called "Gates" from crossing the Despair Event Horizon and have their Phantoms break out of their "Gate". Now, sometimes, the Phantom of the Week has a brilliant plan to make a Gate despair, such as turning their closest friends against them or destroying a portrait of the Gate's loved one, and fewer have succeeded in making their Gates despair... Well, just that part in the show anyway. However, there are some Phantoms, like Phoenix, who tend to just go and attack the Gate repeatedly, hoping that the near-death experience can cause the Gate to despair. This was examined with Phoenix, as this way of thinking was what caused him to be promoted toCo Dragon status and Phantom Supervisor. Why? Because he killed a Gate while preforming this very trope.
Several wrestlers can win any match with their Finishing Move. When Batista claimed the STFU (a submission move) was completely useless in a Last Man Standing Match, John Cena proceded to lock him in it until he passed out, then counted to ten, proving him wrong.
Many of the less athletic pros out there fall under this, The Great Khali being amongst the top offenders. He has literally three "moves": overhead chop, choke-bomb, head-vice. The last two are finishing moves, and anything that doesn't involve swinging his arm over his head is either just running into someone, pushing them in various ways, and falling on them in various ways while the commentators desperately try to call it a leg/elbow drop.
Tales of the Norse god Thór sport an early example of this trope, as his repertoire was so limited that he was always content to solve any problem with a literal hammer, no matter the odds. This was lampshaded, as Thór once lost the hammer to theft, and was then screwed to the point of begging Loki's help to get it back.
Averted once when Alvíss, the all-knowing king of the dwarfs, wanted to marry Thór's daughter Thrúd. Thór kept Alvíss busy and distracted with questions until sunrise, knowing that sunlight would turn the dwarf into stone.
In any game that has it, the "Magic Missile" spell quickly turns into a wizard's hammer: it typically deals Non-Elemental damage which is hard to resist, it's cheap to cast and scales up nicely with the caster's level.
The only thing the Imperial Guard of Warhammer 40,000 really have going for them? Gunsandmanpower. When confronted by the enemies of Man, they employ both of these, and if that doesn't work, they just keep throwing bigger guns and more men at it until it breaks.
That said, their bigger guns tend to be really effective.
Kubrik Chenkov is a master of this. His strategy? Send men. If that doesn't work? Send more men. He uses men to clear minefields for his tanks. In one battle he lost 10 MILLION of his own soldiers. He won though.
The Orks and Tyranids tend to be even more extreme than the Guard, the former being "When All You Have Is More Dakka" (and possessing a philosophy based around making things as loud and shooty as possible) and the latter being "When All You Have Is Zerg Rush" (who at least have the ridonkulous numbers to make such a strategy the stuff of nightmares).
The ork gods Mork and Gork (the debate as to which is which rages on and is as good an excuse to fight as another) are described as being "kunnin' but brutal", i.e. he hits you when you're not looking. The other is "brutal but kunnin'", meaning he hits you really hard when you are.
This was lampshaded in one issue of White Dwarf, where before making a battle report, a Games Workshop Tyranid player said that you can discuss different rosters and tactics for Tyranids, but when it comes down to it, all Tyranid strategies end up being about "spikey death."
Averted in fluff. Tyranid Tyrants and especially Swarmlord tend to be brilliant strategists fully capable to outwit Imperial Guard generals, Space Marines Chaptermasters and Eldar Autarchs and reap apart tanks simultaneously. And Orks are not an easy target practice as well. Especially that Ghazkull guy.
Some specialist wizards are more specialized than others. Necromancers at least have Black and White arts (not much), Summoners have acid arrows and suchlike, but what sort of spells do you think a Fire Elementalist is going to have? Protection from fire, hurling fire, breathing fire, beating with fire, fire wall, fire cloud, fire trap and... and... yeah, right, that's about it.
Specialist wizards could sacrifice breadth of knowledge for depth. By forsaking two (of eight) schools of magic, the Wizard chose one other school and gained a special spell slot at each spell level that could only hold a school from his chosen school. A splatbook adds the "Focused Specialist" class variant in which a wizard could sacrifice a third school to gain two more spell slots for their chosen school (for three extra slots total...at the cost of forbidding the wizard to use roughly 1/3 of the spells on his class list).
Other (typically less useful) classes also forced specialization on individual characters. For instance, Shugenja had to forbid a quarter of their class list from their class list, Warlocks could only ever learn about 1/4 of the available Invocations, and all spontaneous casters (save the Spirit Shaman) had to permanently commit to a small pool of the spells on their list. The sublime martial artists of The Book of Nine Swords faced similar restrictions.
3.x had this in spades among players. The best fighter build, for instance, is considered to be one which uses feats to give a ridiculous number of bonuses to a charge, then praying for that one charge to kill the opponent.
Although spellcasters aren't generally subject to this as much, since their big advantage tends to be a lot of versatility, there's a feat called Arcane Thesis, which lets you really specialize in a single spell above all others. Paired with a few other abilities, you can pile on the metamagic for an empowered, twin, chain, repeat, maximized, enervating, admixed, searing orb of cold that deals solely fire damage, and enough of it to literally kill gods. But, you won't be able to do much else, and it's considered one of the weaker ways to go. Yes, godslaying is subpar for casters. Go figure.
The flavour text of Forgotten Realms spell Khelben's Warding Whip (disrupting magical force constructs) says that Blackstaff once met Bigby "apparently not on the best of terms" and later expressed his opinion on Bigby's Hands line of spells as "the old goat comes up with one good gimmick and beats it to death with a rock".
4e Slayer. What does it do? Basic attacks. That's all it can do, dishing out huge amounts of damage through basic attacks. And occasionally, have magic items that trigger basic attacks or are triggered by basic attacks. Why does the 4e Warlord like to pair up with Slayer? Because the 4e Warlord focuses on granting other players basic attacks.
Warriors who put enough feats into using a specific weapon can result in this, too. In particular, a character focused on ranged attacks can quickly reach the point where a bow is the ideal weapon, regardless of range. Doubly so for the Iron Heroes variant's Archer class.
The Green Sun Princes are explicitly told to move away from this paradigm. What separates them from their Yozi masters is that they can think outside of the box and mix-and-match their masters' gimmicks to best deal with the situation at hands.
The Yozis, on the other hand, have this as a fundamental tenet of their existence. For Malfeas, "solve this problem" = "use overwhelming force to solve this problem". Someone has to die? Smash them into a pulp. Need to debate someone? Shout them down.
Though the sheer length of time that Magic: The Gathering has been around means that each of the five colors have a vast and expansive repertoire of spells at their disposal, each color tends to fall back on the same themes time and again. The biggest offenders are Red, the color of "throw fire/lightning/goblins at it", and Green, the color of "throw nature at it". In a text about the green/red pair, Mark Rosewater pointed this out as that pair's biggest weakness: "Plan A: Beat it up until it stops moving. Plan B: Er... We were supposed to have a plan B?"
"Of course you should fight fire with fire. You should fight everything with fire." Jaya Ballard, Task Mage.
In Tabletop Game/Poker you have exactly three moves: bet/raise, check/call, and fold. Combine with infinite permutations of relative hand strength, stack size, and opponents and it's a little more complicated than that, but there are still only those three basic moves.
Pick any video game with Level Grinding. You will get players whose main tactic is to power-level to a point where all challenges become moot. For example, right up until Pokémon Black and White (which introduced diminishing returns) it was a perfectly valid tactic to only use your starter Pokemon and grind it until all elemental weaknesses and strengths were flattened by raw level advantage.
if you pick the right starter than even the diminishing returns is not enough to stop you, as there are exactly enough trainers to hit the level cap
For that matter, just about every "realistic" modern shooter. Chances are if your problems aren't solved by shooting it, you're either not shooting it enough or you're supposed to use explosives.
in Bulletstorm, there's four simple solutions to every problem in-game:
In Borderlands 2, Brick and Mordecai, two NPC's who were playable characters in the first game, discuss their tactics with each other in one story mission. Brick's preferred method of solving problems is to utilize his secret "punch them in the face till they die" technique. Mordecai prefers to shoot stuff from far away.
Mordecai: Like I said, instead of punching, I prefer to keep my distance from my target, pick my moment, then kill them with a single, well placed shot.
Brick: You lost me at "instead of punching".
In fact, in Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep, Brick's solution to several problems is to punch them, which inevitably led to problems when he rolled the highest initiative for communicating with the dwarf king.
Players can fall into this in RPG games that have multiple solutions to problems, particularly if they optimize characters for combat rather than diplomacy. How this is handled can vary from a drop on the Karma Meter, to economic penalties, to nothing at all.
Similarly, any RPG classes or characters which are only able to attack with one method. Monks from Final Fantasy I? Punch stuff to death. Dark Knight Cecil in the Easytype of Final Fantasy IV? Swing your sword at stuff.
The hammer is a Craft Knight's first weapon, as well as a tool for producing more weapons.
In the very first Swordcraft Story game, Pratty (or Cleru) can't get in the labyrinth without a weapon, but she can't forge a weapon without first collecting the materials from the labyrinth, so what she going to do? Why, use a hammer of course!
Then in the second game, Aera (or the guy, whatever his name is) is given the materials to make a basic dagger... which promptly breaks after the first boss fight. Then she gets another set... which ends up poorly forged and breaks immediately. Cue Hammer Time at the local forest.
Also, the hammer is the Emergency Weapon of the game, and is always used whenever the player breaks all of their equipped weapons (or has none equipped to start with).
During tournament battles in the first Swordcraft Story, each Craft Knight gets to bring a single weapon to battle. If a combatant's weapon breaks, they lose.
Jet Set Radio/Jet Grind Radio: The evil millionaire is summoning demons with a turntable. Since this is a graffiti game, you have to spray paint all over his sigils to defeat him.
Mischief Makers: There is no problem that cannot be solved by grabbing, and usually, shaking an object on the screen.
City of Heroes and City of Villains. Click on things, and blow them up. You can blow them up in a variety of interesting and unique ways, or even heal people while blowing them up, but you'll blow them up. Trying to find the Council's hidden base, key to their plot to take over the world? Screw infiltration or keeping an ear to the ground; you'll just blow up Council till one of them spill the beans. Need to develop a new component based on Freakshow and Rikti technology? No, we won't be scavenging their bases; just go and blow them up. In fact, there are many missions that are ostensibly about "investigating" enemy bases; this can reliably be interpreted as "pound every single opponent on the entire map into the ground." The development team has tried to subvert this, but attempts usually fail internally due to it simply not being as fun as blowing things up.
As a general rule of thumb, any task, no matter what its objective is, can be accomplished by simply beating up everything that can be beaten up in the target area. There is one exception; a mission specifically supposed to be about stealth. On it, defeating certain enemies will FAIL the mission, which can catch people by surprise.
It's also why Mayhem Missions (Blow everything up) is generally considered more fun that Safeguard Missions (Stop people from blowing stuff up. Granted, you stop people from blowing stuff up by blowing them up, but still...
Sonic Blast Man proves that all problems can be solved through gratuitous use of the 100-Megaton Punch. Gangster stealing a lady's purse? Hit him with a right cross through the jaw. Meteor threatening the Earth? Body-blow that sucker straight out of orbit.
Hammerfight: you swing a hammer around your craft by moving it and letting the attached free-swinging hammer or sword get tugged around. That's it for attacking, defending, and everything.
Portal's gameplay is centered around applying the same one tool (the Portal gun) to solve puzzles and defeat enemies. Having said that, the Portal gun lends itself to slightly more creative applications than, say, a left hook.
The Engineer is a better example. As the Meet the Engineer video says "The answer...use a gun. And if that don't work, use more gun." A built up sentry gun, or several built up sentry guns can even defeat an Uber.
This trope is one of the reasons Pyro, Heavy and Demoman are considered good beginner class choices. While all three have their higher-tier gameplay skills to learn, a lot of problems can be solved by dousing everyone in fire, throwing a wall of bullets at it or spamming the area with so many grenades that the massed splash damage will do the trick, respectively.
By extension, the pyro is practically a trope victim. Since all his (her?, it?) primary weapons deal damage through fire, all but one of his secondaries also light things on fire (the exception being the fairly generic shotgun), and one of the best melee options (the Axetinguisher) relying on the target being on fire, it can be safely assumed that fire will be making your kills. This puts the pyro in a bad position as the number of ways to counter ongoing burn keep increasing.
The Heavy is in a similar boat. Too slow to really benefit from melee weapons and having only a choice between some underwhelming shotguns and a support item lunchbox, a heavy is going to be solving virtually every conflict by way of minigun. Indeed, this is the heavy's main balancing factor. The minigun is one of the most destructive elements on the field but any way around it (high mobility scouts, long-range snipers, spies, etc.) and the heavy is best off getting back-up rather than handling it themselves.
All characters solve their squabbles with relatively non-lethal combat magic. The first boss is almost never related to the real incident of the game; nonetheless, delivering beat downs to at least three random youkai will always point a heroine in the correct direction of the person responsible. Then you deliver a beat down to that person as well, and come back in a week to deal with their quirky entourage. Getting hit in the face with a bullet is practically a "hello" in Gensokyo.
Many characters come with a special gimmick and their Vancian spellcards play on as many non-lethal applications of this power as they can imagine. Other characters, based on folklore and youkai, have theme-tinted techniques. The fandom takes this to extreme limits by developing world-building routines that can be based around thorough mundane application of their power. In an aversion, some residents have rather abstract powers that are hard to understand or have set limitations (e.g., Remilia).
While Yukari has many different problem-solving assets, such as personal power, numerous powerful connections, her vast knowledge and intellect, or her considerable political clout, nine times out of ten she simply delegates tasks to either her Shikigami Ran or her employee, Reimu. Alice also has the least variety out of any of the known magicians, with her dolls being the center of all her magic.
The titular character of the series has two attacks: "curl into a ball and hurl self into the enemy at high speed"; and "turn into Super Sonic and fly into the target at even higher speed". Over the years, he's destroyed armies of Dr. Robotnik's robots with the first attack, and defeated several evil gods with the second. Though the series does mix things up occasionally with Puzzle Bosses, and the major gimmicks of Sonic Unleashed and Black Knight involve hand-to-hand combat and sword fighting, respectively.
Shadow has all the same abilities as Sonic...but in his Day in the Limelight, his usual homing attacks took a back seat to guns as a weapon of choice.
Iji: The second battle against Assassin Asha boils down to this, due to the guy having "Plasma Cannon reflexes". He will dodge anything (including the Nuke weapon you might have fired on him in Sector 5) that isn't the Shotgun or Buster Gun, because he thinks dodging such pathetic weapons is shameful. He will continue not dodging pellets even on the verge of death. The Shotgun is the only weapon you have on Ultimortal that isn't the Resonance Detonator (you get the Reflector on that difficulty before the battle with Tor), so...
Fate/stay night: During his fight with corrupted Berserker in the Heaven's Feel route, Shirou mentions that when brute strength goes beyond a certain point skill has no meaning anymore. He then uses Archer's Arm, which copies both a sword and the skills and abilities of it's owner (apparently including brute strength), to get both. Shirou's basic tactics boil down to this; as he doesn't have the wide array of skills that most mages employ, his tactics mostly consist of finding the right sword to project and whacking the bad guy with it until he falls over. If that doesn't work, Unlimited Blade Works usually does the trick.
Archer: You only have one skill; you must learn to use it to its fullest extent.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door does this with the Hammerman badge. It doubles the Attack power of your hammer... And nukes your Jump ability until you take the badge off. Similarly, the Jumpman badge powers up jump attacks but disables hammer attacks.
Mario in general is original video game king of this trope, as the Portal developers mentioned in an interview once. To get over obstacles, jump over them. To gather coins and upgrades, jump under a "?" block. To kill baddies, jump on them. To lower the flag at the end of the level, jump into it. Everything else is an optional bonus. He manages to be a One-Man Army with nothing but jumping. That sort of takes him to a whole new level of awesome.
Mario in Super Mario Sunshine can't seem to do anything without the help of FLUDD. Never has spraying water at something been so vitally important.
Luigi in Luigi's Mansion and Luigi's Mansion: Dark Moon can do anything with his Poltergust vaccum. Including (in the first game) spraying ice, water, and fire, carrying objects, hanging on to things, pulling things, grabbing items from afar, defeating enemies, etc.
The downloadable game 'Splosion Man has you controlling a little fireball-man who has only one move: creating an explosion around himself. You use this for everything from attacking enemies to jumping.
Kingdom Hearts' Keyblade can solve any problem you come across because it is more versatile than most weapons, functioning as a Sword, Magic Wand, Skeleton Key, and Spaceship. That doesn't change the fact that many of the problem a Keyblade Wielder comes across can be overcome by smacking the offending object with a giant key. Need to open a chest? Smack it! Big Bad firing a giant cannon at you? Smack enemies into it! Evil computer program trying to kill you? It's okay, with a bit of help, your keyblade can shoot HACKING LAZERS! Need a minion? Stab someone in the chest! They won't even die!
If you ask Lilarcor for advice in Baldur's Gate 2, he will recommend killing things. In fact, his only solution for anything is killing things. Need money? "Find someone rich, and kill them. Then find someone richer, and kill them too!". Need to find your way around a labyrinthine plot of intrigue? "Start swinging. Eventually you'll lop off the head of *someone* important and the good fights will really start!" Need to defeat the Evil Sorcerer? "Kill him!" Then again, Lilarcor is a sword. Everything probably looks like a stab victim to him.
The Legend of Zelda: Despite the vast variety of tools at his disposal, almost all bosses still go down with Link's sword. Boss have a specific weakness? Use dungeon tool, then sword.
Many of the princesses in Princess Waltz fall into this. Angela, for example, uses a lance and fire—guess what her answer to everything is. Suzushiro, however, takes the cake. Her only real ability is to concentrate all her alma into her fist, making it harder than steel. Her answer to everything is to punch it.
The title characters of the Raving Rabbids games have a problem with this as a result of their phenomenal idiocy. Most of the unlockable videos in the first game are built around the structure of a Rabbid being in an everyday situation, then "solving" it by pulling out a blunt instrument of some kind and screaming "DAAAAAH!" (Also, plungers. Plungers everywhere.)
Chester from the original Tales of Phantasia has only one attack: his arrow shot. He hits high, low, and hard. He doesn't even need a special skill or a need to locate an enemy's weakness to be powerful.
Qara in Neverwinter Nights 2 is a sociopathic sorceress who specializes in fire spells. Naturally her preferred solution for solving problems is to blast everything in sight. She ends up drafted into the party after nearly burning down the tavern; the innkeeper (your foster father's half-brother) has her paying for the damage in sweat.
Lampshaded in Kid Icarus: Uprising. During the Lightning Chariot level, Pit comes across an obstacle he needs to get past to proceed. When he wonders aloud what to do about it, Hades says "The same thing you do with everything. Shoot it."
Pokémon. If you have only one type effective move, screw strategy. Spam Thunder until that Pidgey is on the ground and twitching.
In competitive play a set comprising Rest (restore all health, but fall asleep), Sleep Talk (use a random move in your sleep), Calm Mind/Bulk Up (increase both your offense and defense), and a single attacking move is sometime seen. Even if the opponent resists that attack, after some Calm Minds it won't matter.
Also the Choice Items give the Pokemon holding it increased Speed, more powerful physical attacks, or more powerful special attacks, depending on which one you use. However, it forces that Pokemon to keep using the same move you pick first, unless you switch it out and back in, or lose the item somehow.
A number of specific Pokemon fit this, either due to a limited move pool or because their stats, type, or some other factor keeps them from using most of the moves they can get effectively. A prime example is Lilligant; if you see one competitively, you can already guess 3/4s of its move set with near certainty: Sleep Powder, Quiver Dance, and Petal Dance. The last move is more of a toss-up, but it tends to be little more than filler anyway, and is usually only used if the "Disable opponent with Sleep Powder, power up with Quiver Dance, kill everything with Petal Dance" plan fails.
In Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, the Krogan Warlord embraces this trope in a very literal way. His melee attack? Smash it with a hammer. His active power? Smash it with a biotic hammer. His other active power? Smash it with an electrified hammer. His passive powers? Become better at smashing it with a hammer.
In the Citadel DLC, you can overhear a conversation where a Turian Sentinel claims that detonating Tech Armour is the best Finishing Move against any enemy one might encounter and any situation one might find themselves in.
Likewise, most of the Sith Warrior's abilities boil down to "Stab".
Nero's Devil Bringer in Devil May Cry 4 is used to lay the smackdown on enemies, hold them hostage, pull them towards you (Or, in the case of "heavy" enemies, pull yourself towards them), counter moves, store Yamato (Which, in turn, lets you use Nero's Devil Trigger), search for hidden orbs, missions and items, activate and use Gyro Blades, solve puzzles...
Deconstructed in Jade Empire: when prompted by the Player Character, Black Whirlwind has a number of stories to tell about his past adventures, all of which boil down to Whirlwind solving every problem he encounters by killing people. It's funny at first, but then Fridge Horror starts to set in. By the time you complete the Imperial Arena's sidequests and learn about how Whirlwind killed his own brother, Raging Ox, in the process of trying to convince Ox to stop working as an enforcer for the local criminal syndicate, it's become clear that Whirlwind's inability to find any other means of conflict resolution is in fact very tragic for him.
Overlord: Pretty much your entire repertoire of options boils down to "have minions do it cleverly", "have minions do it stupidly by throwing more along", and "have minions occupy the enemy while you throw spells at them and hit them with your preferred weapon". You may have noticed a pattern here.
The main character of Rockin Kats is armed with a spring-loaded boxing glove gun. Not only can he use it to punch enemies, but he can rebound himself off of objects to hit enemies with himself, rebound off the floor to avoid hazards like spikes and over large pits, rebound off the walls to Wall Jump, grab and swing from various objects (once again damaging enemies with himself in the process,) and grab certain projectiles and hurl them back at the enemy.
Another Gaming Comic has Nuclear Dan who is fire obsessed, with his entire spell list being a fire spell, he even spent a levels worth of points on fire immunity so he could fireball himself and not die.
Fighter thinks very much this way. He's dumb enough to miss important clues to the workings of the world around him, but he's also exceedingly skilled with his swords (not to mention fixated on them). At a certain point he creates "swordchucks" (a combination of swords and nunchucks, that allows him to wield four swords simultaneously). His spiritual mentor appears to him in the form of a giant sword wearing glasses. Oh, and when conversations don't involve swords, he completely ignores them. We also have Black Mage, who tries to solve most problems with stabbing or a Hadoken spell. This trope in regards to Fighter is taken to its logical extreme when he faces his own worst vice, the manifestation of Sloth, which accuses him of always falling back on his sword techniques instead of improving himself in new ways, like using his mind. Fighter gets past it by killing it with his swords, saying "my mind told me this would be faster."
The Light Warriors in general seem to adhere to this philosophy. Their general plan for any situation is "kill everyone and steal anything that isn't tied down and on fire." So far it's worked, mostly through luck.
Black Mage, in the early stages, discovered how frustrating this trope can be when you can only use your hammer once a day. Then he developed his Knife Nuttiness and some fire and lightning spells that didn't involve directly nuking an area the size of Vegas.
Red Mage believes that there is no obstacle that cannot be overcome by vigorous application of the Animal Husbandry skill.
Thief resolves most problem by stealing stuff, and then stealing some more stuff, be it riches, mcguffins, plot devices, the soul of his enemies and other intangible stuff, to the point of stealing his class change from himself in the future. This comes back to bite him when, during the battle with Sarda when his past self steals his class change.
Khrima, the Big Bad from Adventurers!!, was a Kefka-class archfiend, with magic powers up the ying-yang. So naturally, his solution to every issue, from stopping the hero party to quashing revolts in conquered cities to cutting his sandwich in half, was Big Friggin Lasers. Once had a minion executed for suggesting that lasers were pretty inefficient and they had much better weapons (energy and magic-based) available. He also once fired a scientist when he told Khrima that he was developing an energy-beam weapon to make Khrima's lasers obsolete. The guy really should have just called it a "super-laser".
Xykon's two main tactics consist of brute magical force and sacrificing minions (sometimes combining the two by using brute force to kill his minions and then turning then into obedient zombies). He has no head for strategy and hates thinking too hard, but as he put "there's a level of force against which no tactics can succeed", and takes extra pleasure in killing wizards who accuse him of being dumb and repetitive. But while he hates battle tactics, he's absolutely brilliant at psychological manipulation. Examples include the rubber bouncy ball engraved with the Symbol of Insanity which causes an entire room of paladins to start killing each other and the brutal "Butch and Bitch" speech in Start of Darkness, where he gets Redcloack to kill his own brother so the guilt will tie him to Xykon forever.
The good guys' Wizard has the same problem. Vaarsivuus' obsession with arcane magical power as the solution to any kind of problem as opposed to tactics and intelligent use of all assets bit the elf in the ass when Xykon showed he could think outside the box.
Xykon: You know what does equal power? Power equals power. Crazy, huh? But the kind of power? Doesn't matter as much as you might think. ... Right now, power takes the form of a +8 racial bonus to Listen checks.
Vaarsuvius proves capable of learning from experience and turns this one around on Xykon immediately, inflicting a humiliating defeat — which but for a stroke of luck could have been much, much worse than it was for the lich — using just two potions to revive O-Chul, the level one class feature raven companion to carry Xykon's stolen phylactery, and a 3rd-level Explosive Runes spell to guard said phylactery.
Kyros in Irregular Webcomic! generally tries to solve problems by putting more mana into his flame spells, causing much work for the Death of Insanely Overpowered Fireballs. In one case, he proposed using a Baelrog's own flames to power his fireball. Baelrogs are made of fire..
Lambert: You can't fight fire with fire!
Kyros: Of course you can fight fire with fire. You can fight anything with fire!
According to the GM's house rule, characters can only spend experience to improve skills they used. All Kyros ever uses is his fireball. Ergo...
The way the Strife Specibus system works in Homestuck forces the users to have only one (and, later, at most a limited) type of weapons. As the story progresses, these weapons gets bigger and badder, but still of the same type as earlier in the story.
Used very literally with John Egbert, who had to put something in his Strife Specibus, and chose the obvious choice. Because of this, he's forced to result to simple brute force of smacking his opponents really hard with large hammers. Later on he acquires the Fear No Anvil, which can alter time to stun whoever is hit by it. It's still a hammer though, whose primary function is to smash things really hard. In the face.
Basic Instructions occasionally features a group of weird and dysfunctional superheroes. One of these, considered pathetic even by the others is the "Knifeketeer". He's a (not very) Badass Normal who stabs people with knives. That's it. When the others complained that most heroes prefer non-lethal tactics, he got himself a boxing glove knife. Yes, a boxing glove on a knife handle. That he then "stabs" people with.
His associate Rocket Hat is a subversion of this, in that he is a guy with rockets mounted on his hat, who uses them in all sort of inventive ways. (Flying, highspeed headbutting, impromptu blowtorch, and so on.)
Housepets!, in The Adventures of Spot (superdog), this is parodied, as Spot (superdog) solves everything by punching. Then the writer, Peanut, tries to make the story better, based on Grape's advice. Spot (superdog) goes into a Heroic BSOD when he finds out that there's a problem he can't solve with punching: The villain making kids obese with snack foods. Spot (superdog)'s first attempt to solve this problem without punching is to make a PSA to stop kids from eating too much junk food. Then the villain mentioned earlier wears a disguise as a scientist to refute Spot (superdog)'s claims. Spot (superdog) tries to refute that, and the villain states that it'll take 20 years for the science boards to agree on why the kids are getting fat. Then:
15. Plan B is not automatically twice as much gunpowder as Plan A.
In I'm a Marvel... And I'm a DC, It's Just Some Random Guy only really uses two special effects. His lightning is used for everything from tazers to the Joker's staff to Iron Man's repulsor pulses. His circular fade is used for any form of teleportation as well as any character shifting from one model to another (e.g. Modern Superman and Batman to overly friendly 80's Superman and Batman). Fortunately, his effects pool was slightly increased before Green Lantern used his powers. unfortunately, that just meant that everything goes green for a second.
''Cracked': "Nobody outpunches the Punchmaster! A running joke comic by columnist Seanbaby, made from various unnamed Golden Age comic panels featuring a man whose only solution to anything (from answering a question to submitting a resume) is to punch it. Any discussion, confrontation or remark with the Punchmaster will result in being punched.
They only use it twice or so though. And Charlie survives both.
They even say it's more like what they use in absence of a plan more than anything. However, on one occasion they used it rather than simply shoot the zombies.
Zero Punctuation's Yahtzee describes Batman as responding to everything by either punching it, or applying "bat-anti-thing spray" first, and then punching it.
Chaka of the Whateley Universe is a martial artist with control of Ki. She uses Ki for everything. Punching an opponent? Ki attack. Learning an opponent's moves? Ki reading. Drying off in the shower? Ki trick. But while the attitude fits the trope, the results usually invert it: her power is so flexible she's almost a living Green Lantern Ring.
Chris Hemsworth hammers the fuck out of the robot, hammers the fuck out of some Frost Giants, hammers the fuck out of Tom Hiddleston, and hammers the fuck out of the Rainbow Bridge.
Chris Hemsworth:Everything looks like a nail!
In Boatmurdered once Operation Fuck The World (which when activated floods everything on the map outside the fortress with lava) was complete, it became their response to everything. Initially designed to provide a permanent solution to the elephant problem, it was eventually used against goblin invaders, a bronze colossus, an inoffensive merchant caravan come to trade with them, and a flood The last of these was disastrous, creating an enormous cloud of steam that enveloped the fortress and scalded many dwarves to death.
In Atop the Fourth Wall's crossover review of Southland Tales, Linkara claims the safety of the universe is threatened by the film, and tells the assembled they must review it.
Nash: "Why is our default response to everything to automatically review it?"
SCP-682 inverts this into "when you really, really, really need to pound in a nail, everything looks like a hammer". At some point or another, the proposal to introduce SCP-682 to any other interesting SCP will be made.
Hardware: Hint for the slow kids in the class: extremely bright light will take them down. Hawkgirl: So does a mace upside the head. Actually, I've found the mace works in pretty much every situation.
Despite the multitude of her mace's uses, she still hits EVERYTHING in the end. To wit, the mace is made from a special anti-magic metal, so it can even smack GODS upside the head. It backfires in the two-part Eclipse where she smashes the jewel that allows some sort of ancient reptiles to possess whoever is holding it. Unfortunately, the Justice League (minus the Flash who was fast enough to dodge them) is then covered in the crystal's shards meaning they are all possessed at once.
Popeye. Spinach. When punching doesn't work, punch it with the power of spinach!
Megas XLR. Coop is good at smashing things, and Megas, being a walking homage to the Super Robot genre, is very very good at smashing things. However, when put up against enemies resistant to smashing (such as a nano-mechanical robot capable of integrating any metal into itself to gain new abilities and able to regenerate infinitely, even to the point of replicating itself a thousand fold) he has a few problems. True to the Super Robot genre, though, smashing always works if you smash hard enough.
it doesn't work, Coop has to think outside the box and in this case learn the they were solar powered so he uses Megas to create a massive smog cloud
There's also the one time Coop fought a cloaked robot. Instead of figuring out some way to detect the robot, Coop simply fires missiles in every direction, rendering the cloaking meaningless.
Titan Maximum uses the same basic solution. According to Palmer, their entire strategy for every fight they have ever been in is to "Punch the f*ck out of it"
Sasha is even more specialized. She once suggested surrendering when she realized the enemy had no crotch, and a later enemy had a special force field protecting its crotch just to thwart her.
Parodied on The Simpsons in the show-within-a-show "Knight Boat." A Knight Rider-esque sapient crime-solving boat is never stymied when the crooks go on land, because, as Bart and Lisa says in this exchange, "There's always a canal." "Or an inlet." "Or a fjord."
In one episode of Batman: The Animated Series, Supergirl and Batgirl team up to take down Livewire, Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn. Harley's response every time the three villainesses find a locked door is to repeatedly (and futilely) hit the door with a large prop hammer. After Harley's second attempt, Ivy just looks and Livewire and says, "She tries so hard." Then Harley sneaks up and tries her hammer on Supergirl. It backfires hilariously.
Sandman from The Spectacular Spider-Man and his sand-based powers. In season 2 he learns how to use them more creatively, becoming much more dangerous threat. Interestingly this is the last episode we see him in the series, because would he get too good at swinging his hammer, he would become total Game Breaker.
In a broader sense, Once per Episode the solution to the problem of the week turns out to be, 1.) summon Captain Planet, 2.) watch the fun.
My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic has an interesting (and repeated) aversion of this trope, as the characters TRY to pull out their trump card every time, only to be foiled repeatedly and frequently be forced to switch to another plan. The protagonists pursue and acquire the ancient, extremely powerful set of magical artifacts known as the Elements of Harmony, which are capable of extreme feats of power. As such, whenever a major threat rears its head, it is natural for the characters to immediately use them as their go-to weapon. In the second season, when faced with another powerful foe, their first instinct is to go for the artifacts, which he has stolen; they manage to retrieve them, but lose one of their members (and the Magic of Friendship) in the process and have to fix that to use them again. When Changelings invade Canterlot, they make a beeline for the Elements only to be stopped before they can get to them. Because they keep getting stolen, and in order to keep Discord in line, in season 3 they are given the Elements permanently, which backfires when Twilight Sparkle accidentally casts a spell on them which switches their lives around. Finally, when big black vines overrun Equestria, they yet again break out the Elements of Harmony to combat the threat, only to discover that they must return the elements to the Tree of Harmony to fix the problem.
Hitler and Napoleon (odd bedfellows, indeed) fell victim to this; both became so used to achieving foreign policy victories through war that they became reliant on warfare to secure all their successes. This culminated in disastrous invasions of Russia.
Also, Napoleon's tactics and battleplans could all be reduced to "place a lot of artillery where it will hurt the enemy the most and fire until they break and run". Said approach earned him many victories when he should have lost (Austerlitz, for example: had he failed to conquer the Pratzen plateau that dominated the battlefield and place his artillery there, the Austro-Russian would have won), but if the artillery is somehow reduced in efficiency he becomes defeatable (at Leipzig Napoleon was facing A DOZEN different corps with independent command from four nations, and by the time one was at the breaking point he couldn't give the coup the grace due attacks from two others, while at Waterloo Wellington resisted long enough for the Prussian attack because he had placed his troops behind a hill to neutralize direct artillery fire and mud from a nightly rain had reduced the effectiveness of grenades).
A lot of kenjutsu/iaijutsu techniques come down to executing shomen-uchi (straight downward cut to the top of the head) as the killing strike.
Krav Maga is similar except in that case the killing blows usually involve breaking the attacker's jaw, frequently after hitting him in the nuts.
In Shaolin Kung Fu, it is often skill and physical capability rather than technique that decides a fight. Among masters who have near-perfect technique, they will put considerable effort into refining one or two particular techniques. The great Wong Fei Hung of Hoong Ka fame was renowned for his No-shadow Kicks.
True of most martial arts masters. Famed Taiji master Yang Lu Chan used to beat everyone with the same move: grasp the bird's tail. As the quote above demonstrates, the masters of any martial art are very aware of this. To provide another example: one of the best American karateka used only three techniques in his fights — jab, cross, and front kick. He was just really good at them.
Bruce Lee: I fear not the man who has practiced ten thousand kicks once. But I fear the man who has practiced one kick ten thousand times."
One FIRST robotics team adopted the motto "Nothing's impossible with a rubber mallet and enough strength of heart!" when trying to properly adjust the timing belt on their mecanum wheels (a difficult and delicate task involving much rubber mallet use). Another has the unofficial motto, "Life would be meaningless without 7/16-inch wrenches."
TV Tropes — Let's face it, not everything on this site really lends itself to a wiki format, but you have to give the admins credit for making it happen. Same with a lot of wikis. Notably That Other Wiki's discussion pages.
Duct tape. If it can't be fixed with duct tape, you're clearly just not using enough.
There's even a saying that puts it quite nicely: "If it shouldn't move but does — Duct Tape. If it should but doesn't — WD40."
The Perl programming language relies heavily on regular expressions, a language for super-precise text searching. Unfortunately, it makes Perl programs super-hard to read.
Similarly, almost every task in UNIX shell scripting can be jury-rigged with creative stream redirection and the use of one of three programs: grep (a regular expression, or regexp, text-finding utility), sed (a regular expression, or regexp, text replacer utility) and awk (an inline programming language that takes, you guessed it, a regexp, searches text for matches and then executes a routine for every match). In fact, awk was the basis for what later became Perl.
It is slightly sad how far a sports coach can get with a tactical repertoire of "Plan A" and "Plan A with slightly different players".
In the 1960's RCA conceived of a Video Disc home video format instead of what would become the far more common magnetic tape format because doing so would allow them to re-use their vinyl record pressing machines and other phonograph related infrastructure. Problems with the finicky technology took took 17 years to work out and user experience issues like constantly flipping discs and changing worn playback needles were ignored. When the Disc format utterly failed compared with rival tape formats RCA never recovered and ultimately lost its place as the most dominant consumer electronics company in the United States.
A Sports example: The basketball player Shaquille O'neal was a pretty bad shooter and had a very limited offensive repertoire, yet he is #6 on the all-time NBA scoring chart. O'neal had 3 moves: A dunk, a lay-up and a jump-hook, but combined with his insane physical gifts (7 feet, 330+ pounds and explosiveness) and footwork he really didn't need any more moves.
In baseball, most pitchers have multiple pitches they can throw so that batters have to guess what they will throw next. Occasionally, though, pitchers get by with only one — and in some cases, thrive. The most famous example is Mariano Rivera. He has only one pitch — a 'cut' fastball, or a fastball that moves away from right handed batters. He has ridden this one pitch to be widely acknowledged as the greatest reliever in major league history.
The reason this typically doesn't work in baseball is because if hitters know what is coming, it is much easier for them to see where the ball is going and know to swing or not and when to swing. In some cases like Rivera's, it doesn't matter because the one pitch is so dominant that even though hitters know it is coming, they can't stop it. Another way to get by this is to throw a knuckleball — a ball with barely any spin on the ball. The lack of spin counter-intuitively causes the ball to have crazy motion, so that no one, even the pitcher, knows exactly where it's going. Some pitchers, such as R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield, have succeeded by throwing a knuckleball almost exclusively.
Boxing. It has a grand total of four offensive techniques (Jab, Cross, Hook, and Uppercut), and five defensive techniques (Slip/Turn, which consists of turning the body so they miss, Bob And Weave, which is essentially ducking, Parrying/Blocking, which deflects the blow to the side, Cover-Up, which uses the forearms as a buffer against the body/face, and Clinch, which is basically a grapple). Every style and form is based off of using these nine techniques to devastating effect. On a simpler level, boxing only strikes with the closed fist.
Boxing defense is argued by some to be even simpler than that. Teddy Atlas is fond of saying "There are three ways to defend against a punch. You can block, you can dodge, and you can counter, and too many fighters only learn to do one of those things."
If you think about it, Boxing offense is also simple, as the aforementioned attacks above are just variations of how you can hit your opponent with your fist. Boxers mostly need to know two things, how hard they should hit the opponent and where they should hit the opponent.
When the M14 rifle was developed following World War II and The Korean War, the American military decided, to ease up on logistics requirements like what they had to go through during WWII (three or four different ammo types for six or so weapon systems), the M14 would replace every single long gun in the arsenal. Being a full-size battle rifle with heavy recoil and a small magazine capacity, this failed quite hardnote the M14 and weapons based on it are only even still notable today because people discovered that, if you ignored the "full auto or bust" doctrine and stuck a scope on it, it made a pretty decent marksman's rifle. Even today, when standard-issue weapons do actually use the same ammo for different purposes, there are still differing weapons for each of those purposes (e.g. if you need suppression fire, you let the belt-fed machine guns do it, rather than force assault rifles with less than a third of the magazine capacity and no facility for quickly replacing an overheated barrel into the role).
The primary way that Greek general adapted the phalanx for various tasks was to simply make it denser and thicker. Epaminondas was said to have made a phalanx fifty men deep to fight off the Spartans.