Review by cloudbarretcid1

Reviewed: 07/10/09

A very unique and challenging title

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (HH) is a truly unique action platform game. Released in late March 2009, around the same time as some very popular games for the DS, including Pokemon Platinum, the game didn’t receive the attention from the media or from gamers that it deserved. What made the game unique, and deserving of much more attention than it received, was a combination of: 1. the general concept of the game; 2. the unique use of marketing employed by EA; 3. the refreshing level of difficulty which the game offers in the later levels. I will use these three broad themes to evaluate the game according to the standard aspects: story, gameplay, music, art, difficulty and replay value.

1.The general concept of the game (Story: 8/10; Gameplay: 9.5/10)

HH is your standard sidescrolling 2D action platformer. The story is your standard “beat the bad guy and his minions”, although there is a small twist and a comic element to it all (right down to the boss music in some of the battles, which is quite hilarious and truly charming). By not taking itself very seriously, the game’s story maintains its spontaneous nature and is definitely appealing for a 2D platforming game of this nature. Thus, even though the story is nothing groundbreaking, it deserves an 8/10 for how it carries itself: not too seriously and with smart humor.

The most innovative aspect of the game is its utilization of the two screens of the DS. On the top screen, you control Henry, a well-dressed British man who looks like he's ready to go on a wild safari. He has a melee weapon (a sword) and a basic projectile weapon (either a plasma gun or bombs or a boomerang). Your task as Henry is to battle your way through hordes of different enemies on 5 worlds, averaging 5 or 6 levels per world. The level design is basic in its idea: it's a standard platformer, so you have your fair share of perilous jumps, nerve-wracking spike pits, moving platforms, balloons to bounce on and of course a few underwater levels.

The bottom screen is a simple block puzzle (line up three of the same color in a row to dissolve them, giving you some "puzzle power") that interacts with the top screen in some interesting ways. First, you can use the puzzle to boost your projectiles: shoot a projectile and before it hits the enemy, switch to the puzzle screen, line up a few blocks, then switch back to the platform screen. This is really handy as you progress through the game and you face some very tough showdowns. Second, you use the puzzle to activate platforms in the top screen, allowing you to progress further in the level. Thirdly, there are various powerups which can be activated in the puzzle (such as electrocute/stun the enemies or stop them momentarily) which are excellent in a pinch. Finally, if you solve quickly enough and fill up the energy meter, you can eventually unlock "Tea Time", where Henry jumps into a giant robot to give you a temporary boost in power, which is perfect for taking out large groups of enemies.

The interaction between the two screens (as I mentioned, the most innovative dimension of the game) is seamless and exceptionally well done. As the challenge heightens in the later levels, being able to quickly jump back and forth between the two screens, simultaneously powering up projectiles and dodging enemy attacks becomes very intense but worthwhile experience when you pull off a nice string of attacks to finish off a level. Indeed, this is the most rewarding aspect of the gameplay and is discussed a bit more below.

2.EA’s unique approach to marketing the game (music: 10/10; graphics/artwork: 10/10)

If you’re thinking about getting this game, I would highly recommend you check out the HH website. Normally, I would never say this about a game, but by visiting the website you will understand the pure genius in marketing which the developers exercised with HH. The music is very well done. There are many different tracks that accompany the main levels, and even some of the bosses have their own themes. Furthermore, the full OST has been posted on the HH website! So, you can check out the music for yourself for free before buying the game. To add a personal note, I was getting bored with the game until I reached a certain boss who has his own theme music, and was so impressed by the creativity and hilarity of the song that I stuck with it for a few more levels – and that choice paid off. Finally, all the music seems perfectly fitting in the larger scheme of the game, which is a further reason why I think the “overall concept” of the game is so well done.

The art for the game is also very well done. Not only in terms of the character and boss design, but the levels themselves are simply beautifully drawn. And, again, you can find the concept art online, although I’m not sure if it is accessible on the HH site. Overall, just like the music, the art is well marketed and well designed. Henry even has a Twitter page!

3.Refreshing level of difficulty (Difficulty: 9.5/10; Replay value: 10/10)

I mentioned earlier that the action platformer concept of HH is relatively simple. The levels are your standard sidescrollers, with your fair share of enemies and item pickups along the way. However, as the game progresses (most notably after the second world) these levels get longer and more difficult, both in terms of the platforming and in terms of the enemies you must defeat. In fact, it was when the difficulty amped up that the game really caught my interest and got me thinking that this game is truly great. Because, aside from what I’ve said above about the music and art, nothing in the game really stands out – it’s just another cute title that ties in a lot of concepts in a nice package. Any anime-based or Disney-based game accomplishes the same, right? We may not all like the “package” but it’s comprehensive nonetheless. So, where’s the depth? What’s going to keep me interested in doing this 30 or more times?

The answer: the game is really hard. For some, this is a complete turnoff. But for the more hardcore gamers who are starved for a real challenge in today’s gaming world (the main philosophy of Nintendo, as stated at the E3 expo in June 2009, is that everyone can get be a gamer), it will be a welcome refreshment. I found myself having to start levels over 3, 4 times and boss battles twice as many as that. Some of the sub-bosses within levels, where you are barraged with enemies for what seems like a very long 5 minutes, really put you through your paces, and can leave you having to start sections of levels over again. You will find yourself cycling back and forth between the top and bottom screens in a frenzy to pull of that enhanced projectile just in time so that you can dodge the monsters diving at you from 3 different angles. But, that’s what makes it fun! It’s truly rewarding to finish off one of these more difficult levels (some of the later levels will take you 30-40 minutes of playtime), and it provides the perfect amount of depth that really motivates you to keep playing to see if you can handle the next challenge Henry is up against.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that hard – and that’s where the replay value comes in. There are plenty of secret levels scattered across the worlds that offer even more intense challenges but which ultimately pay off in the end: you’ll find yourself wanting to go back over those worlds, combing them for hidden areas and items to find some more money to buy that much-needed additional silver heart for the later levels in the game. Of course, these extra levels are all optional – but the game is much more fun (and, in the end, easier) if you take the time in trying to get 100%. And, don’t worry: getting 100% doesn’t require endless hours of button mashing like in other games. HH requires you to work hard and work smart for every powerup you end up using.

In conclusion: as I said at the beginning, this game has not developed a large fan base, but there is definitely a "cult" feel to its style. People who like it will love it, while people who don't like it will probably end up hating it. In general, I found it to be refreshing. Mostly, my feelings are due to the unique artwork, comic aspects, and the challenge the game offered. Few games today will really challenge the gamer's aptitude at solving problems. Part of this is due to the widening window of gamer tastes which many developers aim for (videogames are increasingly seen as something everyone should be able to do and want to do), while part of it has to do with some systemic aspect of videogame design that I really can't put my finger on. Nevertheless, it is a rewarding challenge that will keep you working at your DS for many hours. In the end, I’ll repeat the sentiment of others on the gamefaqs review board and message boards: Good show Henry, good show.

Overall: 9/10

Rating: 9

Product Release: Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (US, 03/17/09)

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