Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (DS) Review

I really like both handhelds-- possibly more than the consoles this generation. We're just getting a bevy of great content churned out weekly now it seems. Here's a sample of that great content with Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure for the Nintendo DS. For those interested in hearing the full soundtrack, you can download it for free in its entirety from EA's web page for the game.

Hats Off to Henry. Good Show!

Laurel and Hardy. Mario and Luigi. Peanut butter and jelly. Bugs Bunny and cross-dressing. All of these pairs go together well, but the platforming genre and the puzzle genre? We've seen how the puzzle genre works with role-playing thanks to Puzzle Quest, and that worked well. However, not just any genres can be combined just for the fun of it. It has to work. There has to be a cohesive and entertaining experience. Thankfully and for the most part, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is just that, and I do think a "bravo" is in order.

Henry Hatsworth is a famed explorer and adventurer-- an Indiana Jones-type if you will, but without the whip, phobia of snakes, and the part of Hans Solo on his job resume. It seems he's lived a luxurious and fulfilling life, but when Henry hears rumors of an ultimate treasure, he cannot help but throw his hat into the ring one last time. The treasure is a suit made of gold, promising the wearer power beyond imagine as well as making the old young again.. However, the pieces of this suit are spread among several lands and levels filled with a plethora of plentiful peril, and Henry isn't the only one searching for this fabled suit either...

As you play, the bottom blocks keep rising.
It can get tedious stopping the platforming just to play the puzzle.

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is a mishmash of two different genres. There's the 2D side-scrolling platforming that 8 and 16 bit fans have grown to know and love, but there's also puzzle elements. While the top screen shows all of the jumping action, the touch screen is relegated to puzzles. There's an ever-rising stack of blocks on the bottom screen of varying colors. It's the same premise as Tetris Attack or anything else of the Panel de Pon/Puzzle League franchise. You control a cursor that can hover over any two horizontally adjacent blocks at a time. You can shuffle the position of any two of these blocks as you try to move three or more blocks of the same color together in a horizontal or vertical line. Enemies that are defeated will enter the puzzle as a colored block. Pay attention and work fast because any of these blocks that reach the top screen, and they will become an obstacle that will either try to attack or just give Henry another opportunity to lay ye olde smack-down all over again. Different enemies turn into different kinds of puzzle blocks. Some need to be dealt with immediately as they'll make the bottom screen blocks rise at a frenzied pace whereas others will be 2x2 or immovable. Each time you enter the puzzle on the bottom screen, the action on top comes to a halt, so there's no frantic or frustrating multitasking to worry about.

Big fish in a big pond chasing a bigwig big time.

There's also benefits to working on the bottom screen as well besides not having to deal with returning enemies and other hazards. For one, every item you pick up falls into the puzzle-- all of which are helpful. They can only be used, however, by being a part of a disappearing series of matched blocks. Some of such bonuses are healed health, plentiful extra lives, and a lightning bolt that inflicts damage on all foes on the screen. Additionally, each time that you match blocks of the same color, a bar on the right side of the puzzle screen will increase. It can be used as ammo for one of Henry's projectile attacks like the gun, bomb, and boomerang, but it can also be used to activate Tea Time mode. This summons an invincible robot that you control that can mash through enemies with ease with its overpowering attacks and firepower. The duration of this power lasts as long as you can keep the steadily decreasing puzzle meter from falling to empty or by canceling it with the push of a button

There's also certain occasions where Henry will come across a single or series of dotted line blocks. By matching a set of blocks in the puzzle, these blocks will turn solid for Henry to jump or climb upon. Sometimes they'll just be used to block a hazard or make a section of a level easier to manage. As cool and as novel a concept as all of this is, I would have honestly preferred to see that matching blocks to benefit Henry in the platforming world would have been used much more and in much more impressive fashion. Perhaps there was a giant ice cube halting Henry's path in a level, and you had to match a series of red blocks on the bottom screen to make the cube melt on the top screen. Ideas like that-that would make Henry Hatsworth shine even more and not seem like a missed opportunity in some regards.

Young Henry gets more health to work with
as well as one hell of a golf swing.

Although the platforming action of Henry Hatsworth won't have people shouting from the rooftops that it's revolutionary or anything of that sort, it is a very cohesive and enjoyable experience. Henry himself controls very tightly. At the start of the game, he has a meager amount of moves and abilities to his arsenal-- some sword swipes in different directions for different occasions and a small amount of health. As he collects pieces of the golden suit, Hatsworth gains new abilities that allow levels already beaten to get a new life with them-- especially since many of them have easy-to-miss alcoves for treasure and hidden exits leading to extremely challenging secret levels. These abilities include the power to scale up walls-- Mega Man X-style, to being able to breathe underwater. While the first world isn't too much to write home about as it's rather ho-hum, mundane, and uninspired, later levels and worlds are filled to the brim with masochistic enemy placement, precision-based plaforming, wonderful concepts like a world based on the puzzle format in which the game is based on, and a high-- nay-- very high challenge. Those thinking that Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure sounds like a breeze will get a very rude awakening. This game can be mighty difficult. The fact that the only checkpoints in the game come once you leave one area to another, and you can be playing for fifteen minutes, die, and have nothing to show for your work. The bosses are a blast to play-- very creative, some of which even use the bottom screen in cool ways-- but they, too, can be incredibly challenging to players even after the boss pattern has been learned.

Some aspects of the level design in Henry Hatsworth that I didn't really enjoy were the multitude of ambush rooms. These are rooms where Henry has to take down a march of minions before being able to move on. While these rooms are essentially designed to take advantage of the Tea Time power, they're far too abundant throughout the game and just come off as a cheap way of stretching the longevity. This wasn't really needed either as the Puzzling Adventure takes a fair amount of time to complete. Perhaps ten hours or more to reach 100%, and that's not including any subsequent playthroughs. Furthermore, there's no ability to return to a room or area you just left. You have the start the whole level over again. This isn't so much a problem about not being able to backtrack for missing treasure as it's more of a problem with being screwed. If you enter an area where you don't have the necessary ability to survive, such as being able to breathe underwater, and you can't return to the room you were on because you didn't know any better, then you have to start that entire level over or continue to die over and over again. Note to self: if you wear a suit underwater, you can breathe.

Ambush rooms like this come way
too often in most worlds.

Henry Hatsworth is a magnificently charming game, and that's not only due to the cast of kooky characters and setting. It's due to the very nice presentation. Character voices are acted much in the same way as Banjo-Kazooie through colorful gibberish. (You know when I have to mention Mega Man X and Banjo-Kazooie in one review, the game must be good.) The soundtrack is very melodic-driven which is rare usually for a Western-developed game. The songs are relatively catchy, songs like the second world's final boss are technologically impressive as well just awesome, and the music really adds an extra dimension to the game. Don't be surprised if you find yourself unknowingly bopping your head to a tune. The art style is terrific as well, The colors are vibrant, the graphical touches are subtle on their own, but the entire package is fantastic.

Listen to the song I'm referring to here.

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure may very well be another game those goes under the radar of many DS owners. I can't say that-that can be blamed as the bounty of worthwhile titles for portable gaming is immense. However, for thirty bucks, there's definitely no reason why 2D fans of Mario and the like shouldn't shell out the cash for this entertaining quest from EA who isn't necessarily known for these quirky-themed games. Forget the golden suit-- Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is the true treasure here.

[SuperPhillip Says: 8.25/10]


Kyle said...

Great review.

This game looks very fun. I'm definitely going to pick up a copy whenever the heck I get a DSi.

The Dread Pirate Guy said...

The game looks amusing. It's nice to see clever new titles coming out like this.