Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure
System: DS :: Rating: Everyone :: Players: 1
Genre: Platformer :: Released: 17 March 2009
By Aaron Robinson
08 October 2009 — After suffering criticism concerning the quality of their games and their reliance on yearly Madden updates (not to mention their other sports titles), it seems that EA is determined to change their image. In the past few years there have been a slew of new intellectual properties from the company; games like Boom Blox, Skate, and Mirror's Edge have shown an experimental side that's long been absent. Perhaps the most interesting release has been a platformer called Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. Developed by a team better known for their sports titles, Henry Hatsworth is a colorful, quirky platformer / puzzler mash-up for the DS. To say it came out of left field would be an understatement, but it quickly garnered appeal — and with good reason. There's a lot to like about this little platformer, even if it is a bit rough around the edges.
Henry Hatsworth certainly isn't the typical videogame hero. He's a stubby, grey-haired, monocle-wearing explorer who is equal parts arrogant and gallant. In fact, the events that led to him having to save the world resulted from his own stubbornness. Hatsworth, you see, is cursed. In his quest to retrieve the mysterious Gentleman's Suit, Hatsworth has accidently opened a portal into the puzzle realm, unleashing a legion of enemies upon the world. But he's determined to fix the problem by collecting every piece of the Gentleman's Suit, and using its power to restore order. The only person who stands in his way is Leopold Weasleby the Third: Hatsworth's long-running rival who wishes to use the Gentleman's Suit for his own needs.
The humor is laid on pretty thick, mainly from the ridiculousness of the cast. Whilst the game takes place in a fictional world (Tealand, specifically), the characters are all clearly British stereotypes (with a few non-British stereotypes thrown in for good measure). They speak in jargon, with little grunts and phrases mixed in to suit their personalities. The dialog is pretty well-written, but there are some groan-worthy lines here and there. Really, though, it's the boss fights that convey the humor the best; as frustrating as they can get, it's hard not to laugh when you're fighting an incoherent, wheelchair-bound sea captain who's being thrown around by his overweight nurse. I really have to give credit to the design team, because it's their work that really brings the humor and game to life.
Combining two genres in a single game is no easy feat. Certainly, Henry Hatsworth is a platformer first and a puzzler second, but the two halves play off each other surprisingly well. The top screen is used purely for platforming. Defeat an enemy or pick up an item and it will be transported to the bottom screen, where the puzzle section of the game resides. The puzzle portion is essentially Tetris Attack; you move around colored blocks to create chains of three or more of the same color. The idea is that defeated enemies become trapped inside the blocks on the lower screen. While you play the platforming section, you'll see the blocks slowly moving towards the top of the bottom screen. If an enemy block makes its way to the top, it will pop out onto the top screen and attack you. To make the platforming side easier, you need to occasionally halt the action to work on the puzzles.
If you're thinking this all sounds a bit plain, there's a lot more to it. Hatsworth's abilities are tied to the puzzle meter, which refills whenever you create a chain in puzzle mode. Projectile weapons and special abilities drain this meter, so it's important to keep track of. Fill it all the way, and Hatsworth can temporarily pilot a steam-powered mech suit, complete with lasers and rocket-powered fists. On top of all this is the fact that items need to be triggered in puzzle mode in order to be used. If you want to freeze enemies or recover some health, you'll need to chain the appropriate items first. It's a lot to keep track of, but effectively managing both will make the game a lot easier.
Really, Henry Hatsworth's biggest flaw is in its difficulty. The game starts off deceptively easy, but as Hatsworth's abilities expand, so does the challenge. The game can be downright cheap at times. There are only a few checkpoints in each level, and some levels can be ridiculously large in size. There's nothing worse than scraping through a lengthy and difficult platforming segment only to be killed in an enemy ambush that sends you all the way back to the start. It's also surprising how much it takes to kill enemies. Bosses take quite a long time to whittle down, and even regular enemies have to be smacked around for a while before they finally keel over. The enemy ambush screens can be really annoying, too. Locking you onto a screen while you fight an onslaught of enemies isn't an inherently bad idea, but it's used so often that it starts to become ridiculous after a while.
It's a shame there's no difficulty option to help curb the challenge, because easing some of these problems would make the game a lot less frustrating. Hatsworth looks so whimsical; it's hard to believe it's as difficult as it is. And really, that's the biggest problem it has. When I look back at my time spent with Henry Hatsworth, I think fondly of the humor, the artwork, the mechanics, and how cleverly designed some of the platforming sequences are. But all of that get's muddied by the amount of frustration I felt towards the end of the game. If you're after a challenge, give it a shot, otherwise I'd recommend approaching with caution.
Final Grade: 8.5/10