Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure Review
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure was first announced last summer, in the wake of the successful puzzle/adventure title Professor Layton and the Curious Village. As a result, the assumption about Henry Hatsworth was that it would be nothing but a knock-off of that sleeper hit game. Since then, Henry Hatsworth has proven itself to be a fast-paced, side-scrolling action/platformer that aside from the quirky Victorian context has little in common with the more pensive Professor Layton.
The game follows the adventures of Henry Hatsworth, the world's greatest and best-dressed adventurer. With the aid of his entrepreneurial assistant Cole, Hatsworth embarks on a quest to find the pieces of a mythical Golden Suit said to imbue its wearer with special powers. To add to the drama, also looking for the suit is Hatsworth's rival, the dangerous and persistent Weaselby.
The game consists of two equally engaging realms—the “real” world of Tealand and the mysterious Puzzle Realm (action/platform mode and puzzle mode)— that work remarkably well together. Each mode has its own power meter that's filled by playing its opposite. This means while you're navigating the “real” world and whacking enemies, you're building up your puzzle meter which gives you access to puzzle mode. Conversely, you build up your real world Super Meter in puzzle mode by playing a Tetris-y match three game. It's a constant back and forth between the two that not only keeps things interesting but provides much-needed breaks from the real world where you'll mostly be jumping. And jumping. And jumping. The real world also presents you with enemies to bash in the form of ballet-dancing skeletons, sword-wielding knights and blue blobby guys, and you can look for treasure if you want to but did I mention there's a lot of jumping?
Aside from jumping and finding gems by opening chests and defeating enemies, throughout the game are hidden treasure rooms found in swirly puzzle vortexes. The sole purpose of these rooms is to fill your pockets with valuables which you can use to buy upgrades in Cole's Shop of Puzzle Realm-Inspired Goods. These upgrades are important to your success; with them you can power up your melee and projectile attacks or increase your likelihood of finding powerups. The upgrades rock but the coolest item you gets comes to you for free. Your assistant Cole builds you a Robot Suit that makes you temporarily invincible and increases the power of your attacks. You'll want to save the Robot Suit for those really hairy parts of the game though because it doesn't last long and can only be used when your Super Meter is completely full.
The Super Meter is filled by jumping into the Puzzle Realm where multicolored blocks chug slowly up the screen. You eliminate blocks and build your Super Meter by matching three blocks of the same color horizontally or vertically. Sounds easy? Well, it's not as easy as you might think. Your time is limited by the puzzle meter and you'll have to work constantly to remove enemy blocks. When enemies go down in the platformer portion of the game, they become block enemies in puzzle mode. If you don't match and remove these pesky little critters, they'll reappear in the real world and attack you again at an inopportune time. Thankfully, not all the blocks are against you. The Freeze Time, Double Damage and Area Damage blocks make enemies that much easier to eliminate while Super Meter crystal blocks fill your Super Meter up at top speed and Heart and Hat blocks keep you alive longer.
With its platforming, puzzling, upgrading and battling, Henry Hatsworth at first seems like a quintessentially fun and unique gaming experience. It's easy to learn, full of clever and inventive characters and boasts top-notch sound from the absurdly nonsensical “hemhawhrm” voiceovers to the quirky musical score that reminds me alternately of Katamari Damacy and Loco Roco. With so much going for it, why do I say “at first”? Because starting about midway through the second world, progressing through the game becomes increasingly dependent on jumping. Each level gets exponentially more difficult as you encounter a seemingly endless variety of torturous platform sequences. You'll see platforms that move back and forth and up and down, platforms that crumble, platforms that vanish, platforms that bounce and platforms that'll make you slide right under other platforms which will crush you like a grape... I know some gamers miss the days of the maddening old school platformer; I'm just not one of them. For me nothing dampens the fun factor like being forced to redo a level twenty-five times due to repeatedly missing one nigh-impossible jump.
Aside from the level design forcing me to play through the same levels over and over, the limited number of enemy types added to rather than relieved the monotony. The game takes place on four very different worlds but for the most part, the same enemies are recycled in all of them. Happily, the boss fights are more diverse and offer more fun. They're also wonderfully ridiculous. I challenge you to name one other game where you're asked to fight off a Victorian lady with smoker's throat driving a giant mechanical cake or a crusty old guy in a wheelchair wielded by his gargantuan nurse.
On the surface, Henry Hatsworth comes across as something casual gamers will enjoy and it is, for the first 25% of the game. After that, in spite of the casual puzzle element, cute story and creative characterization, enjoyment of the game can be seriously undermined by levels that feel like they were designed by sadists. Ultimately, the game requires more skill and frankly, more patience than many gamers, casual or otherwise, will be able to muster.