Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure
  • Genre:
    • Platformer
  • Platform:
    • Nintendo DS
  • Developer:
    • Electronic Arts
  • Publisher:
    • Electronic Arts
  • Released:
    • US 03/17/2009
    • UK 03/20/2009
Score: 80%

This review was published on 04/14/2009.

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is quite a puzzling adventure, indeed. It mixes a 2D side-scrolling platform game with a Tetris Attack clone. That might sound like a bad idea, but you'd be surprised at how well it performs. Here's how it works: the top screen handles the side-scrolling aspect, and the bottom screen is the puzzle one. You only ever control one screen at a time, switching between them at the press of a button. When you're controlling the puzzle screen, all action on top screen comes to a halt. The bottom screen, however, is constantly in motion, even when you're not controlling it. Touch-screen controls aren't used, so you can rely on old fashioned methods.

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Any enemies you defeat or items you pick up will automatically make their way to the bottom screen in the form of blocks. To actually acquire the items and get rid of the baddies, you'll have to switch into the puzzle screen and bust those blocks. You need not worry about regular blocks scrolling off the top edge of the bottom screen; you're only concerned with those enemy and item blocks. If you wait too long to destroy enemy blocks, they'll go back to the top screen to haunt you as malformed block specters. Suffice it to say, you want to avoid that. This process will seem to be an annoyance at first, but destroying enemy blocks is the primary method to fill up your Super Meter, and you'll need that thing filled up to take on the tougher challenges the game has to offer. As for items, there's the basic heart (restores health) and hat (grants extra lives), but there's also a wide variety of power-ups. An example would be the thunderbolt; activating it will shock all enemies on the top screen, not to mention destroy all the same color blocks in the bottom screen.

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Henry Hatsworth is the personification of how the world views the British; old men who obsessively polish their monocles. Hailing from Tealand (the game's version of England), Henry is a gentlemen treasure hunter, an old world explorer. He discovers a golden hat of power which allows him to enter the Puzzle Realm, a world of differently colored blocks. It also makes him younger. In practical game play terms, this means you temporarily extend your maximum health meter when playing as young Henry, with silver hearts. However, losing your silver hearts will change you back into old Henry. This is bad, not just due to the reduction in health; you completely lose your Super Meter, as well. Henry can become young again if you, the player, fill his Super Meter up to about half of its maximum capacity. That restores all your health, too, so being young has a pretty big incentive, other than the obvious.

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Your main projectile weapon is the gun, which uses a bit of the Super Meter per shot. It's not very powerful or impressive, but you do get other projectile weapons later on, such as the bomb and boomerang. You swap between projectile weapons much like in old-school Castlevania games; pick up an item randomly dropped during the level to swap it with the currently equipped projectile weapon. It's a nice homage, but it can leave you in quite a pickle if you swapped for a weapon that is rather ineffective for your current situation. If you switch to the puzzle screen and destroy blocks while there are still projectile shots on the top screen, they'll get a power boost, often growing in size. Your puny bullets will transform into huge balls of destructive energy.

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When your Super Meter is full, you can initiate a little something the British like to call "Tea Time." The cheery old chap will summon a giant fighting robot through the power of tea, granting you the capability to totally obliterate anything in your path for a limited amount of time. You're also invincible during this period, probably because of the fact that you're tucked safely within a giant robot. Being in the robot drains the Super Meter, and once it runs out, you'll revert back to your old self. You might think that this is over-kill, but trust me when I say that you'll need it. The game will often force you to fight hordes of beastly creatures, and even giant fighting robots powered by tea may not be enough.

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Aside from Henry and his boy assistant, Cole, the game sports a colorful cast of characters. They all end up as bosses you fight at the end of a world, each with their own gimmick. Almost all the fights are really over-the-top in some way, like the narcissistic air pirate that combats his foes by singing opera, or an old man in a wheelchair that has his gargantuan nurse do all of the dirty work. Audible gibberish can be heard whenever a character speaks, very much like in the Banjo-Kazooie games. These sound bites are entertaining, for the most part, and add to the humorous nature of the game.

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Each world you complete nets you another piece of the mythical golden suit once worn by The Gentleman, a legendary man whose impeccable sense of style in the wardrobe allowed him to rule the world, or something. They'll grant you new, permanent abilities that often increase the amount of areas you can explore, as well as make your adventures a bit easier. Revisiting old levels with new abilities might reveal secret paths that lead to alternate level exits, and these lead to optional levels, a bit similar to how Super Mario World did it. Some of the abilities appear to be heavily inspired by the Mega Man X series; any fan of those games will instantly recognize the dash and wall-climb.

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The levels are varied and well designed, with a lot of imaginative environments. However, the first few worlds of the game might seem a tad bit on the underwhelming side, but rest assured, things quickly pick up as you move along. One thing in particular: the difficulty. Don't be surprised if you find yourself sweating bullets trying to best the secret levels. My one gripe is that the levels tend to go on for far too long. I'm not saying I want a shorter game, though; just one with more pauses in between the action. I think shorter individual levels would enhance replay value, too.

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There's a shop from which you can purchase various upgrades with the money you pick up on your journey. The shop strictly specializes in upgrades; you might think that means there isn't much to buy, but you'd be wrong. You can increase your melee damage, ranged damage, maximum hearts, and a ton of other stuff. It's all quite expensive, too, so you'll most likely spend the entire game trying to earn enough allowance to maximize your stats.

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I must say, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is one delightful game. I didn't expect a game like this to come out of the same division in Electronic Arts that handles the release of sports games almost exclusively. The only thing holding this game back is that it homes in on an ailing demographic: the old-school gamer. With its high level of difficulty and lack of anything to make newer gamers feel at home, you'd be surprised at how few will find a game like this enjoyable. Technically speaking, this isn't too original of a game, either. It's more like a melting pot of good ideas that have never been all in one game before. Regardless, this is one game to check out. I highly recommend it.

Word Count: 1,291

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