Review: Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (Nintendo DS)

180919bHenry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA
Genre: Action Platformer/Puzzle
Release Date: 03/18/2009

I feel as if I’ve spent my entire time here at Diehard GameFAN looking for a truly great DS game to review. However, every time I find a game that looks good, I end up disappointed or the game turns out to be a total disaster. This wasn’t the case for my PSP, as within a month of writing here, I found the awesome God of War: Chains of Olympus, which went on to win our PSP game of the year award. Still, I’ve found no such game for the DS. (There have been excellent games, but I’m never the one to review them.)

Thankfully, my wait is over. I’ve found a truly great, original title for the DS. It goes by the name of Henry Hatsworth.

Story

Legend has it that another world used to be connected to ours. This realm was filled to brim with all kinds of treasure, but also with armies of powerful monsters that threatened to overrun our world.

Thankfully, a magical golden suit was created that could seal this realm and prevent the monsters from overtaking mankind. Only the most sophisticated man on earth could don the suit, and he was so sophisticated that he managed to conquer the world. This man sealed the realm and saved the earth, but after his death, the pieces of the suit were scattered. Many cultured men have attempted to use the suit as a stepping stone to power, including Napoleon, but none have ever been able to duplicated the sophisticated man’s success.
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Flash forward to London in the 1800’s and we find Henry Hatsworth setting out to find the golden hat from this very suit. Believing the story of the hat’s curse to be nothing but hogwash, he find the hat and puts in on. Not only does the magic of the hat make Hatsworth twenty years younger, but it also breaks the seal that protects earth from the Puzzle Realm and releases monsters throughout the land.

Henry sets out to find the rest of the suit along with his trusted sidekick Cole, who runs a shop and digs up information. Along the way, Henry is thwarted by Weasleby, who is rival adventurer from The Adventurer’s Club. Ranked number two to Henry’s number one, this wealthy yet evil man tries to get the suit pieces first as well as hires assassins to take Henry out.

The story of the game manages to be charming thanks to the amusing characters that populate its world. There are some twists that you kind of see coming, but on the whole it serves as a decent vehicle for the game’s mechanics, and does it’s job well. If nothing else, you will love the character of Henry and loath the character of Weaselby.

Graphics

Hatsworth is filled to brim with colorful levels and great animations.

There are five different themed worlds to explore. You’ll traverse jungles, ocean floors, volcanoes, the puzzle realm, and even Tealand. Each of these areas is brimming with personality and it only gets better as it goes. The Puzzle Realm looks fantastic and features puzzle block inspired set pieces and walkways. The backdrops also add a lot of depth to each world, especially during boss fights. The final boss is a graphical wonder to behold on the DS with great effects and detail.

Speaking of effects, you have everything from laser beams to bombs, to air ripples, etc. Each of these looks great and is definitely above the norm for DS games.

Character animations are another hit. Hatsworth is brimming with personality and each enemy has a full compliment of facial expressions. When you match an enemy piece with gems, a look of horror comes across they’re face as they are destroyed. The game is full of nice touches like that.

There’s also a strong mechanical/steam punk vibe towards the end which ends up looking pretty darn good.

All told, this is one of the best looking 2-D games on the DS. In fact, I’d say only New Super Mario Brothers has it beaten in that department.

Audio

The music in this game is awesome. If you don’t want to take my word for it, you’ll find it available for free download on the game’s website. The music features a distinct British feel that fits the atmosphere. During boss battles or high tempo moments, you’ll find harder music that also is great to listen to. For instance, the end boss theme is one of the coolest electric guitar tunes I’ve heard since Mega Man 2. (Though nothing comes close to that game.)
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Rather than feature voice acting, the game goes for the Banjo-Kazooie approach. This means a lot of mumbling. Now, if you ask anyone who knows me, they’ll tell you that I hate this trend more than anyone on the planet. I couldn’t stand it in Banjo and especially in Okami, despite both being high quality games. (Although I think Okami is a bit overrated.) However, this game pulls it off in a way that I actually enjoyed. It manages this by slipping in actual words every sentence or so. These words aren’t the words you read below, but instead are comical bits that fit various British stereotypes. Cole, the young kid, randomly says “right-o” and “govna” whenever he talks. I never stopped getting a kick out of this.

I mentioned how the game had a bunch of nice touches in the previous section. My favorite of these actually comes whenever you die. Hatsworth proclaims “poppycock.” Tell me that isn’t absolutely awesome.

Gameplay

Ooh boy. Where to start?

Henry Hatsworth is two games interwoven so completely that everything you do in one realm is reflected in the other.

On the top screen, you’ll play a well crafted action platformer. Henry can leap from platform to platform with the best of them, and will eventually find upgrades similar to those from the Mega Man series, such as dashing and climbing up walls. He can use his sword to strike enemies, and has the standard butt stomp and upwards strike. The game also uses a fantastic juggle system that allows you to knock an enemy up into the air and continue the hurt. Doing so can help you take out tough enemies in one combo if you do it right. It also allows you to knock more gems from their corpses. You’re also given three different ranged attacks. Your gun will fire pellets, which can be charged into huge fire balls. (more on charging later.) You can also use up more energy to unleash a devastating laser beam that will hit a large section of the screen and deal a lot of damage. Another weapon you’ll get is the bomb. 952300_20090326_790screen010These fire at an angle and are exceptionally useful against shielded enemies. These can be upgraded into much more powerful versions of themselves that deal more damage than almost any other attack in the game. The special attack for this weapon is a powerful energy blast that surrounds Henry. You can’t move while this is happening, but any enemy caught in the blast is going to feel the pain. Lastly, you’ll get a boomerang that will strike enemies multiple times and head back in your direction. When this gets upgraded, it can turn into a massive homing boomerang of death that will hit an enemy until it dies and search for another until it runs out. The special ability for this is a shield of about five boomerangs that surround Henry and damage anything that touches him. Also, when your special meter is filled up, (more on that in a bit.) you can activate Tea Time. Tea Time involves Henry calling forth a giant robotic suit that he can use to crush enemies. This suit has its own special attacks and will be upgraded over time.

Upon completing a level, you’ll have the option of going to Cole’s store. There, you’ll have access to upgrades for your attacks, hearts, and puzzle meter.

Speaking of the puzzle realm, its time to show you how it works. On the touch screen exists the puzzle realm. Here, you’ll have to move gems around to create either vertical or horizontal rows of three or more. This plays our much like Tetris Attack in that you can move pieces as many times as you want, and pieces will fall down after you’ve cleared a row. There will be empty spaces all around, and you’ll use these to make more rows are move a piece around to a more favorable spot. New pieces slowly rise from the bottom of the screen, but they don’t automatically fill the screen each time you clear some gems. This means you’ll occasionally have an empty screen on the bottom. You can enter the puzzle realm at any time by pressing the X button. You can use the stylus if you want to manipulate the gems, or use the directional pad and face buttons. I’d suggest the d-pad, as you won’t have to be constantly holding the stylus or taking it in and out of it’s slot.

Now, how are these realms connected exactly?

For one, every enemy you defeat has their soul transported to the puzzle realm. They will either become a new block, or change a regular block. If these enemy blocks are allowed to reach the top of the screen, they will re enter the platforming section as thwomp inspired enemies that chase you down and try to crush you. There are several different enemy block types. Each has a different effect when they reach the top. Also, several of these blocks greatly affect the puzzle itself. There are enemies that will speed up the rise of the block, huge ones that will take a large part of the screen up, some that can’t be moved, and still others that can only be matched with like enemy gems. Any time you match gems, you fill up your super meter. If you create chains or clear enemy blocks, the amount of super meter energy you get will be increased. The super meter is directly connected to the action sections. For one, the super meter is your ammo for all ranged weapons.952300_20090326_790screen011 Also, using special attacks requires large amounts of super energy. More importantly, you’ll notice you have two types of hearts on the top screen. Silver hearts represent the power of Hatsworth’s hat. (one of the mystical suit pieces you get at the beginning.) As long as you have your silver hearts, Hatsworth is twenty years younger, and is a bit more spry. You can only activate Tea Time when your super meter is filled and you are young. If you take enough damage to lose your last silver heart, Hatsworth will turn old and lose a ton of super energy. If you will it back up to the first level, he will regain two silver hearts as well as be able to regain any extra you’ve unlocked through the store. Any items you find will be transported to the puzzle realm, and you’ll need to match them in order to activate the abilities. Hearts will increase your life, hourglasses will refill your puzzle meter (not to be confused with the super meter), lighting bolts will clear the board of any like colored pieces as well as damage any enemy on the top screen, exes will clear a vertical or horizontal row on the puzzle screen depending on how you made your row of three as well as increase the strength of Henry’s melee attacks, and finally, hats will grant extra lives. As I mentioned before, you can upgrade ranged attacks. You do this by firing off a shot and entering the puzzle realm before it hits. Matching gems will increase the power of your shot. Three matches is what you’ll need to hit to get it to the max. This technique is invaluable at times. You won’t be able to spend as much time as you want in the puzzle. On the left of the screen is your puzzle meter that slowly drains as you are in the realm. You can partially refill it by making chains, but the best way to fill it is actually on the top screen. The puzzle meter will refill when you’re above slowly and will increase greatly with melee attacks.

For all the reasons above, the gameplay is unlike anything you’ve ever played before. This is a true duality and it works perfectly. The game also features tight controls, awesome level design, dozens of enemy types, tough bosses, secret levels, and anything else you could want in a platformer. Both sections are well done, but together combine to create something that is truly exceptional. There is a huge amount of depth here, yet it is as simple to play as any platformer or puzzle game you’ve ever played.

Replayability

Just playing through the game once and finding all of the secret levels (which is recommended.) will take you anywhere from ten to twelve hours, which is pretty good for a portable platformer.

Once you’ve completed the game, you have the option of starting up “gentlemen’s mode”. In this mode, you’ll keep all of your upgrades and abilities, but the difficulty is jacked up to eleven. For one, enemies deal more damage. The real problem comes in that your puzzle meter will drain faster than the air out of a popped balloon. Not only will this make it harder to take advantage of the puzzle realm, but you’ll also have to contend with puzzle enemies up the wazoo. For the completionist, hardcore gamer, or someone looking an insane mode, this will no doubt satisfy.

There aren’t any multiplayer modes or online capabilities to speak of. Usually this would be a bad thing, but the single player experience has been so mastered that the game is actually worth multiple playthroughs. Just like how we all played Super Mario Bros. 3 time and time again, Henry Hatsworth will drag you back again and again.

Balance

If you were expecting this to be an easy game because of the colorful visuals and charming personality, then you are a great fool.

The game starts off easy enough, with Henry running roughshod over enemies, but it quickly picks up the pace and never lets up. You’re constantly introduced to new enemy types and placed in perilous positions where a wrong timed jump or prioritizing one enemy over another will get you killed fast. This game offers the kind of old school challenge that hardcore gamers crave. It takes quick reflexes and a mastery of the game’s mechanics to survive. 952300_20090326_790screen025

At first, the puzzle realm feels like an easy way to take advantage of the game. You’ll use the power ups, the hearts, and generous puzzle meter to make sure you always stay in control. Towards the end, however, this becomes more and more something you’ll need to do just to survive. You’ll need the puzzle realm to keep Henry alive, and Henry to keep the puzzle meter flowing. It works great.

Still, the game never manages to be impossible. Each boss fight and level might take you several tries, but the feeling of accomplishment after each victory is second to none. Beating the final boss will result in you raising your arms in triumph. The game is never cheap, but always challenging.

Originality

While separately, the two realms seem like nothing more than well done copies of other games, together they create something unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

The platforming sections take the best from games like Mega Man and Mario, whereas the puzzle realm feeds off of Tetris Attack. Then, instead of just resting on these game’s laurel’s Henry Hatsworth takes it all up to the next level by adding more depth than you could ask for. The gameplay experience is truly unique.

We all know about Puzzle Quest, and how great the original game was. That game merged puzzles with an RPG format. However, it can’t even compare to how well platforming and puzzle have combine here.

If you want originality, you can’t do better than Henry Hatsworth.

Addictiveness

You might think that the constant switching from platformer to puzzle and back would severely disrupt the flow of the game.

On the contrary, it makes the game that much more engrossing and addicting.

With multitudes of tough enemies on the top screen and frantic gem swapping action on the bottom screen, this is one of the most frantically paced games I’ve ever played at times. When I wasn’t playing it, I was curious as to what was coming next. When I was playing it, I wanted to charge forward as fast as possible.

The challenge the game presents also makes it that much more addicting. If this game were a cakewalk, it might even become boring. Instead, each level is like a new mountain to climb and each boss is a worthy foe that must be bested.

You won’t be able to put this game down for long, and when you’re playing it, the hours will melt away.

Appeal Factor

The challenge makes this a perfect choice for hardcore gamers. If you’ve been looking for a touch trek through a well designed game, this is it, and gentlemen’s mode will only further fuel your desire to play this game, as it offers one of the toughest things I’ve played since God mode in the original God of War. 952300_20090326_790screen028

Even if you’re not into the challenge, the sheer uniqueness that is this game should hook you in. The gameplay is so fantastic, that it will engross anyone.

This game is truly for all ages as well. There isn’t any blood or swearing, and the characters are really likeable. This is a safe buy for children, while at the same time adults will have just as much fun.
In the end, it doesn’t matter if you’re old, young, casual, or hardcore. This game is worth your time.

Miscellaneous

What more is there to say about this game? It is amazing.

The DS has gotten a slew of high quality games in the past month. Don’t believe me? Ask Lucard about Pokemon Platinum or how about Matt about Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars? You could even go to Aileen about Fire Emblem and Boing Docomodake, as well as Mark about Peggle Dual Shot or even myself about Moon. These were all great games worth buying that have come out in early 2009.

As far as I’m concerned, they don’t hold a candle to Henry Hatsworth. This is already a GOTY candidate and the best game I’ve played in a long long time.

The Scores
Story: Good
Graphics: Classic
Audio: Great
Gameplay: Unparalleled
Replayability: Very Good
Balance: Classic
Originality: Unparalleled
Addictiveness: Classic
Appeal Factor: Classic
Miscellaneous: Unparalleled
Final Score: Incredible Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
th_diehardjackHenry Hatsworth is a one of a kind game featuring amazing gameplay, great presentation, a charming story, and a hefty challenge sure to please even the toughest gamer. You need to go out to the store and buy this game. You will not be disappointed. This is the best DS game I’ve every played.

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