Just like Alexey Pazhitnov, the guy who invented Tetris, we’re guessing the fellow behind Bejeweled will never get as much money as he should. The concept propelling the puzzle sensation has already played host to animals and knights, and now a crotchety old fellow named Henry Hatsworth. Mixing tile matching with an RPG has already worked well with Puzzle Quest, and now this charming DS exclusive is throwing platforming into the blender to see if it makes for a tasty drink.
The premise is slim yet endearing. Old man Hatsworth is on the tail end of an adventurous life when he sniffs the trail of one last treasure. It seems there’s a legendary suit of clothes that is said to give the wearer special powers and Henry is all for it. With a young protégé at his side he sets off to collect all the pieces of the outfit, but of course, there’s someone else who wants the prize and the race is on.
While the role-playing element was woven tightly into the Bejeweled structure in Puzzle Quest, the platforming in Henry Hatsworth is one half of a true duality. On the top screen you play a traditional platformer, and on the bottom the touch screen is perfect for sliding tiles in hopes of lining up three similar colors in a row.
The two are tied together with enemies. Defeat them in the platforming game and an enemy tile is added to the puzzle. Allow one of those enemy tiles to reach the top of the screen and they rematerialize in the action game as blocks that will relentlessly try to stomp you. The cycle repeats over and over until you reach the end of the level or defeat a boss, and it definitely keeps you on your toes.
The levels are well-designed, with plenty of secret areas to discover that are strewn with hidden treasure. Each themed level is broken up into multiple parts, and you can return to previously played areas with new abilities to pillage them for even more goodies. Trinkets and coins all add up to upgrade Henry’s attack power, weapons, and puzzle prowess.
Henry Hatsworth gives you great value in a single-player handheld game, but there’s not much to do once you’ve worked your way through it. Head-to-head battles combining platforming and puzzle solving would have been great, but it will apparently have to wait for the sequel.
The platforming isn’t revolutionary, but it’s still fun and deep. Henry begins with his basic staple of butt stomps and melee attacks, with the latter utilizing a juggle system that allows for combos. As the game progresses, and Henry recovers more pieces of the outfit, he gains new abilities like climbing walls and swimming underwater. Likewise, you can buy new attack upgrades with the gems and coins that you collect.
The puzzle element may look like a Bejeweled clone, but it’s actually much more simple. You can only move blocks horizontally, and there’s no limit to how far you can move each one. It’s practically impossible to make a mistake, and it makes the puzzle element a little too forgiving. This is a big deal, because not only do you use the puzzle element to stave off enemy attacks, but it also rewards Henry with special moves and allows him to transform into a massive, invincible robot. His mecha form is also upgraded as you complete missions, and overall, manipulating the puzzle is a fallback anytime things get difficult. How you balance the two is entirely up to your skill level at each.
The amount of time you can spend in the puzzle is set to a time limit, but the allotted time is pretty generous and it can also be upgraded. If you don’t lean on the puzzle to power up Hatsworth, the game presents a formidable platforming challenge. Dodging melee attacks and projectiles while an angry block tries to smash you will test the best players.
All things considered, Henry Hatsworth manages to do an amazing job with the platforming. The controls are tight, and there are plenty of upgrades to keep things moving. The hours peel away while playing, but multitasking is a huge part of the game, so if that’s not your forte be warned.
Henry is an interesting character, but it’s not like a monicled old coot in khakis hasn’t been done before. The rest of the cast look like they were ripped out of Dick Dasterdly’s universe. The steam machine motif has its charm, and the whacky cast of characters keeps things off-kilter. This game really works out the color palette of the DS, with vivid environments and cool transparencies. Toss in some great animation and you have all the elements for a fantastic-looking 2D game. The levels look great, but fail to break away from platforming conventions. The music fits the period, if that makes any sense, though more songs would be nice. It’s undoubtedly a drawback of the DS’ card medium, and the Banjo-Kazooie gibberish in favor of real dialogue is another concession.
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure really isn’t puzzling at all. Juggling between the two gameplay styles becomes second nature rather quickly and it’s all grounded by an incredibly fun platformer that will appeal to a wide audience. It’s the kind of game that can only work this well on the Nintendo DS, and despite a rather simple puzzle element, ends up being better than the sum of its parts. If you’re looking for your next DS fix, this one will have your head buried in it for days.