If there’s one question we here at GB Towers ask ourselves more than ‘when is the next comic going to be finished’ it’s ‘why oh why aren’t there more leading English game characters’? Despite playing a major part in creating the games industry as we know it, this land of hope and glory has had very few game characters to be proud of. Sure Miner Willy and Sabreman did their bit in the 80s and Lara Croft flew the flag after the Playstation era with her quaint mansion and plummy accent but what we have been noticeably lacking is someone with a good old-fashioned bowler hat, monocle or a taste for afternoon tea. For this reason our caps are cheerfully doffed in the direction of those fine gentlemen at EA Tiburon who have stepped into the breach with their thoroughly English hero, Henry Hatsworth.
At first the title ‘Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure’ may sound like a poor clone of Professor Layton, hastily developed to cash in on the erstwhile sleuth’s hit DS puzzler. In actual fact the games and characters couldn’t be more different; instead of following in Layton’s puzzle solving footsteps, Hatsworth’s first adventure is an interesting platform/puzzler hybrid. The storyline is simple but fun: Henry is a member of the Pompous Adventurers Club and is currently their highest ranked adventurer, but his rival, #2 Weasleby will stop at nothing to take his place. At the beginning of the game you find a mystical golden bowler hat which makes Henry younger and gives him special powers and from here you’ll need to help him search for more treasures to keep his place as number one.
What you get here is essentially two games in one. On the top screen you control Henry as you would in any standard platform title, running, jumping and hitting enemies that stand in your way as you search for each level’s exit. The bottom screen is used for a Tetris attack/Panel de pon style block puzzler, where you slide coloured blocks together with the stylus to make them disappear before they reach the top of the screen. On their own, these two elements would be amusing yet fairly average but it’s the way the two ‘worlds’ interact and influence each other that make this game such a shining example of how two unconnected genres can work together. The rules governing this synergy are simple and consistent. As enemies are defeated in Henry’s world you build up a time meter which lets you switch to the puzzle world, and here you can then fill a super meter (which, when activated, temporarily powers up Henry’s abilities) by destroying blocks. The other twist is that other power-ups, like extra health, lives and so on along with any enemies you kill, appear as blocks in the puzzle realm and are lost or transported back to the real world if you fail to get rid of them before they then reach the top of the screen. It may sound confusing at first, but with a small amount of playtime any player will become accustomed.
The graphical style also remains consistent in both worlds and the cartoony graphics belie the depth on offer in each game style. The game is full of nods to other platform games, from Mario to Megaman which should please any of the hardcore crowd that can look past the cutesy style enough to pick this up. And there are the amusing Banjo-Kazooie-style voices Henry and other characters have which sound like garbled English and are quite hilarious to listen to whenever the story scenes take place.
The only faults found lie within the game’s difficulty. It starts off very mild, almost mind-numbingly so, but bizarrely ramps up when you reach the first boss, just a few levels in. Once you get past them the game eases off again but this sudden and inconsistent spike could easily put someone off if their just giving the game a quick look. It’s also quite a brief affair, and while it has plenty of variety and some clever design in its levels, there aren’t enough of them to last much longer than five or six hours. Still despite this it is very good fun while it lasts, and there are plenty of secrets to find along the way.
This is definitely one of the best original titles to come out of EA since their creative reboot under John Ritticello. It’s also an early contender for handheld game of the year and among the best of the many hidden gems in the DS catalogue. So if you need a break from realistic shooters and are mature enough to look past the colourful graphics you’ll find Henry Hatsworth to be a charming and addictive little game. Here’s hoping the game sells like hot cakes so we can get another chance to go adventuring with Henry & Co. Tally ho!