Peanut butter and jelly is a combination that truly baffles me. Almost everyone I’ve known loves to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. How is it that two average tastes came together to create such a delightful treat? I was equally vexed when I heard that EA’s (of all companies) latest handheld title was going to mix the puzzle and platformer genres. I knew that Puzzle Quest created an addictive and unique experience, but I speculated that mixing platforming and puzzles would lead to disastrous results. Boy was I wrong.
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, as the back of the box says, is two games joined at the hinge. The top screen is where all the 2-D sword-swinging and jumping takes place. You guide Henry throughout 30+ levels battling the evil puzzle enemies with a combination of classic platforming elements from: Mega Man, Castlevania, Mario and more. On its own, the top screen is an average throwback that doesn’t do too many new things (the end has some brilliant platforming) and focuses on combat more than other 2-D adventures. Each stage has a room (up to two or three) where Henry Hatsworth must defeat all of the enemies who appear before moving on. These rooms, while challenging, are like an enlarged period at the end of a sentence, distracting the gamer from the top screen’s strongest point, the platforming. The level designs are mostly linear, with secret worlds and goodies to find, but each one offers a different challenge to the player, whether it’s scaling walls or bouncing on zeppelins.
Since the game tends to focus on combat, the boss battles go further than your standard jump on the head three times to win fare. Each world has a mid-section boss battle and a final boss battle. The mid-section pits Henry Hatsworth against the main antagonist and these encounters channel the glory days of Dr. Robotnik (Eggman for you purists). The end world bosses are all unique and they ooze with the game’s abundant quirkiness. The best part about the top screen is that, on its own, it’s frustratingly difficult. Some of the levels or bosses will have you going through lives like a Game Gear eats batteries. It isn’t because of cheap factors like the controls or hit detection, but because some jumps are risky and the enemy placement is brutal.
The bottom screen is where the puzzle realm resides. By defeating enemies on the top screen, Henry Hatsworth sends them back to the puzzle realm and charges his puzzle meter. Once it’s high enough, Henry can access the puzzle world by pushing the X button. This world consists of a constantly upward moving puzzle board with a variety of colored blocks. The enemies defeated earlier reside here (as well as items and some power-ups) as colored blocks of different shapes and sizes (depending on the enemy) and they eagerly await their return to the top of the screen. If they reach the top, they return as blocks seeking vengeance on Mr. Hatsworth. However, Henry can fight back by shifting the puzzle blocks horizontally (the only direction) and matching three colored blocks together. This destroys the blocks (ala most generic gem/puzzle games) and defeats the puzzle enemy blocks, grants items or power-ups, and harnesses their power for his super meter. The super meter lets Henry access his special abilities, stay young (increasing his life), use sub-weapons, or if it’s full, utilize his ultra powerful robot suit (and enjoy a cup of tea while he is at it). Again, the puzzle game is average at best when used on its own. Its importance hinges on its interaction with the upper world.
Almost everything that Henry Hatsworth does in the upper world, affects the lower and vice versa. Henry can only access one world at a time, but the puzzle world is in a state of perpetual motion during his adventures. This keeps the pace of the game up without forcing the gamer to leave the game in an ambient state (it freezes when you access the puzzle realm). It may disrupt the flow of platforming from time to time, but the ability to affect the power of your bullets (while on screen), create platforms, and use items keeps it from becoming irritating.
While it seems Henry is the only one who can manipulate the puzzle world, it isn’t so. Certain enemies manipulate the puzzle world while you are battling them in the top; bosses throw down anchors that pull the screen up faster (freeing enemies quicker), wizards turn regular blocks into enemy blocks, and armored enemy blocks are locked into place. Not only is the top portion challenging, some sections of the game will have you fumbling to match three blocks together as enemies wreak havoc in both worlds.
The symbiotic relationship between the two games coupled with its charm and punishing difficulty, work together to bring a rare and wonderful experience to the DS. It’s hard to review the game with the normal compartmentalized standards. It isn’t the best looking or the best sounding, but it is one of the best games on the system. I am thoroughly impressed with EA. Their goal to bring something new to the table has given birth to the beautiful Mirror’s Edge, the terrifying Dead Space, and now Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure. With the release of Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars and Pokémon Platinum it’s likely that it will fall under the radar and that would be a shame. The game offers a challenging, entertaining (albeit short), and unique journey. Ignore the cutesy box art and EA logo and pick up the game , you won’t be sorry.
It may look like another kiddy DS title, but Henry Hatsworth delivers a new and classic gaming experience, all in one tasty package.
Not much is new, but the relationship between both games is throughly entertaining. Oh, and its sad when saving the world from a viral pandemic is easier than finding a golden suit.
The tunes are catchy because they are repeated throughout the adventure, but the voice work is..odd and often hilarious.
Its hard to beat in the first place, there are secret worlds to discover, and after beating the game a new difficulty is unlocked.
Henry Hatsworth takes two different genres and weaves them together into a quirky, funny, and rewarding adventure.