What happens when you let EA create an incredibly casual-styled platforming game by combining platformer goodness with major parts of Puzzle League? The answer? British stereotypes. One glance at Henry Hatsworth’s box art and it seems safe to assume that Henry Hatsworth is a casual puzzler starring an old British guy drinking tea. How far away is that from the actual game itself? Well, let’s sit down and casually discuss this over some tea: it’s time to review Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure.
I’m not going to waste much time with this and just get to the important part right away: the idea to mix puzzle games with action platformers was a stroke of genius. While it might sound incredibly odd to mix a typical puzzle game like Tetris Attack, or Puzzle League if you will, with an action platformer, Henry Hatsworth shows us incredibly well the oddest pieces of gameplay can come together without a single problem.
On the top screen we play as Henry Hatsworth as he makes his way through the gaming world, searching for treasure, jumping over obstacles, and fighting monsters. Whenever you kill monsters on the top screen they’ll fall into the puzzle pieces on the screen below. As the puzzle slowly moves upwards in typical Puzzle League fashion, monsters get a chance to come back up and attack you again. Again, like Puzzle League, aligning three panels makes them disappear, this also counts for panels containing monsters in them.
The interaction between the two parts of gameplay doesn’t stop there either. After picking them up, power ups and items move to the lower screen where you’ll need to activate them by clearing their panels. By playing the puzzle you get to charge a special gauge which allows you to transform to a strong safari costume. If you’ve filled the special gauge up fully you unlock the Tea Time power, which cuts the game away to a short animation of Henry drinking tea with stereotypical British characters before turning into a Union Jack robot supported by heavy metal powers.
With a smooth and intuitive control scheme and some brilliant level design, Hatsworth managed to turn itself into one of the biggest surprises for me on the DS. First of all, the game isn’t much of a casual game at all. It’s a lengthy adventure by itself, packed with some incredibly challenging hidden levels. There’s an unlockable hard mode, which is incredible considering how challenging the later levels play out on the normal difficulty. One of my few minor complaints about the game are in fact about the difficulty of the game though, about halfway through there’s a massive difficulty spike. It feels unnatural and odd as the first half has you racking up extra lives, whereas the second half has you burn right through them. There are several points near the end in particular that were downright frustrating, and this is not counting the hidden bonus levels that are even harder.
Speaking of unnatural, Henry Hatsworth is almost unnaturally charming. Almost everything about the game in terms of design fits in brilliantly, no matter how much it often feels like it really shouldn’t. Puzzle League blocks, giant robots, heavy metal, an old man pausing to drink tea, cute monsters with skull faces, they’re all part of a colorful puzzle that brilliantly comes together as a whole. It is almost a shame that it’s that exact charm is what makes it look like a simpler, more streamlined experience. It makes me wonder if the game was intentionally released to appeal a non-gaming crowd or if it was an unintentional screw-up. As it is, it’s very hard to convince people who the simple puzzling look of the game is just a part of the appeal of a challenging and fun action-packed platforming experience.
I’d go as far as saying that no DS collection would be complete without a copy. If you can get your hands on this title, I’d highly recommend looking into it.