Henry Hatsworth was released on the Nintendo DS in March of 2009 by Electronic Arts. This hybrid of 2D platforming and puzzle games is definitely not a type of game I traditionally would associate with EA, the wealthiest video gaming designer and subject of ridicule for the �EA strategy�, which is the tendency to release the same game every year with minimal additions or improvements (Madden Football). I guess even cynical veterans can be surprised once in a while.
This game follows the expeditions of the very British gentleman Henry Hatsworth on a quest to find riches, because that is apparently all that rich English people have to do all day. That and talk in a hilariously stereotypical way. Hrummph Hrummpph and so on! It’s great stuff! Henry’s nephew Cole helps him with advice for dealing with the side effects of finding a mysterious hat on one such expedition. As with all stereotypes, Henry has a nemesis in �Name too long and British to remember now� Weasleby. What follows is a game that moves from stage to stage with new obstacles, enemies and puzzles.
The graphics in this game are the delightfully old-school 2D sprite. Good show! Everything from Henry to Cole to the variety of enemies is well animated and colorful. Henry squints so much in cutscenes, you would think he only has one eye, and that one is wearing a monocle. A true gentleman! I especially enjoy Hatsworth’s idle animation, in which he stops to clean his monocle and repeats. Idle animations are a lost art, I tell you. Henry attacks all enemies with his oddly powerful cane. Maybe it is covered in metal�
By fulfilling certain conditions, Henry will don an adventurer’s outfit, gain a sword for combat, more life and new special attacks. These attacks are great visual treats. From Hatsworth’s blunderbuss to more powerful weapons based on puzzle energy, the visual variety of attacks is very well done.
Music fits in equally well with the kooky presentation, with earthy tones for the adventure stages, triumphant themes for Hatsworth, and a suitable sinister yet funny theme for Weasleby. In fact this evil theme is probably some of the best DS music I’ve ever heard!
Sound effects are functional but don’t really stand out. The best non-voice effect is the �Poppycock!� that Henry Hatsworth shouts when he dies. If only they could have found a way to have someone say �Jackaninny!� my life would be complete.
I must mention the voices again though, as they are just so unique! All characters’ voices are in nonsense words, despite perfectly legible English being printed on screen. Henry’s sounds are like a typical British gentleman, Cole’s are screechy and not particularly funny (except for the occasional Righto! and Guvernor!), Weasleby’s sounds are grins and sneers, fitting right in with his character. Lastly, there is a character that you meet later on that is the epitome of the clueless old man, what with his Huh (?) Heh (?) and so on dialogue!
Gameplay in the Puzzling Adventure is much in the vein of Mario and similar platform fare. Henry makes his way from left to right (and occasionally up and down) until he reaches a treasure chest, signifying the end of the stage and lots of money! You encounter enemies along the way that serve as your obstacles and play a key part in this Adventure’s unique element: The Puzzle Realm.
The Puzzle Realm plays just like games like Tetris Attack and Puyo Puyo, with blocks moving from the bottom that you must match in at least 3 of the same color to eliminate them. All matches give Henry more super meter energy, which powers his projectile weapons, special attacks, and his youthful adventurer form mentioned earlier. You want to stay young often, as you have fewer attacks in regular form, less life causes you to die quicker, and your attacks are weaker. The super energy meter can max out, giving you access to robot mode. This �Tea Time!� mode finds you in a robotic suit with unique attacks and practical invincibility. You gain new attacks as you progress from level to level; my favorite of which is the huge laser array!
Enemies factor into this after you kill them in the platforming sections. They transform into face blocks of different colors. They become these face blocks if you just defeat them and let them fall off screen into the puzzle. Should you manage to juggle them by using up and attack plus careful timing, they will eventually flash, becoming benign puzzle pieces. Each enemy requires a different number of hits before they turn into a harmless piece, hence the need for different techniques for each enemy.
In the Puzzle Realm, you must eliminate the enemy blocks by matching before they reach the top. If they do, they will be able to attack you again. Much like the different enemies, these reemerged blocks attack in distinct ways. Tougher enemies come back as skull blocks which can track you in the sidescrolling segments, so be sure to watch their ascent, lest they get the drop on you, causing major headaches.
You can also find special blocks (mostly in bonus areas) designed to make block elimination easier. These include the lightning bolt, which removes all blocks of the same color when matching, often making for easy combos. The hourglass makes the puzzle scrolling stop for a few seconds, helping you to see any easy matches that tension might cause you to otherwise miss. The star block eliminates all blocks in the same row as the match, vertically or horizontally. There are also blocks that flash one color and can be used to make a match as well. Finally, matching heart blocks give one heart back and hat blocks give Hatsworth an extra life.
Wow, the gameplay section is probably a bit long, but I want potential players to know how Hatsworth plays. The game was fairly ignored and didn’t sell well, so I hope a through review might convince people to try it out!
Challenge-wise, this game is a bit surprising. It starts off fairly easy, with most enemies not even trying to hit you. It isn’t long before Henry runs into tougher enemies, bosses that require real strategy to defeat, and difficult platforming. I like the ever-increasing challenge, as if it was meant for old-school players. To succeed in this game often requires the player to keep enemies in reserve in the puzzle section, as matching them allows you to gain special attack energy quickly, which is vital for staying in adventurer mode and having those super energy attacks. Ideally you’ll have enough for robot mode, but it isn’t always that easy. I recommend you go into The Puzzling Adventure expecting to be challenged, or you might find yourself getting frustrated, especially during the later stages.
Replay value is high, with a harder mode available on successful completion of the game. In this mode, enemies do more damage and other usual difficulty increases. Luckily, you retain all your upgrades and money to help you in this mode’s increased challenge.
In summation, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is one of the best DS games available, both in creativity and pure fun. The characters are fun, the music’s great, and the concept is inventive. The game has a grand scale that is not often seen in handheld games. I hope that regardless of this game’s sales, more companies seek to combine game genres in other interesting ways. The future is full of possibilities. Personally I want a 2D beat-em-up/RPG again!