|System: DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: EA Tiburon||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Electronic Arts||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 17, 2009||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Adam Brown
September 2, 2008 - Mixing two or more different game genres into a single experience is a tantalizing prospect. The goal is often to take the best parts of each genre and somehow get them to coexist coherently. Unfortunately, most of the time, the end result isn't as grand as it should have been. Frequently, one genre ends up playing better than the others, the genres don't work well together, or the entire game suffers due to the splicing together of the different genres.
While there are plenty of examples of how this hasn't worked out in the past, EA is poised to deliver a title that might just manage to get the formula right. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (HHPA) focuses on an aged, monocle-wearing treasure hunter who is constantly in search of riches. After hearing about a mythical suit of armor that was used to control a parallel puzzle realm that happens to be full of treasure, Henry naturally sets out to find its scattered pieces. Upon discovering his first piece, a golden bowler, a rift is created that links his realm with the puzzle realm. Now to return the world to normal, and to collect some loot, Henry must find the remaining pieces of the suit and seal the puzzle realm away once again.
While the story is a little ridiculous, purposefully so, the gameplay is what takes center stage in HHPA. Being on the DS, the game takes full advantage of the system's two screens. The top screen has Henry platform jumping and attacking foes with a variety of weapons in the normal realm. However, the bottom screen is reserved for the puzzle-based action of the puzzle realm. Players are only able to control one realm at a time but can easily switch between them at any point with a simple button press.
Both realms are played in mostly straightforward fashions. On the top screen, Henry will need to traverse two-dimensional levels, time jumps, take out enemies, and explore various environments. When playing in the puzzle realm, players will have a set time limit in which to horizontally swap blocks, creating strings of three with the same color to make them disappear. This part plays very similarly to another DS puzzler, Planet Puzzle League. Where this game gets interesting, and looks to buck the trend of previous genre mixing titles, is in how actions in each of these realms affects the other.
The amount of synergy found when switching between the two realms seems very promising. When an enemy is destroyed in the upper screen, its essence will appear in the puzzle realm. Players will then need to destroy this enemy block before it reaches the top of the bottom screen or it will reappear in the top screen as a stronger enemy that will attack Henry. Power ups found while platforming will also enter the puzzle realm, laying in wait for the player to choose when to unleash its abilities by destroying it. There are even some tricks that can be performed, if you manage to time it just right. If you fire off some rounds from Henry's weapon and switch to the puzzle realm while they are still on-screen, every set of blocks you destroy will make these projectiles larger and deadlier. Even some boss battles on the top screen will require some timely puzzle realm maneuvers. The one we were able to play through had us facing off against a singer. When he sang, his notes would appear in the puzzle realm, with their destruction leading to a group of adoring fans attacking the singer.
Power-ups, enemies, and tricks aside, Henry himself can be altered and upgraded through block destruction in the puzzle realm. The puzzle realm has two sets of meters, one for your time limit and the other for Henry. When empty, Henry looks like an old time adventurer. Once the meter fills for the first time, Henry becomes significantly younger and his abilities get noticeable upgrades. Fill the meter a second time and Henry will drink a glass of tea and transform into a massive robot for a limited time, with the ability to swat away enemies with ease. However, after the time limit runs out, Henry will turn back into his original, old timer form. Choosing when to switch between realms, when to use power-ups, and when to upgrade Henry can be tricky, but it looks to add a significant amount of strategy and depth to the title.
HHPA won't be short on content either since it is set to contain five distinct worlds and over thirty levels. We were also told that meticulous gamers would be able to uncover more than a dozen hidden levels as well. While this title still has quite a bit of time to go before its release in 2009, it already feels fairly balanced and was definitely a blast to play. My only major issue with the title is that it is being placed under the banner of an EA casual game. From my limited time with the title I can already tell, if played properly, HHPA could potentially overwhelm more casual gamers. Either way, this is certainly one upcoming DS game that I would suggest keeping an eye on as its release date approaches.
CCC Staff Contributor