What a spiffing mad game this is. Half Mega Man, half Bejeweled, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is a puzzle platformer that takes the Nintendo DS literally, allowing you to switch between two entirely different game genres on the handheld's two screens.
At first glance, however, the game looks like a shameless Professor Layton knock-off. Henry Hatsworth is an elderly English gentleman with a soft spot for dapper suits, bowler hats and tea. He finds a legendary golden hat deep within a jungle, Indiana Jones style, that opens a portal between the real world and the puzzle realm. Under the guidance of his young aid, Cole, (hence the Professor Layton knock-off comment), Henry sets off in search of the rest of the legendary suit, in a race against his bitter rival, the equally posh Weasleby.
It's bonkers, of course, but that's the point. In fact, the game's full of contradictions. The cute art style, at times hilarious dialogue and nonsensical Animal Crossing voiceovers suggest it's a title for mainstream gamers, and yet the 2D platforming and puzzling gets incredibly difficult later in the game. Unlike Professor Layton, Henry Hatsworth won't keep the attention of the lovely ladies from Girls Aloud for long.
On the top screen Henry Hatsworth plays out like a standard 2D platformer. Movement is governed by the d-pad, Y does a melee attack, A does a ranged attack (a gun shot to begin with) and B jumps. There are plenty of platforms to navigate and loads of enemies to thwack before getting to the end of each stage and fighting a boss, usually the villainous Weasleby in a crazy contraption or one of his barmy henchmen.
But this only tells half the story. While you're busy precision jumping, a Bejeweled-esque puzzle game plays out on the DS' bottom screen. As you're platforming, the blocks slowly move upwards. The idea is to shift blocks left and right in order to match three of a kind, destroying them in the process. The twist is that when you destroy enemies in the 2D world, they drop down and become blocks in the puzzle world. If they reach the top they reappear in the 2D world as annoying enemy blocks that follow Henry around and try and stomp on his head. This, as you'd expect, isn't good.
So you have to frantically keep switching between the two screens, by pressing the X button, to keep the monster blocks from reaching the top and escaping. When you do this the 2D action pauses, allowing you, thankfully, to pay full attention to the puzzle (The World Ends With You this is not). Then, when the timer runs out, it's back to the platforming sections, and you soldier on through the level. This to-ing and fro-ing between the two games makes Henry Hatsworth an incredibly unique experience, sometimes strange but always fun.
It gets much, much more complicated than that. By destroying power-up blocks in the puzzle realm you can affect the 2D realm. Firing Henry's weapon then quickly switching to the puzzle realm and creating chains increases the power and size of the shot. When Henry's super meter, which fuels his weapon ammo, is full you're able to touch the bottom screen with your thumb and activate Tea Time, transforming Henry into an invulnerable robot for a short period. The puzzle meter, which determines how long you can spend in the puzzle realm, is filled by destroying enemies in the 2D realm. In practice, both worlds enjoy a mutually beneficial relationship: you have to spend time in one to spend time in the other.
If that sounds like your cup of tea, then Henry Hatsworth is a great value buy: it's a penny shy of £20 (less online). There's five worlds to work through as well as a number of hidden levels to discover. And don't be fooled by the game's opening world, Mysteria, either. As soon as you reach Atlantia, the third world, the game decides to beat you into oblivion with swarms of enemies and fast-moving blocks. It transforms Henry Hatsworth into a hardcore Mega Man clone with puzzle elements, after beginning in a relatively breezy, casual fashion.
In fact, the game does get frustrating at times, in part because the platforming action isn't as good as it could have been. The graphics aren't brilliant, there aren't any particularly spectacular weapons, special powers or bosses to fight and the collision detection at times feels off. Indeed the experience occupies an odd space that's not rubbish by any stretch of the imagination, but not quite as good as the best 2D platformers on the DS. The puzzle realm, too, isn't fantastic - it is, after all, simply shifting blocks horizontally to make three of a kind. But the two come together to provide a combined experience that's better than if you played both separately.
So, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure doesn't quite reach Professor Layton brilliance, but it does an admirable job of trying. Publisher EA should be praised for creating such a unique game - the fusion of hardcore platforming and block-based puzzling isn't something we've ever seen before. It's cheap as chips, is perfect for the odd half-hour commute and, most importantly of all, is solid fun. A bizarre, and successful experiment.