Action Henk feels like a game I've played before. A million reviews could start out this way, but there's a definite deja vu here that I haven't felt in a long time. A side-scroller in which you must reach the finish line in each level in the shortest time possible, leaping, sliding, swinging and bouncing along the way, there's no denying the game has a hook: finish the stage then replay until you earn the highest accolades. I just feel rather indifferent about the whole thing despite the speedy gameplay allowing for plenty of learning and fastest-time chasing.
You're Henk, an action figure who has to run through a variety of themed levels (initially set inside a bedroom but soon going elsewhere). There's the loosest of stories tying it all together, but it's about as tight as a child's shoelace. This doesn't matter, as the core experience here is the running, and the butt-sliding, and the grappling-hook-swinging. The latter isn't immediately available, coming as pick-up in later stages, but throughout the game you'll have to master Henk's moveset.
Henk is all about speed: gathering it and then maintaining it to launch himself. The whole thing feels like a more momentum-based version of surprisingly good Xbox 360 freebie, Doritos Dash, mashed together with Sonic the Hedgehog. Sadly the visual design has more in common with the game sponsored by a cheesy triangle snack, with the world and characters in it looking so crudely styled they are borderline ugly (for my taste anyway). But that doesn't really matter as long as the platforming is good, and it is.
By butt-sliding down slopes Henk increases in speed. You then use this to make longer than normal jumps, or combine it with wall slides to reach areas that might have appeared out of reach. When to slide and when you come out of that move and transition into a run is key, as is timing the firing and release of the grappling hook. It's possible to completely lose Henk's speed if you badly time any of these things, or simply jump at the wrong moment, so repeated play of each stage is essential unless you get lucky the first time out.
Whereas games like Trials kept me interested long after I'd run through all of the stages, Action Henk doesn't have quite that same level of long-term appeal. There's certainly a learning curve here, and some players will become far better than others once skills and courses are mastered, but it all grew a little dull after a while. Most players will, I expect, lose interest well before they are good enough to challenge the top of the leaderboards. In Trials the top times served as an incentive to do better, aim higher and achieve what I didn't think was possible. In Henk I just don't have that desire to invest as much time.
Aside from competing for the best times, Action Henk also supports single-screen multiplayer, with the game view zooming out until players slip off the edge of the screen - outed players are re-spawned when the leader reaches the next checkpoint (albeit from a standing start). There's a definite touch of Micro Machines to Henk's multiplayer, with the front runner having to cope while the camera shows very little of what lies ahead. About half the 70-odd levels are fairly simple so you don't have to worry too much about players not knowing what they're doing, and the gameplay is easy enough for most to pick up and play. If you're someone who actually gets together with friends, Action Henk delivers on that front pretty well, at least in short bursts.
It's easy to like Action Henk. It does all the basic stuff well: simple to pick up, hard to master, fun, fast, colourful. Yet it feels like a fleeting interest. Like when I got diabolo (Google it) as a child. I thought it was brilliant, but soon grew bored of it and went back to playing Sonic on the Master System.
Versions Tested: Xbox One and PS4