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Hats Off to Henry Hatsworth
by Brad Shoemaker on
This DS-based combo platformer/puzzle game from EA Casual is extremely British and looks awesome.
It's called Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, and amazingly it's not actually some kind of Professor Layton rip-off. Instead it's a traditional 2D action platformer. It's also a match-three puzzle game in the style of Panel de Pon. The weird part is, both of these seemingly disparate styles of gameplay occur simultaneously, with your platforming antics taking place on the top screen while the puzzle board hangs out on the bottom screen.
Henry is a refined old English gentleman of leisure who wears a bowler hat and monocle. He can run, jump, and attack with a sword he pulls out of his cane (because what fine gentleman carries a cane without a sword in it?). The platforming is pretty much by-the-book in that regard. But every time you kill an enemy, it zooms down to the puzzle board and becomes a colored block along with all the other blocks. Like in any good puzzle game, those blocks are slowly inching upwards all the time, and if they start spilling into the platforming screen, they'll turn back into enemies and gang up on your ass. So every once in a while, you have to hit the X button to pause the platforming and get your puzzling on down below, before you can go back to the adventuring up top.
You have a limited amount of time to match and clear blocks governed by the meter on the left, though, so the game becomes a sort of balancing act as you fight enemies up top (adding to the blocks at bottom) and then expend your puzzle time trying to clear those blocks out without getting overwhelmed. The puzzle gameplay feeds back into the platforming, too, because clearing blocks fills up a special attack meter on the right that you can use to get more ammo and pop off special attacks.
Henry Hatsworth's style is super British and really endearing. In addition to the general class and refinement of the main character, there are some silly cultural touches in there. One of the special moves you can invoke with a full special meter is called Tea Time! When you hit that button, Henry sips tea in front of a frantically animating Union Jack background, and then turns into a giant steampowered robot that can flatten enemies and fly around the level. I mean, what happens when you sip on some Earl Grey?
It's also easy for a video game nerd such as myself to get excited about Henry Hatsworth because the game is being created by all of seven people down at EA's Tiburon studio, which is primarily only known for Madden and other sports stuff. It's got clever design, it hearkens back to oldschool genres like platformin' and puzzlin', and it's being made by hardly anyone at all--Henry Hatsworth has "little game that could" written all over it. Look for it in early '09.