Electronic ArtsDeveloped By:
E (Everyone)Release Date:
March 17, 2009Screenshots: LinkAmazon: Buy Now!Written By:
Like Tetris before it, Bejweled is beginning to become more famous as a game mechanic than as an individual game itself. The trend began with Infinite Interactive's Puzzle Quest, which combined the match-three-colors game with the RPG. It continues with Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, a new game from Electronic Arts' new casual label that combines the aforementioned puzzle game with an old-school style action/platformer. Don't let the word “casual” fool you, however; Henry Hatsworth easily holds its own against todays best platformers. However, a few classic game-design pitfalls keep it from truly shining.
Henry Hatsworth is an elderly gentleman and explorer on the hunt for a legendary golden suit. Naturally, as is the case with most legendary mcguffins, the golden suit is said to bestow incredible power. In this case, it's the power to control the puzzle realm and acquire the great treasures contained therein. After acquiring the golden hat, Henry inadvertently disrupts the seal placed over the puzzle realm, and its monstrous denizens begin pouring forth into the world. Further complicating matters is Henry's rival, Weaselby, who wants the suit to satisfy his lust for power and fame. Luckily for Henry, the suit's powers grant him youth and vitality, and so he sets off to stop Weaselby, collect all parts of the suit and seal the puzzle realm once again.
The game takes advantage of both DS screens to their full potential. On the top screen is the “real world.” This is where the platforming actions takes place. On the bottom screen is the “puzzle realm.” This is where the Bejeweled component is found. At any time during regular gameplay, a simple tap of the X button switches action from the top screen to the bottom screen, and vice-versa. This seamless transition makes the game, because you'll be switching between both screens frequently.
As enemies are defeated in the “real world” they drop down to the bottom screen as puzzle blocks. As the blocks stack, they are pushed to the top, and if pushed into the top screen they'll return to the real world as enemy blocks determined to crush poor Henry like a pancake. Furthermore, aligning blocks, especially the enemy blocks, contributes to Henry's power meter. This is important, because you need to keep your power meter at least half-full to transform Henry into his younger, stronger form. The energy in the power meter is also used as ammo for Henry's ranged weapons (which include a gun, bomb and boomerang), energy for special attacks, and when full can be spent to activate “Tea Time,” during which Henry dons a powerful mechanical suit for a limited time. Various power-ups collected in the top screen also fall to the bottom screen and can only be activated when matched with other blocks.
As you can see, it's important to keep your eye on that bottom screen and manage it well. What's amazing is that managing the bottom screen never feels like a chore. Switching between the two modes of play maintains a strong sense of pacing. Once one element starts feeling a little tiresome, it's usually about time to switch back to the other anyway. The fact that power-ups appear on the bottom screen, and disappear if they reach the top, also makes its use strategic. It's really best to know when to use a power-up and when to save it for later.
Initially, the game seems to fit right in with EA's casual label. It starts off extremely easy and forgiving. Early levels play a little bit like 'my first platformer' and the ticking of the bottom screen feels too slow to ever be a threat. The difficulty ramps up quickly, however, and actually works against the game in some cases.
Enemies become more challenging with each new level, as does the platforming. However, sometimes this challenge comes from nothing more than cheap tricks on the part of the developer. It's the same stuff that made us want to throw our NES controllers through the TV screen. Enemies placed on tiny ledges that you're forced to jump to; hit the enemy and you fall off the edge and die. Projectiles or flying things shooting across the tops of platforms, causing you to fall to your death. Checkpoints spaced too far apart, forcing you to replay large sections of a level when you die. And finally, at least once in every level there is a segment where the game sends a long wave of enemies at you, not allowing you to progress until you have defeated all of them. It becomes tiresome very quickly. I can understand that the developers might be a bit nostalgic for old, difficult games, but these tricks are just annoying, not to mention anomalous considering this is meant to be a “casual” game.
Actually, nostalgia is often used to the game's credit, if only in an abstract way. Nods to classic games abound. Levels feel like Mario levels, Henry feels like Samus or Simon Belemont, Weaselby repeatedly shows up in boss fights that are clear nods to Robotnik, and other bosses, particularly the old sea captain assisted by his obese nurse, feel like they could have come straight from Earthworm Jim. In a lot of ways, the game is a bit of a love letter to platformers from back in the day. These little references are not a huge deal but they are sure to instill a warm, fuzzy feeling for those who catch them.
The presentation in general can't be beat. The art style invokes a paper cut-out or pop-up story book aesthetic. Colors are vibrant and sprites are animated beautifully (in fact, they're some of the best I've seen). The level environments, while archetypal (jungle world, water world, lava world, etc.) are lively and fun to look at. The Puzzle Realm level comes to mind as being particularly unique, as it combines the mechanics of the bottom screen with those of the top screen, creating platforms and walls that disappear as like colors are matched up. The music is catchy, but can wear thin considering the long length of levels. Henry's little British cliches, such as “good show!” are cute and endearing, and the dialogue in general is genuinely funny. The game's good sense of humor goes a long way.
Despite some uneven pacing (long levels) and common pitfalls (the cheap difficulty), Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure still stands among the greatest modern platformers. Throwing Bejeweled into the mix cements it as a peanut-butter cup of game design; two great tastes that taste great together. If you're a fan of classic platformers, don't pass it up.8.5/
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