by Daniel Bullard-Bates
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is the video game equivalent of the Beatles: it has something for everyone. Well, the Beatles have a video game coming out today, so I guess that’s probably the video game equivalent of the Beatles. Maybe Henry Hatsworth is more like the fifth Beatle. You know, the elderly, adventurous, tea-swilling, robot-battle-suit-wearing Beatle. No, not Ringo. Regardless, Henry Hatsworth has all the elements needed to bridge the hardcore/casual divide, showing a great diversity of ideas and gameplay styles.
The plot of Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is rather simple and absurd: Henry Hatsworth is an aging adventurer, seeking a legendary outfit made of gold, which has only been worn by the classiest of gentlemen. In the process of finding it, he unlocks the puzzle realm, which deposits all sorts of strange creatures into the world. Only by finding the whole golden suit will he be able to close off the nefarious puzzle realm! Weird stuff, but it fits with the odd aesthetic of the game.
What makes Henry Hatsworth so fascinating is that it/he serves as a diplomat between the hardcore and casual gaming communities. The game plays both sides, quite literally, using the DS dual-screen layout. The top screen is for the hardcore gamer: Henry Hatsworth travels the world with saber and pistol in tow, platforming and fighting monsters. There’s a combo system, special attacks, and challenging jumps to be had. Just to guarantee the affections of the hardcore, the very fact that this portion of the game takes up the top screen gives it the sense of priority and importance the hardcore gamer feels they deserve.
And then the bottom screen, devoted to the casual gamer, is a block-matching puzzle game. It’s on the user-friendly touch screen, it’s very simple to control, and the mechanics are quickly understood. Switch blocks, line up three or more of a kind, make them disappear. It can be done with the buttons or the stylus, it’s simple and fun, and it has a few flashy surprises.
The rest of the game is just unique ideas and touches of madness. Enemies defeated on the top screen enter the puzzle on the bottom. If you don’t erase them there, they return to plague the titular adventurer. There’s also a super meter that, when full, causes Hatsworth to drink some tea, shout "Good Show!" and transform into a ridiculous super robot.
We’ve spoken in the past about games that build bridges between hardcore and casual gamers. Some games build small highway bridges that freeze before the rest of the road. Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is London Bridge. Good show!