Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure was released in 2009 for the DS by Electronic Arts’ Orlando-based studio EA Tiburon, under their EA Casual label. This is an original 2D side-scrolling fantasy action/platformer in which the player controls an aged explorer, Henry Hatsworth, who is searching for the pieces of a legendary golden suit. This game is also a block-switching puzzle game where the player lines up any 3 of the same color blocks horizontally or vertically to make them disappear. Gameplay spans both elements and each works in tandem with the other.
What is perhaps most puzzling about this game is that it was developed by EA Tiburon, a studio whose most successful game prior to this was Madden NFL 09, and prior to that was Madden NFL 08, and prior to that was… well, as they say, it’s Madden all the way down. Yes, EA Tiburon is the studio best known for the development of EA’s Madden franchise, as well as several other EA Sports series such as NCAA Football, NASCAR, and Tiger Woods PGA Tour, but the creation of the EA Casual label allowed them the opportunity to branch beyond their sports-centric world.
From the instruction manual:
Henry Hatsworth begins his well-dressed adventure deep in the jungle, where he is looking for a legendary golden hat. Rumor has it, the hat is cursed, but Hatsworth is far too much of a realist to believe in such things. However, if he finds such a hat and the curse is actually true, perhaps it would be just the first of many exploits…
Unfortunately, Hatsworth isn’t the only adventurer searching for lost treasures. He’s got competition, namely his rival, Weasleby, the Pompous Adventurers’ Club #2 adventurer. Arrogant and resourceful, Weasleby will stop at nothing to prove he’s a better adventurer than Hatsworth – even resorting to sneaky, underhanded tactics.
Jump (action screen) / swap pieces* (puzzle screen)
Switch between action screen and puzzle screen
* puzzle pieces may also be swapped using the stylus
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is unlike any other game before it. The game is divided between the two Nintendo DS screens, with the top screen being an action/platformer, and the bottom screen being a puzzle game. The gameplay on the two screens is tied together in a number of ways.
First, enemies killed on the top screen fall down and become puzzle blocks on the bottom screen. These blocks must be cleared, lest the blocks be pushed back to the top and re-enter the “real” world. Clearing blocks is done by swapping pairs of horizontally aligned blocks in a manner similar to Tetris Attack, and lining up any 3 blocks of the same color. While most enemies just become colored blocks, some enemies become special blocks that impact the puzzle differently:
Solid bricks must be lined up with 3 blocks of the same color, at which point they turn into standard colored enemy blocks, and must be lined up and cleared again
Skull blocks can only be cleared by matching up 3 skull blocks, which do not appear in the puzzle until the player has killed the appropriate enemy on the action screen
Giant blocks must be lined up with 3 of the same color, after which they are turned into numerous standard enemy blocks of different colors
Arrow blocks push the puzzle up faster, making enemy blocks move back onto the action screen more quickly
Locked blocks cannot be swapped; instead the player has to move other blocks to them in order to clear the obstacle
One-eyed blocks will start to flash if left alone long enough, and will spawn a standard enemy block nearby
Solving puzzles and activating powerups on the lower screen affects not only the puzzle itself, but also the action on the top screen:
The lightning bolt destroys all blocks in the puzzle that have the same color, and causes damage to all visible enemies on the action screen
The hourglass freezes the Puzzle Meter (more on this in a bit) and all visible enemies on the action screen
The X-shaped icon destroys one row or column of puzzle blocks, and allows Hatsworth to temporarily deal double damage on the action screen
Picking up a heart restores one unit of health on the top screen
Picking up a hat grants the player one additional life
Glowing puzzle blocks build the Super Meter faster, as does performing chains and/or clearing enemy blocks
Eliminating any puzzle blocks on the lower screen also powers up any of the player’s projectiles that are currently visible on the top screen, increasing their size, power, and/or abilities (more on weapons below).
Adding to the complexity of the mechanics are 2 meters on the lower screen: the Puzzle Meter and the Super Meter. The Puzzle Meter determines how long the player is allowed to stay in the puzzle realm. This meter can be filled by killing enemies on the top screen, and by eliminating puzzle blocks on the lower screen. Once the Puzzle Meter is empty, the player is forced out of the puzzle section and must return to the action screen (which remains paused during puzzle-solving).
The Super Meter does a number of things: It acts as ammunition for projectile or special attacks on the top screen. It also increases the player’s available life bar by turning Hatsworth young and filling his repository of silver hearts. Lastly, a fully charged Super Meter allows the player to initiate “Tea Time”.
By tapping the touch screen when the Super Meter is full, the game pauses and shows a scene of Hatsworth sipping tea for a moment, and then suddenly a giant robot (with Hatsworth inside) comes flying up from the bottom screen to the top screen, while the background of both screens is covered in a huge Union Jack symbol and heavy metal plays.
This super-powered slow-moving robot has its own list of moves, and remains on screen until the Super Meter is depleted, or until the player elects to manually eject by tapping the touch screen again. The player also has the ability to switch to the puzzle screen and keep adding to the Super Meter while the robot is onscreen, allowing him to keep it in play that much longer. The Super Meter is depleted by using the robot’s attacks and when taking damage from enemies (this does not cause damage to Hatsworth himself), and Hatsworth is ejected once the meter is completely used up. The robot itself gains new attacks throughout the game as bosses are defeated, and it also has its own special attack which consists of a ludicrous number of laser beams being fired forward at roughly the height of the robot, causing massive destruction.
The player begins the game with a short melee attack, which is performed with Hatsworth’s sword. The sword can be used to the left or right, with additional moves available by pressing up or down on the D-pad while swinging, as well as a downward strike. In addition to the sword, the player starts out with a gun that fires small projectiles in a straight line. The special attack for this weapon is a wide laser that causes damage to all enemies on a horizontal level, and can shoot through walls. It also has a shotgun-style attack that damages enemies and pushes them back, and this attack is available regardless of the weapon the player is carrying at the time (just perform a melee attack, followed quickly by a projectile attack).
During the course of the game, the player gains access to two more projectile weapons: bombs and boomerangs. Bombs are thrown in an arc, and have a short range, but have high destructive capability. The special attack is an explosion which damages enemies in Hatsworth’s immediate vicinity. Boomerangs have a shorter range than the gun and are fired in a straight line, but can cause increased damage by passing through multiple enemies, and by returning to Hatsworth for a double-hit. Eliminating puzzle blocks with a boomerang onscreen not only increases its power, but adds a homing ability to the shot, causing it to seek out an enemy and hover over it, causing continuous damage. The boomerang special attack is a 5-boomerang shield which protects Hatsworth from taking damage, and can also be fired as projectiles.
Unfortunately, the player is not given an incredible amount of control over when he is able to use these alternate projectile weapons, given that they are often dropped from enemies, or sometimes left in treasure chests. Since Hatsworth is at the mercy of the game when it comes to getting these pickups, and he can only carry one projectile weapon at a time, this prevents the player from strategically tackling the level with any given weapon, short of simply choosing a favorite and trying to hold onto it.
Throughout the game, Hatsworth uncovers treasure by killing enemies, finding treasure chests, and completing levels. This translates into money which can be spent in a shop between levels to increase health, missile and melee attack power, and special attack power. It also allows the player to gain some interesting abilities such as making hearts and other special items appear in puzzles more often, making the Puzzle Meter drain more slowly and fill more quickly, or causing the Puzzle Meter to fill when the player takes damage on the top screen.
The game world consists of five areas, which must be completed in order. There is an overworld map which opens up stages as they are completed in sequence. Several of the levels have hidden exits which lead to special – usually more difficult – stages. For all of the difficulty in finding and completing these bonus levels, there isn’t much in the way of a comparable reward. Some secret levels only reward the player with additional money, while others give the player golden suit pieces which offer minor bonuses or protection. These suit pieces do not alter the gameplay in any substantial way, and money can be earned much more easily by simply replaying any of the previous levels.
It’s one thing to offer bonuses to completionists, or to reward exploration who search out all of the hidden exits, but it’s quite another to send a player through a tough challenge level to die a dozen times, only to find that their reward is some additional money, and they still have to go back into the previous level and find the “real” exit to continue the game.
Even though there is a lot going on in the game, the mechanics themselves don’t frequently become overwhelming. However, the same cannot be said for the difficulty of the action portion. Around the midpoint of the game, you will begin to find it difficult to get through some of the levels. Regardless of the amount of powering up you’ve done up to this point in the game, it simply takes too long to destroy a room full of enemies. And so, you’ll find yourself slowly whittling enemies’ health while switching back into the puzzle screen to utilize powerups, which further slows the pace of the game. The difficulty in the second half of the game comes more from slugging through an onslaught of enemies, rather than challenging gameplay, which goes all but unchanged in the final two areas.
Several of the levels in the last 2 areas are more than 30 minutes in length, which is long for a platformer in general, and particularly long when you consider that this game was released on a handheld system. The free-scrolling portions aren’t too bad, as most single enemies can be killed off or disabled quickly; the real problem is the arena areas, where numerous enemies pumped into a sealed-off section and must be defeated before continuing. These arenas pit the player against a wide variety of enemy types attacking from all directions in a number of patterns. This can make it extremely difficult to dodge enemy attacks, or even dole out significant damage to a single enemy.
Beating the game opens up a New Game + mode where you keep all of your previous upgrades, but you go up against even more difficult enemies with a puzzle meter that drains more quickly than before, offering a bit of extra play for gamers who enjoy brutal DS-chucking punishment.
BASTARD CLASS ENEMIES (What's this?)
In the latter half of the game, there’s a good chance you’ll start to find that most enemies fall into the Bastard Class category. The guys that toss spears at you are pretty deadly, but they’re not too hard to deal with… that is, until you’re dropped into an arena with 10 enemies on the screen, and one of those spear-wielding guys sniping you from a safe distance. The same can be said for the skull-faced axe wielders, who are barely a challenge if you do a jumping sword attack, but they’re a pain once you get surrounded. So, the BCE’s below are just a few that are pretty much bastards no matter where you find them.
Spinning Ninja Skull Girls These babies absorb a lot of damage, and can dish it out pretty hard as well. Add this to the fact that they often work in groups and have a variety of attacks, and you have a formidable enemy on your hands. These girls are equipped with claws on their hands, which they love to share with you during their fast spin maneuvers. In addition, they jump very high and can aim their landings to drop down right next to you. Is this a dagger I see before me? Nope, it’s a face full of ninja claws.
Gummy Stacks These enemies are similar to the wandering cacti first found in the deserts of Super Mario Bros. 2. Unfortunately, you can’t just knock off one layer to shorten the stack like you can in SMB2. Instead, you have to keep hitting it until it falls apart completely. These guys are slow and dumb, and they basically just waddle toward you. The problem is that they can absorb a ton of hits, and they’re too tall to jump over unless you do a wall jump. If there’s no wall nearby, or you’re standing on a platform next to a bottomless pit, these things are like giddy stupid walls of marching death, and you will find yourself throwing everything you have at them to make them stop.
Giant Sludge Monster This thing probably counts as a sub-boss, although it appears at numerous points in the game. It always appears in arena-style areas, and other enemies come out while you’re fighting it. It is much larger than any standard enemy, and it has a number of devastating attacks. For one, it can turn into a ball of slime and fly through the air, causing damage if you are hit by it. Second, it can pound the ground and send a row of spikes shooting up that cause lots of damage.
Lastly, and most annoyingly, when you do cause enough damage, it will drop down onto the puzzle screen as a giant 3x3 block. To clear this block, you must line it up with 3 of the same color, at which point it will turn into a different color. This must be done several times, after which, it will eventually turn into a 2x2 block, which you must also clear several times. While it is in the puzzle, it acts in the same manner as an Up Arrow block, continually accelerating the pace of the puzzle and causing the blocks to rise more quickly. If it rises high enough to reach the top screen, it will make it will return, and you will have to keep fighting it until you can send it back down into the puzzle screen. If you’ve been good, and you’ve eaten all of your vegetables, you stand a chance at beating this thing.
There are five worlds in the game, and thus five bosses. The first few bosses are quite interesting and have some unique effects on the puzzles, which in turn, changes how the player has to go about addressing those threats. As the game progresses, however, boss battles become less interesting and can draw out to 10-minute slugfests, where the player is simply whittling down the enemy’s life bar while swapping back-and-forth between the action and puzzle screens to clear enemy blocks and get restorative items or powerups. Also, the 2 final bosses lack any kind of thematic relationship with the level they’re a part of, unlike the first 3 bosses.
Level 1: Mysteria The boss of Mysteria is Lady D, a spurned and seemingly undead woman who does not like the fact that Hatsworth has rejected her advances. She stands on top of a wedding cake and fires a machine gun down at Hatsworth. Occasionally, the cake rises up and enemies come out. She can also fire seeds down into the puzzle which – if unchecked – can grow into vines that freeze the blocks above them and prevent them from being swapped.
Level 2: Skysland This boss is Lance Banson, an opera singing guy who has bulging muscles, a hairy chest, and the most beautiful blonde hair the world has ever seen (or does he?). This is probably the most interesting boss fight in the game. As Lance sings, musical notes drop down into the puzzle. If left alone, they will eventually return to the top screen and become beautiful music, which will cause his middle-aged female fans to storm the stage and cover him with kisses (while he flexes), thus restoring his health. Matching and removing the notes, however, causes Lance to sing off-key, sending an angry mob across the stage, knocking him down and causing damage.
During the fight, Lance can drop an anchor down into the puzzle screen and start dragging blocks upward, making enemy and music blocks enter the top screen more quickly. But the player may destroy the chain on the top screen which makes the anchor fall out of play.
Level 3: Atlantia In Atlantia, you will find yourself facing The Captain, a guy who is even older than Henry Hatsworth, and who is hard of hearing and confined to a wheelchair. His strength comes from his enormous overweight nurse, who pushes him around in the wheelchair, occasionally slamming him against the ground or throwing him at Hatsworth to cause damage. She is also able to vomit up pills which, if not destroyed quickly enough, hatch into enemies. In addition, she can drop electric bolts down into the puzzle screen, causing an entire column of blocks to become unswappable.
Once you have caused enough damage, the floor will drop out, and you will fall down into the water for the second stage of the battle. In this section, the bulging nurse bounces around the screen dropping enemy-filled pills for you to deal with.
Level 4: Puzzle Realm This stage finally pits you against your arch nemesis, Weasleby, who has the ability to summon lasers in various patterns, and can clone himself for double the attack power. Like Lance Banson, he can also drop an anchor into the lower screen (which seems silly given that this idea had already been used and has seemingly nothing to do with his character or the level itself).
Level 5: Tealand The final boss is The Machine, a giant robot that can smash the ground with its fists, shoot energy from its eye, and drag debris, spike walls, and crushing walls onto the screen. It can also bring enemies into the level to confound the player while it performs its other attacks and pauses to vomit uncolored blocks into the puzzle, which cannot be matched or cleared. Sometimes, The Machine will extend its arm down into the puzzle and start crushing blocks.
Why this game should be part of your 2D heritage:
- Symbiotic action/puzzle elements
- Upgrade system
- Giant player-controlled robot
- Some interesting and unique boss fights
- Difficulty curve caused by underpowered player, rather than gameplay-oriented challenges
- No new gameplay innovations after the game’s midpoint
- Some not-so-interesting and unique boss fights