Platform: Nintendo DS
Developer: EA Tiburon
Publisher: EA Games
“The British Empire was built on cups of tea and if you think I’m going into battle without one, you are mistaken”
– Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels.
Henry Hatsworth is a Nintendo DS game where you play as a tea-sipping British explorer who is on a quest for a magical golden suit that gives the wearer limitless power.
As far as genre-blending games go, I think Henry Hatsworth may be a first: It is a DS game that is a platformer on the top screen mixed with a Bejewelled-style puzzle game on the bottom screen. And as the challenge ramps up over the course of the 5 worlds, a significant amount of shooting gets added to the mix. It sounds absurdly complex and yet once the formula clicks, it becomes a terrific example of the type of gaming where you get ‘in the zone’. Jumping between the modes becomes surprisingly natural.
The platforming and shooting in top screen is the main component of the game and it quickly becomes clear that the best strategy is to have most of the bottom screen kept filled with blocks. Popping combinations of blocks gives you power-ups in the top screen which are best saved for arenas where Hatsworth often has to fight up to ten enemies at once. If you pop enough blocks, they fill up a meter that eventually turns Hatworth into an invincible giant mech warrior. Truly this is a game with many facets.
Be warned though, this is a tough game. Pretty much from the third world onwards, each level becomes exceptionally long, they are stacked with enemies that take an increasingly large number of hits, and the worlds are punctuated by some bosses that are hard as hell. In fact, some of the stages in the final world verge on being unreasonably difficult and there are some frustrating instant-death moments for a game with long spells between checkpoints. That tried and true shitty game mechanic ‘falling backwards to an instantaneous death when you get hit by an enemy’ makes an appearance a few times.
Its not enough to spoil the overall package though. Henry Hatsworth is the best kind of DS game. It is one of the rare titles on the platform that really makes good consistent use of both screens. The visuals are charming, the over the top British characterisation works and there has been a lack of good 2D platforming games so it fills that niche quite nicely.