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Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure joins the ranks of The World Ends with You DS and Puzzle Quest DS as a game that manages to combine two genres. Here we find a happy marriage of platforming and minigame action split across the DS's two screens.
Platform games task you with getting from point A to point B. The world you journey through is usually based on different levels, and populated with enemies, switches and lifts to be negotiated. As you work through each level you pick up various collectables that accrue score, special abilities and access to hidden areas.
Mini games come in a variety of shapes and sizes. What unites the genre is the speed with which players can pickup the games and the relatively short time required to complete a level or two.
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure is unique because of its combination of play styles. While a platform game plays on the top screen, with the usual shooting running and jumping, the lower screen offers a puzzle experience. The two games are linked by power-ups and enemies. Kill an enemy or collect a power up and they add a block to the bottom puzzle. Fail to deal with an enemy block on the bottom and a new enemy appears on the top. Connect three blocks on the bottom screen, and any shots on the top screen get a power up.
This back and forth gives the player a sense of playing two games at once. While they play the platform section they have to keep half an eye on the other screen. They can press X to pause the platforming and switch to the lower screen to deal with some of the puzzles.
EA have managed to keep the quality of both games high. The platforming is of the Mario/Wario style whilst the puzzle section adopts the addictive match three approach of Planet Puzzle League DS. More important though is that the two experiences are interlinked to ensure the player is constantly on the hop as they juggle two very different challenges.
The game includes around 30 songs from all three High School Musical films, which are unlocked by scoring enough on each level. Along the way you can choose which dancer you want to control, and dress up with clothing that is won with good performances.
You can play alone or with one other player. The two player game provides both co-operative and competitive dancing. As you play through the songs each player is assigned separate moves and if they perform well enough they can trigger a special move that blocks out the other player from scoring - whereupon they have to shake their Wii-mote to break free.
Players will be attracted by the novel combination of games and high quality production. As they hit their stride though, the more quirky aspects of the game fade away as they hit a rhythm of dealing with each play style. Watching my daughter play as she moved from platforming jumps to complex chain reactions of blocks suddenly made sense of the game. The puzzle element exists to provide a genuine way for players to invest time to improve their platforming chances, whilst the platforming section served as a distraction from the complex strategies of the puzzle part. Something like trying to do an intricate puzzle and play Monopoly at the same time.
The levels last in the region of five to ten minutes each. This being a DS game you can also pause at any time by closing the lid. We found sessions of around thirty minutes were optimum, more than that and our brains started complaining. This is more of an intense activity than a laid back drawn out affair.
The playtime is extended by a lot of dialogue to read, although this can be skipped by those not interesting in the unfolding Henry Hatsworth drama.
Although very young players and those new to either puzzle minigames or platformers may struggle, if you have a little experience of either you are more than equipped to enjoy this game.
Intermediate players will enjoy developing the more complex strategies involved in really bossing the bottom puzzle game, or indeed the classic platforming of the top screen.
Experts may complain that the purity of both genres is somewhat compromised, and opt for either a platformer (New Super Mario Brothers DS say) or a puzzle minigame (Picross DS maybe). But even experts, who play for long enough, will find a real challenge here. And one made all the more stretching because of its varied demands.
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