When Henry Hatsworth was initially announced I played it off as a quick attempt at a cash in on the Professor Layton model of puzzling, well... adventures, I guess. But after playing Hatsworth and his “Puzzling Adventure” I must say that this is quite a spectacular surprise. The premise is clever, the execution is solid, and most importantly, this game is a lot of fun. Tetris Attack, coupled with a solid platformer doesn't necessarily reinvent the wheel, but does a great job of smoothing it out and giving it a fine polish.
The easiest way to convey what's going on in Hatsworth is to say you're playing a platformer title, with Tetris Attack built in to regain health, earn power-ups, and to destroy enemies. All of the platforming takes place on the upper screen while the puzzling aspect takes place on the lower screen and can be controlled with either the stylus or by button press. Accessing the puzzle mode pauses all action up top, so it's useful in granting you a brief reprieve from enemies, but you can't stay in puzzle mode forever, and eventually you'll be booted back to platformer mode. It's also useful for filling up the super meter which lets you turn in to a totally rad (yes this game makes me want to use rad) super robot with beam cannons, rocket punch (insert Sentinel from MvC2 audio clip), and obvious over-powered skills that will easily clear the screen of enemies.
The story of Hatsworth is whimsical to say the least. Professor Hatsworth is off exploring some ruins when he comes across a mystical golden hat, a part of a much larger 'Golden Suit'. Of course the good professor is not the only one hunting for this suit, as his rival Weaselby is also searching for the suit, and intends to find it by any means necessary. The game certainly charms with its over-the-top characters whose voice acting alone makes this game amazing. Hatsworth houses a collection of blathers, and to hear him and various other characters spout British idioms like “guv-nah” and “wot” is charming, if not bordering on being stereotypically offensive. At the very least it adds a ton of character to the game, which is better than just reading a bunch of boxes chuck full of text. The game also has a fantastic soundtrack which is available for download. You can bet that I was all about getting this game's OST in to my iTunes as soon as I found it was on the service.. With tracks that range from mellow jungle medley, and tracks that can rock with the best that even Guilty Gear has to offer, Hatsworth does not disappoint on an audio front.
Unlike the hop-and-bop play style of yore, Hatsworth cuts right to the chase and takes out his enemies with a good swing of his cane (or machete if you're in your powered up state), giving the enemies a good what-for. There is also a projectile that interestingly, gains power if you fire, then enter the puzzle mode and make a few chains. Some weapons gain a bigger blast radius, while others become homing projectiles. There is also a juggling system in play that allows you to reap big rewards for having long strings of combo attacks, which is incredibly helpful when you need some extra juice for the super meter. A full super meter will activate 'Tea Time,' which will summon the amazing robot suit and kick the music into overdrive to really get you on a destructive rampage.
Your main source of super meter juice is the puzzle mode. The way puzzle mode works is similar to Tetris Attack, in that you are allowed to swap the position of two blocks horizontally to create a line of three blocks of the same color. Enemies who are defeated will move down to the puzzle area and must be matched up there with other blocks of the same color to remove them permanently. Doing this will have a number of effects aside from clearing the board. You can gain super meter, recover your health, gain extra lives, and get some helpful items that stun and damage enemies or stop them altogether. Initially I was thinking this was going to be a tacked on function, but the development team did a good job of making this feel like something that, while you need to do it, you also want to do it for the benefits it offers.
For all that Hatsworth does right; it's very hard to find any faults in this title. If I had to pick out anything, I would have to say how difficult this game gets, especially towards the end of the game. I was near fifty lives at the end of the game, and as the final levels came about I lost close to thirty lives. I didn't consider this to be reckless play on my part either. Having a less than ideal checkpoint system that only restarts you at the beginning of an entire section did not make things much easier. I'm surprised that the casual label of EA was responsible for this, because Peggle, this is not. The difficulty is further ratcheted up once you complete the game. The puzzle mode speed increases significantly but you get to keep all of your items and money from the previous play through to compensate.
Henry Hatsworth is the platformer I have been waiting for on the DS, especially after being really disappointed in New Super Mario Bros. Hatsworth has a lot to offer the user, and is quite fun. Though for a title from EA's casual label the difficulty can get way up there near the end of the game. Overall though the combination of Tetris Attack with a strong platforming foundation goes a long way in a sea of mediocre platformers centered around Disney movies and Nickelodeon fair.