Combining two genres into a single game hasn't always worked out as well as you'd hope. One upcoming Nintendo DS game, Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure, looks to buck that trend. And it may very well do that: The combination of action platforming and puzzling is an intriguing idea, and we enjoyed our limited time with it. Of course, the titular hero wears a monocle, so it's hard to go wrong.
Henry doesn't just wear the single lens for show, however: He's a professional practical treasure hunter who stumbles upon a very important secret. It seems that our world coexists with the puzzle world. At one time, a powerful suit of armor allowed the wearer to control that realm, but it was destroyed and the fragments were scattered across the earth, causing the puzzle realm to be locked away. Our hero Henry, however, has other plans. The puzzle world is brimming with valuable treasure, and he's determined to garner his share.
The game makes use of both screens in an intriguing manner. On the upper screen, you control Henry, and the gameplay follows familiar action-platformer standards. You jump from one spot to another while avoiding enemies, slashing them up, or shooting your weapon at them. There are some other noteworthy moves, however, such as the ability to juggle monsters, which results in some quirky animations. But as it turns out, your defeated enemies don't just float to the big monster heaven in the sky. Rather, they fall to the bottom screen--and become blocks in the puzzle realm.
The puzzle realm is represented on the bottom screen as a simple block-based puzzle grid. As monsters fall, the blocks rise, and should a block make it to the top of the lower screen, it will return to the upper screen as a much more powerful enemy. The better tactic is to pause the platforming and enter puzzle mode. This part of gameplay involves horizontally swapping pairs of blocks to make groups of three or more, which then explode and cause the blocks above to fall. By doing so, you will destroy your fallen enemies and keep them from returning.
These aspects of gameplay don't exist on their own, however. Rather, they are symbiotic, each feeding off of the other. You can use puzzle mode to improve Henry's attacks, for example. In one instance, we entered puzzle mode right after shooting our gun, and by successfully destroying blocks, we were able to supersize the bullet and do massive damage. As you defeat fallen enemies in puzzle mode, you will also fill a meter. When the meter is full, you activate Tea Time. Then, Henry takes a gulp of tea away (Earl Grey, perhaps?) and enters the aforementioned armor suit. In this suit, you swat away monsters as if they are flies.
Henry Hatsworth has quite the sense of humor. One of the bosses, Lance, is a singing ladies' man with an enormous, jutting chin. As he sings, he sends musical notes into the puzzle realm. Should you destroy them, he will be mobbed by aggressive fans and take damage. On the other hand, he might become surrounded by adoring admirers, and the crowd functions as a shield. During the same boss battle, an anchor drops from above and lifts the puzzle grid upward. The only solution is to destroy the chain and make the anchor fall.
Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure fascinates us. With luck, its unique synthesis of puzzling and platforming will be successful. We'll find out soon enough: The game is scheduled for release in early 2009.