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Action Henk

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Platformer
Publisher: Curve Digital
Developer: RageSquid
Release Date: March 4, 2016

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


Xbox One Review - 'Action Henk'

by Brian Dumlao on May 9, 2016 @ 6:30 a.m. PDT

Action Henk is an intense speed platformer set in a toybox world, where a cast of classic action figure inspired characters compete to see who is the fastest toy in town.

There's something to be said about simplicity in games. Although we live in a time when there are a ton of buttons to initiate just about every possible action, sometimes you only need a few to get the best control. Likewise, games are sometimes at their best when you only have to concentrate on doing a few things as opposed to having the freedom to do everything possible. Action Henk subscribes to this theory wholeheartedly as it goes for simple game design while making sure everything remains fun.

The plot may remind you of something that would come out of "Toy Story"or some variation. For the longest time, Action Henk was a megastar in the toy world with countless movies, games, and other licensed products to his name. Sadly, those years have passed, and all he has left is his trophy that named him Toy of the Year. A villainous action figure has stolen that trophy from him. With his most prized possession now gone, Henk traverses several courses to regain that trophy.

The easiest way to describe the gameplay is to compare it to something like Joe Danger or Trials, but with a much more forgiving physics system. Initially playing as Henk, your job is to make it through an obstacle course as quickly as possible with your end time resulting in bronze, silver, gold or rainbow medals if you're faster than anticipated. When you begin, you can run and jump, but it isn't long before you gain the ability to slide on your butt, which is a perfect move for the orange plastic slides scattered throughout the courses. Later, you'll also gain a grappling hook to latch onto overhead platforms to swing over large chasms. At the end of each themed area, you're thrown into a race with another action figure, and you have the chance to unlock them for future use if you beat them. Even though they're merely cosmetic changes compared to Henk, it gives you something else to look at if you tire of the retired action hero. Getting gold medals in every stage in an area also unlocks a bonus stage where you can get a costume if you grab all of the coins in the stage in a set time. Considering that there's no set path to obtain these coins, these are probably the toughest challenges in the game.

The levels change thematically, from a child's bedroom to a disco and eventually morphing into more exotic locales such as an island theme park/villain lair. Despite this, the main objectives remain the same as you jump over pits that transform into lava, slide down inclines, hit speed boosters, and wall-jump on vertical surfaces. To make the designs even trickier, the game is presented in a 2.5-D viewpoint. Your movement may be limited to the four cardinal directions, but the camera presents you with a track that weaves into the environment instead of sticking to one plane.

For the most part, getting a bronze medal in a track is pretty easy. There may be some tricky parts to a level, but the stages are generally pretty short. The design is always interesting, and the presence of checkpoints makes it easy to get back on track without having to repeat whole sections. A checkpoint doesn't reset the clock, but it's a good tool to learn the track before restarting for a more educated run, which is easily accomplished with the quick restarts.

While you can get those bronze medals almost effortlessly, you will be stuck by the end of the second area if you aren't also grabbing silver medals and higher in those same courses since newer areas are gated by overall medal totals. To help you on each course, you have the option to race against ghosts for the three main medal types (rainbow excluded). Aside from giving you a better visual for how well you're doing in relation to the medal you're trying to earn, the ghosts give you an idea of how to conquer the level by showing you the paths to take and the various techniques to use, such as running down a slide or initiating a grapple, to ensure the most distance covered with the least amount of input.

It doesn't take long before you begin to scrutinize your runs, and that's where the magic of the game kicks in. The levels aren't impossible to tackle, but once you see some impossible moves being used to clear tracks almost effortlessly, you're compelled to keep going. You know you can always make a good run even better, and the ever-present leaderboards for each track push you to get faster by any means possible. Before you know it, retries in the same course go into the double digits, and the feeling of jumping even one spot higher in the leaderboards or medal ranking is addictive enough to continue.

In addition to the nine areas of the single-player game, Action Henk has a local multiplayer mode for up to four players. Instead of selecting one track, however, you'll select a few in rotation. Aside from the short length of each course, multiplayer races tend to end faster since falling behind and eventually off-screen means you're eliminated until the next race in the group starts. The mode is fun with friends, but it would've been nice if it had some of the features of the PC version, such as level creation and the ability to challenge ghosts from online players.

The sound is very well done. The music remains a highlight, as it certainly goes for that action vibe with loads of high-tempo material blasting in every stage. Despite the short nature of each level, the tracks don't wear themselves out as the game goes on, so you never get annoyed by hearing the same tune for the umpteenth time. Interestingly, while the game does feature voices for each of the figures, they're used rather sparingly. The rarity with which voices do appear makes them novel, and while the voice acting is average considering that they're simply being asked to relay short quips, they're still good to hear.

For a game that uses toys as its theme, the graphics fit quite appropriately. The colors for the backgrounds pop in nicely but not enough to overwhelm the tracks. Camera angles aside, you're never going to mistake a piece of the background for a portion of the track. Animations are smooth, and the additional effects make them stand out in a positive light. The only issue some may have with this area is with the designs of the figures. While Henk is meant to portray an out-of-shape ex-hero, the other designs are simply grotesque in parts, and the lighting at certain angles doesn't make them any more endearing.

For those who love the obstacle style of racing and platforming, Action Henk is a treat. The level designs are great, and the simple controls and mechanics make it easy for anyone to pick up. The presence of ghosts and leaderboards gives it a little bit extra to make the whole thing addictive – enough that you may concentrate on getting the best time for one track despite others being available. While it would've been nice to have some of the PC features here, there's still enough gameplay to keep one occupied. Action Henk is a very good title that should be in your platforming library.

Score: 8.5/10

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