Quirky games like Henry Hatsworth In The Puzzling Adventure often try to break free of familiar genres—their way of rebelling against the status quo. Hatsworth, though, rebels against the rebellion. This title embraces genre, marrying a couple of crusty forms that date from the Game Boy era: the action platformer and the falling-block puzzler. It’s strange that a game so steeped in the old standards manages to feel so new.
The whole of Hatsworth is more than the sum of its parts. On the DS’ top screen, the harrumphing title character fights through jungles, airships, caves—the typical range of 2D wonderlands. The bottom screen houses the Puzzle Realm, where colored blocks yearn to be swapped into rows of three or more. Taken separately, these games-within-the-game aren’t that novel, but Hatsworth plays them off each other to great effect. When Henry slays a foe on the top screen, the monster tumbles to the bottom and sabotages your puzzle. A four-headed goblin, for instance, will create an immovable jumbo block four times the size of a normal square. Success on the puzzle board rewards Henry in turn with power-ups, including a kick-ass, delightfully out-of-place robot suit.
At the outset, players can generally switch between puzzling and adventuring at a leisurely pace, but around its midpoint, Hatsworth starts to force the issue. The later platform levels are too difficult to complete without frequent help from the Puzzle Realm, so you bounce between the two screens to coax Henry past the finish line. That bouncing is the rhythm at the heart of Hatsworth, a clever bit of syncopation that gives the game a fresh beat.
Beyond the game: Hatsworth is the brainchild of Kyle Gray, who co-founded the Experimental Gameplay Project, an online incubator of sorts for new concepts from independent developers.
Worth playing for: The boss fights are tough, time-consuming, and backed by a great soundtrack.
Frustration sets in when: There are fun twists to the gameplay throughout, but they can take too long to arrive, so the action occasionally gets repetitious.
Final judgment: In a medium that needs to bust out of its tried-and-true archetypes, Hatsworth succeeds by thinking inside the box.