Joystiq hands-on: Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (DS)

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure combines a block-matching, DS puzzle game--think Panel de Pon/Planet Puzzle League--with a side-scrolling platformer. This puzzling mash-up keeps the blocks on the bottom screen, Hatsworth jumping up top, and you toggling between each to maintain progress. We recently played this stylish title, due at the beginning of 2009. With so many small things to get right, we're uncertain that the puzzle-platformer will work, but we're impressed by its potential.

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In the top screen, Hatsworth runs, jumps, swings his cane, and shoots, much like any other platformer. However, when you kill an enemy in this perspective, it turns into a block, sliding into the puzzle screen below. Those blocks constantly creep upwards, and if the block faces reach the top DS screen, they turn back into angrier, more powerful foes.

The X button always pauses the side-scrolling control and swaps to the puzzle world. Gamers shift blocks horizontally, trying to match three-or-more colors to erase those blocks forever. But instead of just killing a block-shaped enemy, puzzle prowess governs special abilities and even ammo in the top screen; ignore the puzzle blocks, and Hatsworth will only be able to attack with his puny cane.

When we leapt and ran through the top screen, the button controls felt agile and comfortable. We especially liked the scaling complexity, which should keep the game fresh; in addition to standard, one-button attacks, many power-ups and button combinations performed new moves. We summoned non-sequitur special attacks with a full puzzle energy meter, such as Tea Time, which put Hatsworth inside a giant walking robot with a laser canon.

Because those attacks rely on the puzzle meter, we often tapped into the bottom screen to match some blocks. The puzzle screen responds to touch or D-pad, but we mostly stuck to the hard buttons since that felt quicker than retrieving the stylus each time. Players can stay in the puzzle world for a length that increases with the damage generated in the top screen. You can't die in the puzzle, but you can get kicked back to the top screen after that meter depletes.

Hatsworth has a lot going on. While we think the puzzle-platform combination could excel, much of the game will rely on its developers tuning difficulty and challenge. At times, the puzzle and the platforming felt easy, but that might have been because we started on an early level. And with so much to keep track of at once, we could see how the game could become frustrating and confusing.

Scheduled for the beginning of 2009, Henry Hatsworth and the Puzzling Adventure takes a creative leap by combining unrelated genres. EA and its Tiburon designers have tapped into a lot of potential we hope Hatsworth can achieve.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.