It’s been a few years since Joe Danger graced our consoles, and while we all know what Hello Games have been working on since then, there hasn’t really been a game that comes close to achieving the great mix of level design, gameplay and colorful characters that Joe left in his wake. Action Henk intends to remedy that.
Most of the elements of Joe Danger have been incorporated in to Action Henk. The aim is to guide Henk across each stage by running, jumping and sliding. The difference being that there is an emphasis on maintaining Henk’s speed. Each stage has a variety of jumps and obstacles to navigate, and these can only be beaten when Henk is running at full pelt. Speed is built up by sliding down the declining parts of the stage, but sliding on flat or inclining sections will result in Henk slowing down until he eventually stops. This not only prevents Henk from clearing the obstacles in front of him, but also effects the time it takes to beat the stage, with the ultimate goal to gain either a bronze, silver or gold medal. Without one of these, you won’t be able to progress to the next stage, and won’t be able to unlock the next areas.
Multiplayer: 4 Player Local
The biggest problem with this is the controls. When it comes to this type of game, where every second counts, having controls I could trust was essential. However, I found that the controls were nowhere near as tight as they needed to be. The jump button is the biggest culprit; I missed or fluffed jumps several times due to a slight lag in the jump button. This was without a doubt my greatest source of frustration with the game. And because of the time restraint, a single failed jump meant I had to restart the stage. At least this was easy to do, with a simple press of the Circle button. Running alongside me was a ghost runner. This is an indicator of the minimum time required to get the bronze medal. It’s helpful for two reasons; firstly, I was able to tell when I was too far behind and could restart and try again. Secondly, if I was struggling with the various stages, I could follow the ghost and find the best way to get past trickier parts. It was a very helpful tool, especially when I found myself having trouble beating a stage.
Another bugbear of mine is the way in which the different areas unlock. Each area comprises of five stages, and a boss stage (which are no different than normal stages, except you race against a rival, not a ghost). To unlock the next stage, I just had to obtain any medal in the previous stage. But to unlock the next level required me to have a certain number of medals. Therefore, I could easily unlock the next stage, but to move to the next level, I needed to retry levels until I unlocked either the silver or gold, as they count as additional medals. Seeing as the game requires almost a near perfect run in order to get gold, this became a massive problem when you add the control problems in to the mix.
There is also a lack of variety in the stages, with most of it being the standard jumping and sliding. Certain levels add new mechanics, such as a hook shot, but these are limited to that particular level. It would have been nice for each level to add a new element and for that to carry over in to all future levels, but sadly that wasn’t the case. As such I felt that the only thing different between levels was slight changes in visual design. Admittedly, halfway through the stages the game moved to a different location, but it wasn’t really that exciting.
However, Action Henk does support 4-player local co-op, which can be fun if you have a few people over. But just like its single-player counterpart, we lost interest after a while.
Action Henk also suffers from a lackluster presentation. Henk is an overweight action toy, who is well past his prime. His rivals are various other toys, but seem to have no relevance to either Henk or the courses. They also serve no real purpose, other to unlock the ability to run as them, instead of Henk. The game also looks very average, and looks more like it belongs on the last generation of consoles. The levels and their backgrounds look bland and uninteresting, as do the characters. Joe Danger was full of color and colorful characters; Action Henk is not and looks dark and dingy.
It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Joe Danger when talking about Action Henk; the influence in both gameplay and design is there for all to see. But Action Henk falls short in too many ways, allowing Joe to speed off in to the sunset, leaving Henk in his dust.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.