The music chugs along merrily enough thanks to a lively, cheery and deliberately cheesy soundtrack. The character barks are occasionally amusing.
The kid’s bedroom setting of the early levels is nice, with their fake posters and toy-strewn jumble. Yet the art style itself isn’t particularly attractive. It’s not the best looking game.
Although familiar, Action Henk’s running, jumping, butt-sliding and swinging is very compelling. There’s a satisfying depth to the game’s minimal inputs.
There are more than 70 levels in Action Henk, including some bonus levels that mix things up a little. Throw in a solid local multiplayer mode and it’s a decent package, although perhaps a tiny bit on the short side.
Action Henk’s list is largely by-the-numbers, but there is at least one achievement that’s utterly brutal; earning a Rainbow medal (one up from Gold) on every level will be one of the year’s greatest challenges.
March 07, 2016
Action Henk is an entertaining little arcade racing game that makes fantastic use of just four verbs: run, jump, slide and swing. With these ingredients developer RageSquid creates a surprising amount of complexity, a fair amount of controller-twisting frustration and huge amount of one-more-go compulsion. It’s pretty fun!
You play as the titular hero (a once-popular action figure gone to seed), who must race around a series of toy tracks against the clock. You leg it as fast as you can, leaping obstacles, butt-sliding down inclines to gain speed, occasionally swinging from grappling hooks, whooshing around loops and soaring over huge gaps.
A perfect run feels like Sonic the Hedgehog at its best; the main character a sprightly blur, the level whizzing by in the background as leaps and slides flow perfectly into one another.
Achieving these smooth runs on the later tracks demands real skill and a full understanding of Henk’s abilities. You’ll learn when to begin and end your butt-slides to gain the greatest amount of speed, the precise moment to jump mid-loop to maintain momentum, the best of the multiple paths to take on each track (and more importantly how to reach them). There’s depth in those four verbs.
This education process is gradual and occasionally painful, especially among the last of the 70+ levels, conjuring memories of RedLynx’s Trials in its unforgiveness. You know when you keep on ballsing up a tricky section, over and over, before finally doing it, only to flub an easy bit you’ve done a thousand times before? It’s a phenomenon familiar to lots of against-the-clock games. Action Henk is no exception.
Tracks are unlocked in batches by earning Bronze, Silver and Gold medals. Complete every track in a batch and you’ll unlock a showdown, where you’ll race against an AI character. Win that race and you gain the character for use in the game. A purely cosmetic bonus. Attain the Gold medal in every each race, meanwhile, and you’ll unlock a different kind of level altogether.
These bonus levels task the player with collecting all the coins in the area before the time runs out. Yet instead of merely moving from left to right, like the normal levels, here you need to work out your own route, doubling back on yourself and looping around, practising and refining. There’s some neat design on display, here and throughout the game.
There’s local multiplayer too, for up to four players. It’s just the game’s levels all lined up in a row, with points awarded for wins and deducted for deaths. It’s not particularly fully featured, yet it does the job. In the office we intended on playing for 10 minutes or so just to test it out. An hour later we were still at it. Action Henk’s “one more go” push is perhaps even greater when you’re playing against mates.
Action Henk isn’t perfect. I’m not keen on the way you have to continue pushing right, even if you’re climbing a vertical incline. I’m not a massive fan of the art style, which fails at its attempts at Joe Danger-esque cartoon flair. It’s also a little short, maybe? And the truth is you’ve played games like this before. Or at least very similar. It’s a familiar experience.
Yet the rush of perfectly nailing a level, building momentum, hitting a slide at its apex and flinging yourself off a ramp is compelling. Shaving a vital few seconds off your time even more so. SEGA needs to hire RageSquid for consultancy work. Somewhere in the designer’s mind is the best Sonic game in decades.