STAFF REVIEW of Action Henk (Xbox One)

Tuesday, April 19, 2016.
by Kirby Yablonski

Action Henk Box art I have never been a “speed runner” game fan. It’s not because the genre isn't any good, it’s just that I am not adept at playing them given given my somewhat well known lack of patience that people have pointed out I can have, so I tend to stay away from them for my own sanity sake. With that being said, when I took on the review duties for Action Henk I really was somewhat hesitant in terms of what I was getting into. So, it was with an open mind, and prayers for my own sanity, that I started playing, and after more than a few runs of the various tracks offered, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised with what developer RageSquid has done in creating Action Henk.

You shouldn’t expect much of a story with any speed runner, and this game is no different; however, there is something of a story here and it manages to set up why you are doing what you do and why you are doing it. Henk was once a “great” toy, actually, he was “Toy of the Year” back in the day, but since then he has since let himself go a bit (check out his belly) and someone steals his prized trophy that celebrates his once greatness. It’s time for Henk to get back into the ‘game’ and show that he still has some mad skills that made him such a star. He'll have to beat other toys to do this with the hope of getting back to greatness.

Action Henk starts in some child’s messy, but pretty cool bedroom. Each speed run takes place on a level that is made up of various items, such as the recognizable bright orange “hot-wheel” like tracks, wooden building blocks, and other stuff you might find in a bedroom filled with toys. You’ll be jumping, wall jumping, and butt sliding (yes, butt sliding) on some very well put together levels that shows RageSquid put some thought into each one. Don’t get comfortable though, as there is much more to Action Henk then the bedroom levels. As you progress through the game Henk is faced with more types of challenges, such as swinging (grappling hook) and super jumping (launch pad) as well as new areas.

As you play you’re gradually introduced to the more complex mechanics, and levels, and you must manage your way through them, even if you need to re-run more than a few levels. That being said, to master the harder levels is whole other task, especially later on. Luckily controls are spot on and as you take on the various challenges ahead of you there is the ability to reset at a past checkpoint (it won’t reset time though) and you can also retry the whole level at any time with a simple press of the ‘B’ button. You’ll be also racing against a ‘ghost’ that is your target time, and if you get stuck you can watch and see how the ghost gets through a particular section you may be stuck on. Mark my words though, even with some help like this you’ll still be challenged more often than not to get through a particular level.

You progress through the various stages which contain a number of levels in each one. As you beat each level you earn medals for your time (bronze, silver or gold) which tally together to eventually open more stages. Once you get through each level in the stage you eventually face a boss, which is another toy in the stage; beat the boss toy and you move on.

Should you get a gold medal in every level of a stage, a bonus level opens up. There are dozens upon dozens of levels to challenge you in Action Henk and each one takes anywhere from 20-40 seconds or so, but it’s not as easy as beating it on the first run, as I’ve mentioned above, you’ll be challenged a lot and you’ll be running and re-running various levels to get more medals or even just get through.

If there is one thing that is very evident with Action Henk is its addictiveness. You’ll want to play “one more time” in an effort to shave off a fraction of a hair more off your time so you can get a better medal, beat a score on your friends list, or climb the online leaderboard. Fans of the genre know that this is generally the way these speed runner games play, but for me it was amplified a bit as I haven’t played too many of these before.

There is also a multiplayer mode. You can’t help but appreciate the fact some form of same screen multiplayer is included allowing you to battle it out with friends when some bragging rights are at stake. Sit on the couch and race against your friends while yelling at each other to try to take them off of their "A" game. Kind of reminds me of gaming in the old days when you had to be in the same room.

Visually, Action Henk is pretty well done. The characters are well designed and I really appreciated the humour, right down to how Henk let himself get out of shape after he reached his peak. The levels are well crafted using items in each area to highlight the challenges you face on each level. Every level and stage is brightly coloured too and technically the game is solid.

There is a smattering of short cutscenes throughout the game as well, and although they are far from outstanding, their quality and voice acting suits the general style of the game, telling what narrative is there. As for the sound, music is suitable and really matches the 80’s or 90’s “action hero” aspect of a kid’s life (e.g. having the toys and posters in one’s room), but you’ll find that it doesn’t particularly add to the overall experience, which isn’t a bad thing, just something that is there.

Sure, at the end of the day Action Henk is not particularly original in its concept for a speed runner game, but that doesn’t make it any less entertaining. Its setting is quite original, the learning curve is gradual, and if you want to master it you really need to practice, something that a game like this should have you do. If a noob like me could have fun with it, there is no doubt that fans of speed runners should enjoy it too.

An online multiplayer would be an added benefit for those looking for a bit of long-distance speed running against a friend.

Overall: 7.9 / 10
Gameplay: 7.9 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.5 / 10


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