Action Henk stands out from the crowd at first glance. Its stylistic graphics and precision platforming make for an interesting pitch and it certainly doesn’t look like your typical indie game; it features a sense of style that would make you think that the studio behind it had been in the industry for years.
If you’ve ever played Doritos Crash Course - the game that came out for free (twice!) on the Xbox 360 - then you know what Action Henk is all about. For those of you unfamiliar with the premise, it’s a platformer where you play as Henk, an action figure from a toy set, who needs to traverse obstacle courses made out of other toys as quickly as possible. Your progression depends on medals earned on each stage, with each stage becoming increasingly more difficult as time goes on. Eventually, new mechanics other than sliding and running are introduced, like a sticky plunger gun that allows Henk to traverse large gaps in the stage by swinging across ceilings.
For a game with a simple premise like that, Action Henk attempts to differentiate itself through its course design, something that the team over at RageSquid have managed to do with relative success. Courses are both annoyingly frustrating and addictively replayable - I found myself replaying some levels dozens of times just to ensure I achieved a gold medal. Some levels take the imagination of being a kid in a playroom and run with it, with “the floor is lava” game mechanic changing the visuals sharply, for example. Overall, Action Henk definitely has personality - one that screams for you to take it seriously in the face of bigger studios and projects like the Trials series. The unique view and style of the characters, as well as the environment, allows RageSquid brilliant freedom in such a constrained space such as a child's room.
The controls are sharp and precise, so the game itself was never to blame for failure, only my own incompetence. This is crucial to a twitchy, fast-paced platformer like Action Henk, as the second the player doesn’t feel in control or that a mistake wasn’t their fault is the moment they become jaded and potentially stop playing. The addition of items that can be used throughout the stages, such as the plunger, really makes the precision controls all the more challenging and fun, whilst still feeling as accurate as before. Controlling Henk through the environment certainly takes some getting used to, but it's well worth it when you’re scoring gold medals every stage.
Action Henk is currently an Early Access game. There are currently 20 stages available to try, with 10 additional “Alpha” levels that are so crazy/experimental that they don’t have ghosts to follow or challenge and don't include medals. Each stage features three different times to beat in order to earn each respective medal, and also stores your best time and ghost data. These are then uploaded to the online leaderboards, where you can compete with friends and other Action Henk players.
The medals that you earn in levels are used for unlocking additional content in the game. In this Early Access version I not only unlocked all of the stages but was also able to unlock alternative costumes for Henk himself, as well as other playable characters (if you beat them on their own custom tracks).
Action Henk shows a lot of potential and could easily become one of my favourite games of the year if RageSquid manage to continue to update the title and pump out levels that are consistent and challenging. If you're the type of gamer who enjoyed Trials Fusion, or Doritos Crash Course, then you’ll love Action Henk. Action Henk can be purchased via Steam for $9.99/£6.99.