Action Henk (Xbox One) Review
- Wonderful turn of speed - finally a game to capture the essence of early Sonic!
- Great fun local multiplayer mode and online leaderboards
- Has that elusive "One more go!" that the best arcade titles have
Not So Much?
- Some of the levels are really hard to get a good score in - it feels a little uneven and trial and error at times
- The swing-shot feels like it needs to be more forgiving at times
- Occasional slow-down and stuttering as well as missed button presses add to the frustration levels
Action Henk does its best to pull at your nostalgia for the speed filled days of Sonic the Hedgehog – and manages to produce one of the better action platformers in recent years doing it!
ction Henk is the console release of a 2015 PC title from Netherlands based developer RageSquid. It found some good buzz in early access with many offering up comparisons with retro classics like Sonic the Hedgehog. Our very own Peter sat down with Roel Ezendam from the studio last year in fact. Now the game is transitioning to the home consoles, how will it compare to similar titles?
Action Henk is, at its simple core, a speedrunner. A simple to play, yet hard to truly master platformer that requires you to move and react at a breakneck speed. Henk himself doesn’t look the sprightliest chicken in the shop. He looks more like a retired action hero from the 70s or 80s who’s been dragged back for one last hurrah. His massive beer-gut hanging over his waistband is truly distressing. Yet Henk moves with the determined speed of a retiree outrunning the Grim Reaper. The whole game is one large toy box filled with action figures that try their best to fill you with nostalgia for those good old days of playing about with your toys.
In Action Henk you have to make your way from point A to B as quickly as possible. Super simple and arcade to the core. And that’s what keeps Action Henk honest. It’s first and foremost an arcade title. It’s not trying to be anything it wasn’t designed to be. Nobody has bolted on power-ups or character progression – the Henk you start with is the Henk you finish with.
Hurtling through each of the ten distinctly themed areas was never gong to be easy. Thankfully Henk has a small number of tricks up his sleeve. When not running or jumping Henk can perform his Butt-Slide manoeuvre. A simple button press will see Henk flinging himself around the course – literally by the seat of his pants! This allows him to build up more speed on certain surface and certain inclines. Other mechanics such as a swing-shot are introduced which help break up the levels a little and add some variety.
Making your way through each of the levels, you battle against the clock. Your score in a level will then determine your medal ranking. This can be a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal depending on the time you’ve managed. Score a gold in each of the levels in an area and you unlock a bonus level to take on. There are, naturally, global and friend leaderboards on each level so as well as the medal challenges you can also stack up against friends. There’s also the newly introduced local multiplayer as well for that couch co-op action.
It’s these micro-challenges that keep you coming back. Sure it’s pretty easy, especially in the first few zones, to just blast through and pick up Bronze after Bronze. The trouble is this won’t give you enough medals to unlock later levels so you really need to be mastering most levels at a Silver or Gold level to progress in the game. What starts out as a simple platform runner soon becomes a devilishly tricky game to master. As the later few zones appear you have to be putting in absolutely faultless performances, hitting pixel-perfect launch points and slide points. It’s demanding and at times it feels like the game’s not quite up to the task of keeping pace with you.
Yes, despite it’s super fast pace and smooth scrolling goodness Action Henk has a few hiccups to contend with. Difficulty is a little sporadic. One level will be just impossible for the longest time whilst the other levels around it are a breeze. I also found the swinging mechanic frustrating at times – in fact most of the levels that frustrated me were ones using that mechanic. It just didn’t feel precise enough when you really needed it. There were also a few hitches with frame rates and the game would sometime stutter – which is a real no-no for a game that relies on smooth pace and speed.
It looks good and sounds good capturing the look and feel of each subject area well and having a large Toy Box world vibe going on. The additional unlockable characters were a little “weird looking” but amusing none the less. Playing as them is also great fun once you’ve unlocked them.
Action Henk is a solid platformer and one of the better speed running titles to emerge in recent years. It has the speed and fluidity that made Sonic so great, just without the stop/start parts that killed Sonics momentum.
It’ll run you (pun mostly intended!) roughly fours hours in total to make it through to the end of the games 70 levels. As mentioned though there’s the added bonus of trying for better medals as well as squaring off against friends on the leaderboard and multiplayer mode.
The small issues with Action Henk don’t stop it being a solid title that will delight anyone looking for this style of game. What it does, it does better than most of the competition out there.