Ever since its announcement, Action Henk has been something to keep an eye on. With its speedrunning, platform based core, cute ‘Toy Story’ like visuals and the chance to compete against your friends as you try and hit the finish line in the fastest time possible, boxes are ticked for all of the above and then some.
Going hands-on with Henk prior to his arrival on Xbox One has given me the opportunity to understand whether Action Henk will be a title for all, or just one that will appeal to the speedrunning community.
I’m glad to say that initial impressions are very good. For near on all.
Henk is an old classic action figure who has let himself go. In a bid to impress, Henk will need to lug his out of shape body across up to 70 levels filled with platforms, jumps, swings, trampolines and more, all as he attempts to earn the biggest, shiniest medal in the process. Everything has been hit with a splash of joy from the gloriously bright, colourful and cutesy visuals, down to the delightful music that accompanies not just the races, but the loading screens and menus.
Seen as a bit of a cross between the fast pace that comes with Sonic and the skills required to succeed in Trials, Action Henk fills the void between the two rather lovingly, brining with it a decent amount of humour and colour. Controls are seemingly precise and spot-on, something which ensures that the line between pleasure and frustration is really only ever crossed should your skills let you down. Even on the harder stages.
Shaving milliseconds off your best times in order to achieve the bronze, silver, gold or rainbow medals on offer sees you spending more time with Henk than you ever probably meant to. It’s the ultimate ‘one more go’ title, especially once you get some online friends in on the act, throwing additional times and challenges for you to compete against. Chances are that once you’ve played through and reached the end of a stage, you’ll be going back time and time again in order to drop your PB by even a hundredth of a second. This was something that was present in the early Trials titles and is a key feature for Henk and his old, unfit gang to build on.
Much of your time spent on track will be spent running in a left to right fashion, but hit a downward slope and Henk will be more than happy to butt-slide his way across the line, building momentum as he goes. Various sized jumps ensure that your springing skills will need to be on point and once you’ve unlocked the ‘hookshot’, a grappling hook that helps the competitor reach higher, faster routes, will see you sitting pretty with a game that urges you to just keep on trying.
The main premise of the single player side of things is to chase the times, earn the medals, unlock the stages and beat any other challenges that may crop up, with additional team players becoming unlocked the better you do. But should that start to somehow bore you, then a multiplayer mode will keep you entertained a bit longer.
Whilst it’s disappointing to not see an online option included, the local races that you can partake in are great fun. Available for up to four players, all running simultaneously on the same screen, it’s a race to the death as you attempt to earn the maximum number of points over a set number of courses. Drop behind the rest of the racers and you’ll find your character out of the race for good, needing to regroup ready for another go straight after. All multiplayer races are hotly contested affairs that bring about huge amounts of screaming, swearing and cheers – earning Henk a well deserved local multiplayer medal.
It would have been nice to see the inclusion of some form of track editor, even perhaps with the option to share and download creations online, but the huge array of courses that have been included from the get go mean this isn’t too much of an issue.
Unfortunately, there are currently problems with the game failing to load the occasional race, insisting that the player jump back to the Xbox dash in order to try again. I should think this would be fixed prior to release. In fact, I’d be very surprised if it were not but we will of course let you know about that in our full review.
Action Henk promises to be a stunningly fluid, butt-sliding affair that will appeal to not just solo speedrunners, but those who like even the smallest bit of competition, either against online friends via leaderboards or in straight races with friends and family.
Keep an eye out for it hitting Xbox One soon.