Action Henk mixes the fast paced world of Sonic with the utter frustration that you feel when your skills let you down in Trials Fusion. Yes, with Action Henk, as much as you’d love to blame the out of shape, 1970’s obsessed hero himself, there is no-one more accountable than you.
A stunningly bright, slightly humourous and downright fast paced experience, it is up to you to help Action Henk relive the old days and prove that he’s the fastest, bestest and most charismatic old toy ever. From the outset, the happy go lucky audio soundtrack will draw you in and urge you to go deep into the levels that are on offer, going faster, and faster, and faster until your eyes can take it no more.
You would think that in order to prove Henk’s worthiness you’d find him putting one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible and whilst this will be the case on the very early stages, once you come up against a course that is full of loops, walls and travelators, will quickly realise that dropping down for a good old buttslide is the way ahead.
Hitting the slopes and careering down them at breakneck speed is wonderful – as long as you manage to time things correctly. A successful slide normally ends with the need of a precision made jump and for the most part the controls hold up well. Occasionally though you’ll find that either your brain doesn’t activate your fingers quickly enough, sending poor old Henk into a spiral of doom, or that the damn A button on your Xbox One controller isn’t as sensitive as you first thought. For the most part though, success or failure can be determined by one thing – your own skill level. Something which is a recurring theme throughout.
For each stage there are four medals that can be won – bronze, silver, gold and the urban myth that is rainbow. Action Henk is all about completing the course as fast as you can, with little care for the style in which you get there. Running, buttsliding and jumping your way through each stage as quickly as possible will earn you medals, which in turn will unlock further stages; stages which come with more complex obstacles, larger loops, bigger gaps to jump over and the occasional short section with requires the use of Henk’s nifty little ‘hookshot’. Whilst this grappling hook isn’t a match for the Rico Rodriguez’ Just Cause version, it does just about do the job intended and allows Curve to make the most of tracks which do away with the usual left to right pattern, sending Henk (or indeed his toy figure compatriots) in many different directions.
Split over unique areas, all of which bring their own trials and tribulations, each set of stages will finalise with a head-to-head one-off race against an end of level ‘boss’. Beat them and you’ll be able to jump into their shoes should you feel the need. Fail and you’ll just have to hope and pray that you’ve already gathered enough medals across the previous circuits in order to unlock further glorys.
The single player ‘campaign’ that is found in Action Henk is a great time waster but to compliment it is a local multiplayer race scene that is great for those who wish to settle the score – once and for all. With up to four players taking to the track together, you may think that things would get confusing, but with a neon highlight allowing for decent recognition between all characters, the multiplayer races play out very well indeed, ensuring that Henk and his buddies will give you and your sofa friends something to enjoy. Setting up straight races or a tournament style competition split over a number of the unlocked stages works great and so if you are in need of a fast paced runner in which you can let the beer do the talking, then Action Henk mostly prevails.
But what don’t I like? Much like those found in the likes of Trials Fusion, the latter stages are just too frustrating to actually be enjoyable. Granted, there is definitely a huge sense of achievement should you ever manage to finish that stage which has been giving you trouble for days, but would you then ever go back and hit it again in an attempt to get a medal – any medal? Chances are you won’t because failing, failing and failing some more is far from fun. The sheer demand of your expertise may be the only way Action Henk can be stopped from succeeding but on a personal level, additional ‘easy and medium’ levels would be a huge draw over even just a few proper testers.
A larger array of levels would in fact have been a lovely addition as the vast majority of what is in place can be beaten without too much of an issue. That said, it is more of those easier stages that we need to see as it’s much more preferable to be able to shave a few milliseconds off your best time, then to find yourself struggling along with a stupidly hard stage that gives little in return. Yes I’m one of those bitter Trials players who has had to concede defeat with the more intense tracks on RedLynx’s finest but thankfully I never quite got into the same predicament whilst going through the motions with Henk. There were times when I was close mind you.
I’m also disappointed to see that each of the delightfully weird characters run their race in the exact same way. I’m at a slight loss to understand the draw behind using each and every one of the individuals available and once you’ve beaten them in their own head-to-head race, they quickly disappear back underground. Aside from a unique visual look which obviously helps distinguish them in multiplayer, there is next to no reason to unlock and use them. If Curve Digital had perhaps created a number (or all) of the courses that can be completed in a variety of ways, the inclusion of character skills, seeing some run faster, others slide quicker or jump higher could well have been the way to go. Just think what the level designers could have done had they had the opportunity to go a little bit mad and just imagine how long we’d all be playing something that offered numerous routes of passage.
Other than those slight setbacks, Action Henk is most definitely one of those games that you’ll continue going back to over and over again. The pacing is brilliant but the real draw is being able to go back time and time again in order to smash those PB’s, grab a bigger shinier medal or check out how your friends are doing on the leaderboards – before smashing them out of the park. When a game is built entirely around shaving milliseconds of your best efforts, has an easy to learn, supremely difficult to master attitude, then you know as well as I do, you’ll be going back to it forever more!
And that is the exact draw of Action Henk.