Last time we talked about Action Henk with developer RageSquid, it was still in early access as the developers were putting the final touches on the game. Now that the game is officially done, I wanted to take a second look to see how this challenging platformer turned out.
The story from early access remains the same: Action Henk is an out of shape toy that has fallen on hard times. When his trophy is stolen by evil toy Kentony, he begins a quest to reclaim his greatness through a series of escalating platforming sections.
The gameplay of Action Henk is one part runner and one part platformer with a physics engine thrown in. Each level tasks the player to reach the exit while being scored on how long they took. To show the player’s progress, you can set up different ghosts to play the level alongside you as a measurement of your skill.
Bronze, silver, and gold ghosts are the regular progression while special rainbow ghosts are unlocked later. Get enough medals and you’ll unlock challenges to have a chance to get new characters and costume variants. And that’s really it to the basic gameplay, but what makes Action Henk so interesting is the level of challenge involved in mastering it.
The heart of Action Henk’s gameplay is the physics engine that dictates the player’s momentum on the ground and in the air. Slide into declines will increase your speed while running up an incline will slow you down. Every little motion the player makes will affect Henk’s velocity in the level which can shave precious milaseconds off of your time. Not only that, but this can help you make important shortcuts and get the edge against the ghosts.
Playing the first three ghosts, you can make some mistakes and still have a chance at winning. But the rainbow ghost requires perfection and mastery of the mechanics.
Despite the simple gameplay, Action Henk is a hardcore platformer for those that want to go far into the game. Later levels become fiendish mazes and trials as you attempt to learn their tricks while outperforming the ghost. One new mechanic does get introduced which is a grappling hook which is as fun as it is dangerous to use along with the levels that involve it.
What I enjoyed about Action Henk is that it’s very skill dependent and asks a lot of the player. Earlier levels become easier not due to abstraction of the character, but actual improvement on the player’s part. When I spoke with one of the developers from RagesSquid, he compared Action Henk to the Trials series which is fair as they both expect a lot out of the player base.
Action Henk works as a game meant for multiple skill levels thanks to the medal mechanic and progression model. Novice players can be happy with bronze and still see a majority of the content. While expert players will have their work cut out for them in order to see it all plus bonus extra hard levels. For people wanting more, you can download additional ghosts from friends, compete globally on leaderboards and even download and create new levels via Steam workshop integration.
Action Henk is meant for both quick and extended plays thanks to the short but demanding levels and there isn’t much for me to complain about.
The main problem that I have with Action Henk is the same from the early access phase. The game makes it hard for you to learn how to improve your skills. A lot of the expert tactics and ways to increase your velocity aren’t explained to the player. The point is that you should be watching the ghosts play and that will educate you on what you need to change or improve on.
The problem is that it’s very hard to catch that during a play; mainly because it’s hard to keep an eye on the ghosts both on and off screen.
Due to the momentum based gameplay, the second the ghost speeds off screen it’s rare that you will be able to catch up to them.
My main area that needs improvement would be with controlling velocity while wall running which has been my major stumbling block.
There are only two tutorial messages but the game does give you loading screen tips. This is a good example of a problem with no right answer to it. They could introduce tutorial levels and instructional reading, but that would slow down the pace and there is the chance that players won’t even view them. This is why they went with the ghost instructional idea but it does have some issues as already mentioned.
Another problem is that currently there is no way to rebind keys which leaves lefties such as yours truly in a bit of a bind.
Despite the overweight build of our hero, Action Henk is a challenging platformer with responsive controls. Ragesquid has a great balance between novice and expert play thanks to the progression model and it’s an overall great game for fans of platforming, as long as you can deal with the school of hard knocks approach to learning.
For more about Action Henk, here is a live play I did with Ragesquid on Twitch.