Action Henk is a can-do sort of guy. Despite obviously letting himself go following a successful action-toy career, the moment the evil Dr Kentony steals his coveted Toy Of The Year award he’s straight back into the action, plastic gut in tow.
What that boils down to is making your way around a child’s bedroom via a series of increasingly complicated obstacle courses, while trying to do so in the fastest time possible utilising the physics-based gameplay in a similar way to the phenomenal Trials series. The opening controls you’re given to achieve this are very simple, with your character’s direction controlled by the left analogue stick, jump via the X button, and the crucial ability of butt-sliding mapped to the left trigger.
Just as in the Mario platformers, butt-sliding allows you to gain speed downhill, and you’ll quickly come to know when it’s most effective. You’ll also unlock Henk’s suction-cup grappling hook in the fourth series of levels, which you fire using the Square button. It’s a well utilised mechanic, though this set of levels seemed much easier to gain gold medals on in comparison to more or less every other one. That doesn’t stop it from remaining a lot of fun, and later levels definitely make up for this slight lull.
Ragesquid have ensured that Action Henk offers up a worthy level of challenge, and even just reaching the bronze medal times can take a number of attempts. Progress through each batch of levels is gated behind certain medal requirements so you’ll have to perfect your early runs in order to access the later ones which helps give you some incentive beyond leaderboard bragging rights.
You’ll certainly find yourself mashing the restart button a great deal, though none of the courses ever felt insurmountable, and thankfully you’ll be returned immediately to the start without any loading which is ideal for this type of game.
The difficulty level isn’t always consistent mind you, and a tough course will pop up early on in a set, and then you’ll smash through the targets of later ones. You are somewhat assisted through each course by the appearance of the ghost for the bronze medal appearing alongside you which will help you to understand quite why your time is so poor, or where you’ve picked up time and then lost it.
It’s the character challenges that are amongst the most fiendish and excruciating levels, and though their completion nets you new characters to play as they’ll certainly place your pad in danger of being flung across the room with a speed that Henk would be proud of.
The other characters are also all fundamentally the same, with no difference in speed or ability so it ultimately comes down to whether you want to see various iterations of Betsy, disco-dancer Neil, ne’er do well Dr. Kentony, or skateboarder Cedar rather than watching Henk. They each spout mildly-amusing catchphrases, though never so much as to be overpowering.
Action Henk’s bright and cheery visuals certainly capture the feel of a child’s world and living toys, and there’s a degree of homage to Pixar’s Toy Story to the opening levels. Sadly the short cutscenes aren’t of a very high quality, and overall the graphics can feel a little rough and ready, with even the occasional bout of slowdown in one or two of the more detailed levels.
Thankfully one patch has already arrived that seems to address some of these mild issues so I’m sure they’ll be completely eradicated soon enough, and ultimately it’s the track design rather than the scenery that you’ll be concentrating on.
One problem is the music, which does begin to grate after a while, with a limited number of different tracks – all of which loop relatively quickly. I did appreciate the fact that it continues to play without break when you restart your level, which certainly reduces the potential for annoyance, but there’s just not enough variety considering the length of time you may be stuck on a level for.
There’s plenty of content for you to get your teeth into either way, with nine sets of levels to work your way through, as well as local multiplayer for up to four. Ultimately it’ll be the leaderboards and the push to better your own times that is likely to be the key draw for return play, and it’s a shame that the PC version’s track editor has thus far not made the transition to console, nor that there isn’t a touch more variety to the way courses are laid out as you progress.
Despite not winning the Playstation Plus monthly vote, Action Henk’s speedy little adventure is well worth taking a shot at. The challenge of attaining those platinum medals, and in shaving a few tenths off your best times, is a hook that never fails to grab you, and for those with a competitive streak its fun, physics-based gameplay should be a perfect fit.
Version tested: PS4