Imagine the momentum-based challenges of Trials crossed with the joyful speed of Sonic and you’re pretty close to picturing what playing Action Henk is like. That’s Henk, not Hank (developers RageSquid are Dutch), the best action figure of the 1980s/90s that you’ve never heard of. Sure he may now be sporting a giant beer belly but in this 2D speedrunning platformer he sure can move.
Comparisons to Trials are a bit misleading admittedly as Action Henk is a lot more straightforward. Running from left to right (mostly) you only have two actions to help you traverse the brightly coloured courses – a standard jump and a butt-slide move to generate serious speed on downward slopes. A few of the levels also feature a grappling hook power-up which adds a fair amount of complexity but generally it’s a fairly simple game to play, and this is key to its fun and addictive nature.
The difficulty slowly builds across more than seventy levels but for the most part you’ll find you can complete each track with a bronze medal on your first or second attempt (the grappling hook levels and the rock-hard final level being the notable exceptions) but the real challenge comes in trying to constantly improve your best times on each level to earn silver and gold medals which are necessary to open up more stages in the game. Crucially it’s possible to instantly restart a level if you’ve made a mistake, or instead jump back to the last checkpoint if you just need to practice a specific area.
The cartoony graphics reflect the more family-friendly difficulty level but are still very eye-catching and impressive. Bright, colourful and detailed they gloriously bring to life the Archetypal bedroom of a boy in the 80 or 90s with familiar toys and posters strewn everywhere – if you can tear your eyes away from the track you’ll spot posters for familiar films like Top Gun and Die Hard while Thunderbird vehicles trundle past. Even the course itself is for the most part made out of either wooden blocks or bright orange Hot Wheels tracks. It’s a credit to the quality of the game that I was often reminded of Toy Story while playing.
However the attempt to shoe-horn in a storyline is slightly successful as Action Henk apparently faces of against his nemesis Kentoony, which you’ll often forget about despite a handful of brief cut-scenes. It does at least provide some linking between the nine themed stages that the levels are divided into, each culminating with a race against a boss character – although it’s worth noting that the boss characters are often used more than once with just a costume change to make them relevant. It’s also possible to unlock the other characters to race with, and then further unlock their various costumes with Betsy having the best wardrobe with Rocky, Xena and Baywatch outfits to choose from.
There isn’t much dialogue to accompany your quest either as each character just has a few choice phrases, although at least they don’t get too tiresome. The same can’t quite be said of the soundtrack which although incredibly up-tempo and catchy can start to grate after extended play.
Multiplayer is also disappointing, as rather than racing directly against opponents you’re just given a set amount of time to make as many attempts as possible set a best time and then the results are compared against each other – hardly inspiring. You do also have the option to race against ghosts of your friends’ best times however which is more entertaining, but still not particularly involving.
More successful though are the ghost options you have to race against on each track – with ghosts for the bronze, silver and gold times to help you judge your performance (and on later levels the ghosts are essential for working out where you’re even supposed to be going). The inclusion of a track builder is also very welcome and potentially sets the scene for a never-ending roster of new courses to race on.
As someone who found often Trials more frustrating than enjoying it’s a testament to the quality of Action Henk that I was absolutely engrossed and lost swathes to time in beating the numerous tracks and then going back to repeat my times. For an indie title it’s extremely polished and a real unexpected surprise – RageSquid may be a new developer but they certainly know how to make a fun game.
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