Action Henk is a massive star that can do anything he turns his hand to.
Well, you'd believe that to be the case if you took a look around the room in which he lives. He was kickflipping in Action Henk's Pro Skater 2, replaced Bruce Willis in Die Henk, and seemingly was a part of every other franchise that folks of a certain age will remember with fondness. In the early going, this room plays host to Henk's return to stardom. A nefarious villain has stolen one of Henk's (doubtless) many awards and as such, the pot-bellied action figure must return to the fray to chase him down.
This is done by chasing your way through a multitude of increasingly complex levels against the clock, sort of along the same lines as Trials Fusion. Once the starter's gun fires, you're off to the races, jumping, swinging, and butt-sliding your way through each course against your choice of ghost opponent. Should you fall to your doom, you can jump back to the start of the course with a press of the B button, or back to the last checkpoint with the Y button. The ultimate goal is to at least beat the bronze medal time, since collecting medals gives access to a head-to-head battle against each area's boss character, as well as unlocking new sets of levels for you to take on. In terms of structure, it's all very straightforward stuff.
However, Action Henk's challenge is far from straightforward. You'll likely cruise through the first two sets of levels without too much hassle, picking up at least the silver or bronze medals as you do so. What you'll notice when you try to go back and pick up the gold if you miss one though, is that the smallest change to your approach can make the world of difference. Jump just a step earlier and you'll get a lower trajectory into the next section. Jump out of a slide instead of just running out of it, and you'll cover ground faster and go into the next portion of the level with enhanced speed. Let go of the grapple hook earlier on, and you'll be thrust over a jump that you previously had to make manually. The smallest alteration can be the difference between being a champion or settling for a lower medal. This means that although you'll breeze through some levels, there's more playing time here than meets the eye, as you'll head back in to have…just…one…more…go…at trimming that last half a second off your time to grab the gold.
Not that there isn't plenty of playing time available for you without that. Indeed, Action Henk's challenge ramps up quite seriously when you get into the later stages. Relatively obvious left-to-right levels that just have you jumping over the odd obstacle and wall jumping to get up to the occasional higher section become sprawling behemoths with multiple paths and repeating sections. On these levels, watching the ghost's path through each area is absolutely essential, since it's easy to get lost. Not only that, but the ghost player's approach will give you an idea of how to get the best time.
These later challenges also explain the presence of the checkpoint system. In the opening levels, you'll wonder why you would ever need to use the Y button to jump back to the last checkpoint as doing so doesn't reset your time. In essence, restarting at a checkpoint makes it impossible to get the time that you need. But when you're faced with bigger challenges, it can be very, very handy to just skip back to have a practice run (or two, or three, or a hundred) of a section so that you can get the hang of it, before taking a fresh run through the entire course.
It's this increased challenge that – along with the leaderboards – puts Action Henk right up with the best of them. The later levels are genuine puzzles that not only require you to work out what you have to do, but also require that you have the skill and dexterity to do it. Sure, you can see that you need to use the grapple hook to swing all the way up and back over a platform – which you have done a million times before – in order to get to the next section, but when that next section starts tripping you up, you'll find that you start to have trouble with the grappling hook part. This leads to that "one more go" feeling that we alluded to earlier. That feeling is exacerbated by the fact that each level is relatively short. You'll stumble over one level for twenty minutes, trying to get the best time, all the while swearing that this will be the last one before you stop for the day. Then, Action Henk manages to somehow draw you in to just have a quick look at the next.
Of course, this is all before you get a friend or two over to run through a couple of courses in the game's fantastic local multiplayer mode...
Action Henk is enjoyable and challenging, of that there is no doubt. It isn't going to win any awards for visuals – despite looking good enough to get the job done – and we'd like to have seen the comedy brand placement from the initial playroom area be used more in the levels themselves. With that said, neither of these things is going to interrupt your entertainment and the enjoyment and exquisite frustration that the game provides is more than enough for it to get our recommendation. Good stuff.