Troll dolls infiltrated households throughout the 90s. In order to appeal to a broader audience, the “Stone Protectors” — think troll dolls infused with steroids — were introduced. These musclebound action figures provided a sidestep to the traditional Ninja Turtles-filled market, delivering a slice of humor while looking to hit the same nostalgia factor. Well, if these dolls produced an offspring that still ran the toy box playground, that spawn might be called Action Henk!
What is Action Henk!, you might ask? Better yet, who is Henk? The game is primarily a speed-running platformer that mixes childhood imagination with soldier-like tactics to produce the best time possible on a given course. It sounds simple, right? The courses are a mixture of Hot Wheels tracks, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and a toy box explosion. Whether it’s simply commanding a flaming butt-slide for swift relays or the grappling suction cup gun for aerial nabs, the way in which you traverse each level will either hinder or reward your reflexes and creativity.
Each level comes with many challenges, the first of which can be seen in just making it through the course alive and possibly receive a bronze, silver, or gold rating. Each can be obtained by delivering the fastest dash through a given course. The long jumps and missed grapples might send you falling to your doom, but nailing the right combination of launches and gaps might seat you right in gold medal territory. There is a mixture of course types and even challenges against computer AI. After playing through a few levels, you will notice leaderboards will eventually become a factor in the final release.
The controls of the game are laid out in an attainable, palatable space. The ‘A’ button jumps, leaving you to jab for smaller hips and smash it down for longer stints. The ‘LT’ allows Henk to dip it low — all the way to the ground, in fact — for a butt-slide. This maneuver will either provide speed or limit your run if not hit at the correct moment. There is currently no indication gauge, so its use is done simply by look and feel. Hips will become intuitive as you decide to hop or dip to gain extra speed, shaving either seconds or milliseconds off of your final time. The ‘X’ button fires off the suction cup grappler. Using this to swing to the next obstacle can be fun, challenging, and a simple joy when you finally nail the course. There are moments of sweaty stress as you free fall, only to have your next move be a strategic grapple onto a slice of a building block.
If you are a perfectionist or spent any time with the early Pro Skater games, you will be glad to know the ‘B’ button sends you back to the beginning of the level. The ‘Y’ button will send you back to the last checkpoint, but for anyone who wants the perfect time or run, you will quickly notice the ‘B’ reset becoming a quick-fix. You addict.
The game does play well in its early build. Stepping into a level where “the floor is lava” brings back childhood memories of scaling couch cushions to avoid the flame-ridden floor. The vision of Henk isn’t my most idealistic view of an action figure, but the satire is welcome. Hey, for all we know, he could have been a remarkable hero before he beefed up his plastic form. There are also other characters to unlock over the course of play; this wasn’t necessarily news delivered via the Pre-Alpha build, but it was delivered to us during our hands-on time at E3 2014.
While the game plays heavily into the casual market of gaming, there is a lot to be appreciated here. The game will become available on PC via Steam, already has controller support, and didn’t seem to have any performance issues during the demo. That is something which, to be honest, most games can’t compare to in their final release.
Action Henk! is slated for Steam early access on July 8, 2014.