I had somehow been completely unaware of the Henry Stickmin series until I came across the The Henry Stickmin Collection on Steam recently and picked it up. This review is based solely on a complete newcomer to the series and the collection as a whole. If you too are not in the know, these are madcap short interactive cartoons where experimentation and choosing options that get you killed are just as fun as solving the caper itself.
The collection contains six episodes, the final one being completely new. The previous five had all their sound and backgrounds redone and the original ‘Break the Bank’ has been reanimated too. In terms of technical features, having seen screenshots of the originals – the collection is a vast step forward whilst maintaining the same feel of stickmen doing naughty things. The actual gameplay remains untouched and that is the gem of the crown.
Each screen of each episode is an often vast branching path of scenarios. You may want to escape from the police for example after raiding a jewel and you’ll have a variety of icon or inventory based options to choose from. It is rarely just from two options – its often as high as six – and half of the time five of them will kill you in wonderfully comical ways. Henry Stickmin entertains by calling out to your base slapstick humour that has been around since early black and white cinema with deadpan delivery and crazy stunts on offer. The more absurd, the more you are likely to find it here as time travel, aliens, laser beams, gun chases and improbable physics run the day. Each time you die, it is added to your collection and you are given a slap down message. By design, death is a collectable and this makes you seek out multiple paths, trying different options and really exploring how you can get to any one of three or four multiple endings. That’s multiple endings per episode too. Replayability to key to its success and the game is great to play as a group too. Put someone who does know what will happen next to someone who doesn’t and you are both having a laugh but for different reasons. It is quite rare to find a game that unifies people under a comedy banner quite like Henry does as he warps into his death yet again.
If you are looking for story, there is some to be had here but it is comedy first. Characters reappear, there is a potential love interest hinted at depending on the paths your take and there is a general good vs evil battle taking place too.
Technically, the game warns you to not run the game in full screen as it may cause some issues with click mapping but I have to say I didn’t run into a single issue during my playtime to date. The episodes themselves are short and sweet – over in under 5 minutes each if you know the correct routes through. However, discovering that route and experiencing everything as try and fail over and over will take far longer. The finale has completely different stories depending on some choices right at the start of the episode too. You can really see how the series has grown in scope, minigames, size and graphical detail across the episodes too. I don’t think I can pick a favourite – they all have some superb moments.
So if you need a laugh and you want to sadistically watch someone fail over and over Looney Toons style – The Henry Stickman Collection is absolutely the game of choice.
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