Action Henk is a game about an overweight toy running across a kid’s bedroom to prove that he’s still got what it takes to be faster than his rival Dr. Kentony. It’s the debut game from Dutch studio RageSquid, and has been available on Steam Early Access since July 2014, picking up a dedicated community of fans and speedrunners since.
It’s often compared to Sonic the Hedgehog by players as it focuses solely on going fast along its sidescrolling tracks. To acknowledge this, RageSquid put in a Sonic costume for Henk to wear. And it’s far from the most unusual costume you’ll find: there are tutus, disco Henks, and other toys that are even more barmy than Henk, such as his enthusiastic personal trainer Betsy.
Siliconera wanted to find out more about the studio behind Action Henk, mostly because they have an office filled with toys, but also because the team seem to have made a better Sonic game than anyone else has managed recently. Kitty Callis from RageSquid talks about how the team’s love for action figures helped them come up with Action Henk, how they’ve recently added features to encourage people to speedrun the game more, and shares some of her favorite levels made by the community.
Firstly, could you briefly describe what Action Henk is all about?
Kitty Callis, PR: Action Henk is our speedrunning platformer all about a speed-loving tiny action figure whose best days are far behind him. Players race Henk and his friends through toy-filled rooms, trying to make the most out of physics, momentum, and perfectly timed butt-slides, all while beating their friend’s high-scores and mocking them on the leaderboards.
Why did you decide to set it in a world of ’90s action figures and toys?
A big part of the aesthetic of Action Henk is the things we grew up with. We’ve always liked how uncomplicated toys can be, and our artist figured that it’d be a great way to combine realism with colorful, in-your-face graphics. In the early days of RageSquid, one of our colleagues bought a big box of Action Men, sort of the Dutch version of G.I. Joe, and we just started decorating our old office with all kinds of toys. Sitting in such an environment for a while probably soaked into our minds and helped shape the world Henk takes place in.
Who are some of the unlockable characters in the game? Do any of them have special features or unique abilities?
The unlockable characters and skins are all of Henk’s friends and rivals, forming a very light story as you play through the game. Action Henk slowly gets back in shape with the help of his friends to eventually beat his lifelong rival, Dr. Kentony. The characters don’t have any special abilities, but we do have a whole host of different skins, inspired by how G.I. Joe’s and Action Man always come in all sorts of silly outfits. The game does have levels with special items, such as a grappling hook, but all of that isn’t dependent on what character you play with.
Action Henk has been compared to Sonic the Hedgehog many times. Was it your intention to make a game that compares to Sonic or did you draw inspiration from elsewhere?
It seems like Sonic is the first thing people think about when they see a game that’s about going super fast on foot. It’s a huge compliment of course, but Action Henk really comes from a quite different direction. A lot of our team skateboard a lot, and have always been fascinated by going fast, physics, and momentum. That fascination combined with games we love such as Trials and Joe Danger, is what really added up to Action Henk! We do appreciate how Sonic might have gotten a lot of people to love going fast, so there’s a little tribute hidden in the game.
How do you add personality and challenge across the game’s many levels? How much variation is there?
A lot of the game takes place inside a kid’s bedroom which, obviously, is a total toy-filled mess. Since Henk’s only a couple of centimeters high we can place our tracks through various parts of the room and have quite a different experience. Racing over a desk feels different than racing under a bed, and we’ve made sure to hide plenty of little Easter Eggs and eye candy to look at from different places in the room.
There are also different themes we can slap on the room, so we have a big creepy Halloween version with plastic glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling, and permanent floor-is-lava functionality, and a funky disco room with cool strobe lights for decoration. Other than that, eventually, Henk goes through the window and gets to race outside on the small island our bedroom is placed on.
Difficulty wise we just keep amping things up, focusing on different aspects of the gameplay. One level you’re buttsliding, the next you’re practicing wall-jumps or showing off your grappling hook skills, after which you suddenly have to outrace one of your friends or rivals in a special challenge level! Mixing up the tracks like this, combined with the different aesthetics and trying to improve your times or your friend’s times, really (and hopefully) makes sure there’s plenty of gameplay and variation in every bit of the game.
Considering the game’s propensity for being speedrun, how have you tried to encourage competition between players?
In our last update, we actually added a whole load of “Challenge Your Friends” functionality. We obviously have the usual global leaderboards and friend leaderboards, but also allow people to load in ghosts of the current World Champion. For those who really want to get a rivalry going, you can enable push notifications to see if your friends beat your times, or send out challenges when you outrace them. This really makes it easy for people to stay on top of their game and quickly see which levels they need to get better at!
After we launched the game on Early Access, we actually noticed that our Gold medals weren’t challenging enough for a lot of the hardcore players. One of the best players in the world at that point was a good friend of the team, so we invited him over to the office, and he helped record the extremely difficult Rainbow medals for the game. If you manage to get those then you’re easily in the top 5% of players!
Do you have any tips for people trying to increase their times in Action Henk?
First of all, don’t slide up hills. That’s a common mistake many people start out with. Once you have a bit of a feel for the physics, it really helps watching other player’s ghosts, or loading in gold medal runs to watch. You can see all the tiny tricks that are used and little things you can do to shave off those milliseconds! The game is quite easy to pick up and get decent at, but after that, it really becomes a life-long quest of honing your skills, staying in top shape, and being absolutely perfect in every single instant!
Have there been any zany levels made by players in the level editor? Any favorites you could pick out?
Yes, there are loads! It’s great to see how different people come up with totally different styles of levels! Our community has made some amazing things, here are some of our favorites:
– Mountain Race by Qwertzoi: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=355146307
– Ziggurat by jwaap: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=360572354
What’s the current plan for launching Action Henk—when and where? And how much will it be?
We just launched the last Early Access update, and are working on a last tiny update for that one. After that it’s just finishing up the game, and hopefully launching in Q1! No word on platforms yet, but we’re definitely looking into possibilities other than just PC/Mac/Linux! We still need to think about the exact cost at launch, but it’ll be slightly more than the current price of $9,99, so now’s a great time to jump in and get your hands on the game!