- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 3, 2009

Here’s an abbreviated look at some multimedia titles for everyone in the family.

Henry Hatsworth in the Puzzling Adventure (from Electronic Arts for DS, $29.99) — The fashionably dressed wield enormous power in this fantastic game that mixes block-swapping conundrums with side-scrolling combat.

Meet the elderly Henry Hatsworth, a proper Brit who knows how to wear a bowler, and the most popular member of the Pompous Adventurer’s Club. His explorations are legendary and he is now after the mythical Golden Suit, which translates into a player controlling Mr. Hatsworth within a pair of worlds, through five dangerous locales and 30 levels of action.

On the top DS screen, we get the traditional fighting, jumping, climbing, boss battles and gem collecting one would find in the typical platformer. It’s good stuff that also includes his use of a robot suit, a secondary set of projectile weapons and cashing in found riches for upgrades.

The gaming twist begins as Mr. Hatsworth defeats some of the enemy creatures. They become trapped in cubes that move to the puzzle realm, which resides on the bottom screen. A player must finagle the blocks to match three in a row. Keep the pieces from filling up the board, which pushes the creatures back to the top screen where they can attack again. Making block matches releases special powers that can be used in the top screen to defeat monsters permanently.

Although the game uses little of the touch control scheme, it’s the kind of experience a DS owner dreams of with a fun story, a decent level of difficulty, those screen-splitting visuals and an accessible control scheme to keep him very involved.

Bonsai Barber (from Nintendo, for the Wii, downloadable WiiWare for 1,000 WiiPoints) — A player must use his finest pruning and styling techniques to satisfy a bunch of finicky foliage in this too weird, too cute first-person grooming game.

According to a newspaper story found at the start of the action, a new barber — the lucky player — has arrived in town. His shop immediately fills with customers, including Mr. Stickle, an angry stalk of celery, and Maizy, a piece of sweet corn with too much frizz on top.

Armed with scissors controlled by a Wiimote (with a touch that a surgeon would admire), the barber follows a customer’s orders with help from a translucent template, chopping off leaves, twigs and branches in design with the required cut.

Don’t let the hand-drawn, 2-D design distract from the game’s beauty as the veggies and fruits extend some sass, show bursts of emotion and can be a bit fidgety during the process.

Tools available include an electric shaver, a comb (to force branches in place), a water bottle (to immediately regrow branches in case of a too-close cut) and even some paint buckets to frost the finished Pompadour.

Once a cut is complete, the barber gets a star rating and, for no particular reason, must bang a gong to call in the next lucky customer.

Only five customers can be served per day, but that doesn’t mean the fun has to end. A potted plant is always available to practice more than a dozen styles. Or, open a scrapbook to view customers’ presents and bios, awards, postcards and photos of recent triumphs. Those photos can even be e-mailed to friends via the WiiConnect24 system.

If I include the fun found when a group of family members hang out for the limited playtime, 10 bucks is a reasonable price to pay for the silliness of Bonsai Barber.