Double Fine are a company who always produce interesting games, so I was excited about Headlander. Its premise is a great one, that I can’t believe hasn’t been done before (or at least, one that I haven’t seen done before). You control a head in a flying helmet, exploring a world of robots, each of whom you can interact with by removing their head and replacing it with your own, therefore taking over their body.
It’s a large, Metroidvania style game, where you have to progress and solve a selection of puzzles and challenges to discover what is going on with the world, and where your place is in it. You are guided by a disembodied voice, who fills you in on a little backstory at the beginning – basically that all the humans uploaded their consciousness into robots, and that you may be the last actual human alive (even if you are just a head)
And I will say now, it is a lot of fun! The huge expansive maps give you a lot of areas to explore, there’s no set linear paths to follow, and you have a lot of quests/objectives to achieve in order to further your game and find out just what is going on.
Unfortunately, there are several things that stop this game being an absolute must-play. I reviewed it on Steam, playing with the keyboard, and the controls are a little bit laggy. When controlling the head you’d expect a bit of that, as it’s part of the design (when you are controlling the head you are controlling little jets on it, so when you press left you activate the jet and then it pushes you to the left, so there’s always a tiny bit of lag). However, the lag issues also translate over to the controls when you are in a robot body, and it feels imprecise, which can be a nightmare in a game like this.
Because it’s not an easy game. It’s not impossibly hard, and the many deaths I encountered mostly seemed fair, but I found a big difference in difficulty depending on whether you had a body or not! When you are on a body you can defend yourself (as most are armed), but when you are flying around body-less, you have no offensive capabilities (to start with, anyway) and therefore getting close enough to a robot to suck off its head can be very hard work, especially when it is constantly firing at you.
Oh, and for all of you who giggled when I used the phrase “suck off”? The game calls it that. And the game knows that it’s funny. It is a game with a lot of subtle (and not-so-subtle) dirty jokes in it, which did make me smile – sci-fi and sex jokes? Anyone would think that this game was perfectly designed for me!
You’ll notice I haven’t spoken much about the plot – which was a definite choice on my part. Firstly, it’s an exploratory game, so you’ll have a much better experience if you go into it blindfolded (well, not physically blindfolded as that will prevent you seeing the gorgeous graphics, but you know what I mean) and discover the story yourself. Do speak with the NPCs wandering around the map, listen to their stories – some may even give you menial tasks to accomplish. Secondly (and I’m being completely honest), I haven’t 100% finished the game yet! I’ve been having such a lot of fun with it and been exploring all the nooks and crannies I could find, but I wanted to get this review out to encourage you all to explore and have fun with it!
In short, Headlander is a fun, beautiful, well-designed game – and although it has a few minor flaws (most notably the control issues), it is definitely worthy of your time. If you like Sci-Fi, Metroidvania-type games, dirty jokes and a game you can really sink some time into, then this is definitely one you should pick up.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to it and see what’s coming next!