Headlander is a metroidvania style game, set in a retro-futuristic world where you are the only remaining human and have to piece together your past. Is Headlander head and shoulders above the rest? Read our review to find out..
In Headlander you take control of the last remaining human, well what’s left of them. As just a head inside a rocket propelled helmet you must explore the retro-futuristic setting to uncover what has happened to the rest of the human race. From the get go I was drawn in to Headlanders visuals, from the in game visuals down to the menus and even the title screen which just smacks of Atari 2600 game cover art, it all works really well, capturing the essence of the futuristic ideas of the 70’s.
Upon starting you can select one of three heads, once the game begins you are woken from your sleep by Earl, an A.I. voice who sets you off on your journey of discovery. As your character cannot speak, as Earl explains because you’ve got no lungs, he becomes the narrator to the game, explaining the story and objectives along the way. There’s plenty of other dialogue throughout as you interact with other A.I. while playing and it’s all done really well.
The main aspect of the gameplay is the fact that as a rocket propelled head you have the freedom to fly around as you please, but are restricted to moving through certain doors as they are coded to be used by coloured Shepherds. r.o.o.d. is the name of the A.I. that controls the door system and will often give one liners to the player if they approach a door in the incorrect body. Shepherds are the enemy A.I. that will shoot at you upon sight, you can take control of them by using your vacuum ability to remove their heads and dock into their bodies, giving you the ability to pass through previously locked doors. There’s multiple colours to the coded doors and you’ll find yourself having to go of and find the correct Shepherd body to gain access.
It adds to the exploration of the game, which is rewarded in Headlander as finding secret rooms and passage ways often lead to upgrades to your character ranging from health upgrades and speed boosts to special abilities such as creating sentries out of Shepherd bodies. All of this falls into the metroidvania style that Double Fine have gone for with the game. Aside the main objectives there is also a handful of side objectives to be found, these add a little extra to the games length, but unless you want to 100% complete the game they’re not really that important and easily forgettable. The campaign as a whole is a little short but nonetheless enjoyable, different elements of gameplay come in at the right time to stop the core gameplay becoming boring, there’s a couple of boss fights to be had too, that once you get the hang of become fairly easy to beat.
Other features about the game include the cover system, this works on a 2.5D scale where pulling the left trigger while stood next too certain objects will pop you into cover, a nice idea that I didn’t use very much at all as it just prolongs gunfights with Shepherds and I just preferred to go in guns blazing. there’s also a precision aiming ability that you can use to bounce shots around a room, again a nice idea and does come in handy at times throughout the game, especially during some of the puzzle based room where you need to shoot disks around the room in one shot to open up upgrades etc. Some weapons also have different shot patterns that again come in useful at times.
The visuals as mentioned above are are spot on, they’re really fitting with the overall style and setting of the game, and are really detailed in some areas. The audio is really nice too, there’s a different piece of background music for each area that again fits superbly with the overall setting of the game.