Headlander is an action adventure sidescroller with a brilliant retro theme, developed by Double Fine Productions and published by Adult Swim Games. The gameplay is fantastically easy to pick up, and the story is entertaining. This game has all the 70s and 80s Sci-fi clichés you need. As the trailer promises (and delivers), this game is the ultimate head trip, so enjoy.
You begin your journey aboard the Starcophagus, a spaceship that’s served as your home for an unknown amount of time. You awake to find you have lost all your memory, so get ready for some all-important exposition to pass the time; long story short, after the ‘Ever Wars’, the entire human race has uploaded their consciousness into robots so they can live forever. You are the only organic being left, except you’re only a head! You’re equipped with a helmet that can fly around using built-in rockets, as well as a vacuum drive, which allows you to rip the heads off robots or the covers on hatches and dock straight into a computer, control switch or robot body. You can upgrade your helmet as you play, gaining abilities like health regeneration and speed boost. You’re directed on your journey by Earl (the voice in your helmet) and Crystal 9 and her band of freedom fighters. Together you must take on Methuselah, the evil master of the unknowing robotic citizens. Imagine if the film ‘I, Robot’ looked like the kids film ‘Robots’. After escaping the Starcophagus you find your way to Pleasure Port, a futuristic space city home to the robotic version of the human race. Earl will give you your missions along the way and you then need to figure out how to get to where you need to be. One of the most useful things to do in the game is to ‘headland’ into a map droid, which looks like a larger version of the maps you see in shopping centres; Map droids have access to more detailed blueprints which you can steal to update your own mini-map and find your way around the game.
The graphics look ace, with the lasers being incredibly vibrant and the characters being well designed. Now that doesn’t mean the game looks realistic, but if you’ve read so far in to this review, ‘realistic’ isn’t what you’re after. The game looks kind of cartoon-like, but that fits with the story. With the only character with an actual face being unable to speak the developers have very cleverly eliminated the risk of the visual and audio not matching up, so the game will always appear to be perfect. The sound effects in the game are great, with the game’s soundtrack being absolutely excellent. In fact, to add to the retro theme, an analogue synth was used for the soundtrack, rather than digital.
I really like the attention to detail in this game, especially in one part of the game where you play as chess pieces. The pattern of each piece’s laser depends on the piece, so bishop shoots diagonally, knight moves along a little and takes a right angle, etc. That level of detail wasn’t necessary, but it’s things like that that make this game play better than I had expected. There’s a good plot line to Headlander, with a few side missions available.
Now when I say Headlander is clichéd or dated, it’s in a good way. I really can’t stress that enough, it’s Sci-fi clichés done right; robots and lasers everywhere, everyone lives in space and nobody knows the real truth, but it really is a good storyline. This game doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it’s relaxed enough to be funny rather than tacky. And when I say the game is dated, what I mean is that it pulls off 70’s and 80’s Sci-fi successfully; it looks like a new game, but it feels like an old one. It’s a 20th century game at heart, I mean even the ROBOTS in this game have flared trousers and sideburns!
Now to the cost. Headlander retails at £14.99 ($19.99) and is available on PS4 and PC. For a price like this, Headlander is definitely worth the money. There’s no trace of it on the Xbox store, and last gen is out of the question.
So, overall what we have here is a side scrolling adventure with all the 70s and 80s Sci-fi references you’ll ever need. It’s well priced, with a decent storyline and great attention to detail. The graphics look great, with very vibrant colours throughout the game. It’s fun to play, nice to look at and there’s a good number of laughs. It’s not a serious game, nor is it a triple A title; But it is fun.
It’s a well-rounded game, perfectly deserving of a score of 8/10, a great game.
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