Headlander is a 2.5D Metroidvania-style video game developed by the good people at Double Fine Productions who are known for other quality wacky titles like Psychonauts, Brutal Legend and Broken Age. Following suit with the before-mentioned titles Headlander brings the weirdness and cranks it up as we fly through space and explore areas as a floating head, that’s contained inside a spacesuit helmet and has a thruster at the bottom, furthermore you can dock with a variety of robotic bodies that grant different access levels which in turn allow you to enter certain areas.
The game is set sometime in the future in which humanity has decided to upload their consciousness’s to a worldwide cloud storage system, allowing the humans to forego their bodies in order to occupy the minds of robots, why would they want to do such a thing, surely that can only end badly. Turns out it did end badly because they have now been enslaved by an artificial intelligence named Methuselah, the AI has trapped the human consciousness inside the robots and is using them for nefarious purposes. This is where you come in, the last human, awoken from their cryogenic storage in order to put an end to Methuselah’s antics, unfortunately only your head survived the process and if that wasn’t bad enough you are also suffering from amnesia.
Floating around as a head has it’s perks, I mean the thruster can also be used as a tractor beam that allows you to pull the heads off of the robots so you can dock with their body when needed. Docking with the shepherd’s is key to progression, the shepherd’s being the law enforcers for Methuselah and are colour coded based on their access levels with red being lowest and purple being the highest. There are six colour’s in total and using logic you can easily advance through the game, you will reach certain corridors and areas that have a higher level door than what access you currently have, so you just take an alternative route till you come across the correct colour coded body.
Now it isn’t just the colour’s that differ the shepherd’s, they can also differ in weaponry ranging from single shot, to double beam and even quad beams, the latter of which are really useful in overcoming certain puzzle obstacles in which you have to use the lasers to hit multiple targets in a short space of time to either open doors, or deactivate room security procedures. Navigating through both open rooms and tight hallways, platforms, lifts and teleporters galore, really brings the classic platforming into light in such a good way, not complicated but isn’t too simple, oh and there are plenty of secret rooms to discover as you make your way through but you didn’t hear that from me.
A beautiful art style that fits the game instantly trumps texture details in my opinion and Headlander certainly has the look, with the cartoon style you get that feel of personality just flowing through you can find yourself in dark musty hallways one moment and the next be immersed in a brightly coloured bumping nightclub room complete with shag carpeting and neon lights. Visually it just hits right on the mark with looking like a sci-fi 1970’s adventure, not just by level design but characters too, with the robots wearing knee-high white boots and laser guns for hands. Certainly not lacking in detail either, with most surfaces have that smooth space style look whilst some areas you can see the wear and tear on the walls in the form of scratches throughout.
The soundtrack is very reminiscent of space arcade games that you would find at… that’s right an arcade, boy are you quick thinking, with high-pitched techno beeps planted at a medium to high tempo you get that sense of urgency like time is running out and amplifies the importance of your mission to save the cyber life.
Upon completion, you are still free to roam around the level’s in order to try and 100% by the game by obtaining all possible upgrades for your helmet in the form of health, thrust and power, you acquire the upgrades by visiting the up to 63 stations scattered throughout the game, I do advise that you get as many as you can early on as they really come in useful when you face the bosses and even some of the minions. You will also still be able to catch one of the side objectives that you may have missed earlier on, so don’t worry about catching everything straight away because you will get the opportunity to get everything after you beat the game.
All in all, Headlander can be described as one hell of a crazy trip and probably in some instances looks like you could be hallucinating this stuff, in a good way of course, with its bright colours, humour and unorthodox story, Double Fine has once again delivered a fun experience for all types of gamer’s. It’s a worthwhile journey that I definitely recommend picking up.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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