Developer: Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Headlander is a sci-fi metroidvania style platformer where you play as a flying head that takes control of robots.
The story starts off with you waking up as the last known human in universe with no memories of what happened to you. On your journey to learn more, you move through a world inhabited by robots that are controlled by a mad AI. You get to rip off robots’ heads and seize control of their bodies as you see fit. Being a flying head is super silly, and I was curious to see how Double Fine would make this work. Needless to say, I’m impressed. The mechanic of taking control of robot bodies is pretty awesome, and the whole system of opening doors based on your robot body’s colour clearance is implemented well.
There’s a lot of combat, and it’s fun throughout the game. Vacuum sucking robot heads off bodies never gets old, and the constant need for body changing keeps things exciting. There is one section of the game though where the gameplay feels inconsistent with the rest of the game: instead of swapping bodies often, you have to download data with one specific body type and keep that same body alive, and upload it at another location without it dying. It felt weird to have to play more safely with the body you have, when normally bodies are disposable.
Combat gets more challenging later on, and laser beams ricochet like crazy, and it’s near impossible to avoid damage to your host body. You have to be careful, especially if you’re not attached to a body since you’re a lot more vulnerable.
- the story is decent; the concept is fantastic
- combat mechanics are enjoyable
- art style, and environments look great with the retro-futuristic 70s sci-fi theme, vibrant colours, and psychedelics
- character animations look amazing, and even though the protagonist is silent, the facial expressions are very clear indicators about what he’s thinking
- the couple boss fights were enjoyable – multiple phases with different boss mechanics are fun
- music and sound effects are good
- all of the voice acting is done extremely well, but expect a lot of cheesy dialog (you might crack a smile here and there as you facepalm from the cheesiness)
- exploration feels good, and it usually isn’t too much out of the way; the giant map makes exploring, and navigating so much easier
- optional side quests, lots of hidden secrets, upgrades, and collectibles to find
- the rate at which you earn upgrades for your character is paced nicely
- unskippable cutscenes get absolutely infuriating before the boss and before each phase (I didn’t care that I was having trouble with the final boss, but there should be a way to skip the cutscenes)
- mini map is too zoomed in to see enough of the area, and provides little information about your surroundings
- some backtracking to complete side quests, and collectibles you passed (if you didn’t have enough upgrades at the time), but the teleport machines help to cut down the monotony of the backtracking, and it’s not too bad
- it’s sometimes hard to tell which laser shots are yours and which ones are from the enemies
The game took me about 8 hours to finish, and I only struggled on the final boss when I didn’t have enough upgrades. There are still some side quests, collectibles, and plenty of achievements that I can go back for if I want to. Overall, Headlander is a fun game with an interesting concept, and I have very few complaints about it. If you’re looking for a decent metroidvania game with nice graphics, unique mechanics, and a lot of collectibles, you will probably enjoy Headlander.
Review copy was provided by the developer.