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Headlander Review

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With a great amount of gratitude for Double Fine Studios, I bring you my thoughts on their latest release Headlander. Headlander has a 70’s-esque retro woven exterior that indulges in sexuality and innuendo that pleasantly smacks you upside the head like a cold wet cod and boy is it welcomed. The intricate correlation of humour and gameplay is truly the keynote in this production. First and foremost Headlander is a 2.5D Metroidvania platformer that is speckled with puzzles and hidden collectibles.



It is hard to put my finger on the most successful and enjoyable aspect of this title. So to point out the most obvious aspect first would be the presentation. The colour pallet is a perfect representation of the era that the game is striving to portray. When speaking about 2.5D titles the half D if you will is purely based on the depth of the background. Now it does not take much to go from 2D to 2.5D but as far as Headlander is concerned the background has a life of its own and at times is utilised in a couple of the game’s mechanics. The amount of detail that is put into the background life can only be overshadowed by the quality of the foreground. From shag carpet to a slew of objects that are able to be interacted with that only add depth to the total feeling of the player’s experience.



The gameplay mechanics are split into two main aspects. Firstly is the platforming puzzle solver and secondly the ability to remove your head from the robot body it's currently using to commandeer a body that better suits the requirements of said objective. Ejecting your head with the ambition of gaining the upper hand with a more suited body is not the only used for this mechanic nor can it be deemed the most important. While in control of the head, only the suction ability that is used to remove the heads off the enemy bots can also be used to access areas only available when in this form, enabling the ability to find upgrades, power ups and hidden paths to an objective.



Combat is very reminiscent of many other games in this genre but also quite unique and suited to this title. In essence it is a 360 degree 2D shooter but the ability to aim and have your projectiles ricochet off walls and hit the desired target can aid in remaining a little safer whilst trying to negotiate at times, the multiple enemies on screen. The nifty addition of some well-placed degradable cover and the cover system mechanic brings it all together to make for yet another strong aspect of this game. Another important tidbit that needs mentioning when combat is the main focus, is that not all robots function the same and some have varying weaponry, adding a contrast to the game and aiding in not making combat feel drab or boring.

I have mentioned the ability to land your head on certain objects to gather a power up, and these things include the likes of overall health, helmet thrusters and ability orbs. As for the first two they are quite self-explanatory but when enough orbs are collected you gain an ability point which can be spent within a simplified skill tree type of scenario. This is a great way to forge a particular play style, though from experience it will only change things up slightly and eventually all abilities and upgrades will be obtained organically.     


The puzzles and different scenarios you can find yourself in this game are not always very easy and do require back peddling and an outside-the-box mentality. All of this generates a feeling of success when each stanza is complete. Not only did I find myself thoroughly enjoying my game play experience, I also had moments of very positive and self-assuring emotions. It is not often I find myself immersed in game of the platformer genre but the world and ambiance generated by said world had me thoroughly entrenched and invested.

Under a very pleasant and sometimes corny exterior lies a real gem of an experience. It is definitely a roller coaster ride that everyone should get a ticket for. In my opinion there is not an aspect of this title that lets another down in anyway. Every aspect compliments another and generates a fulfilling experience. I would love to hear everyone else’s thoughts across at our Facebook page and if you are here reading this because you are still on the fence, it is with my most humble ambition to shove you off and right into Headlander.


SCORE: 9 out of 10

Positives:

  • Beautiful living world
  • Good difficulty elevation
  • Addictive gameplay
Negatives:

  • Narrative at times is hard to follow
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS

Genre:  Metroidvania
Initial Release:  July 2016
Developer:  Double Fine Productions
Publisher: Adult Swim

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