Double Fine's Headlander has recently been released on Xbox One, and we just couldn't wait to play it. A Metroidvania-style game, set in a heavily 70s sci-fi inspired future, where you are the last conscious, surviving human. Oh, and by human, we mean a floating head.
It's the future, so naturally everyone has uploaded their consciousnesses into robot bodies to do tasks as they see fit. Because y'know, why not? Only, this wasn't a very good idea, since an AI named Methuselah has gone and taken over these robots, trapping the little human minds inside.
You play the nameless, bodiless, silent hero. Just a head, with a super useful helmet that allows you to zoom around and ultimately take control of the robots bodies (and other things) that you encounter along the way. Certain robots can do some things, whilst others can't, meaning that there's all the puzzle-y elements of retracing your steps and such that you'd expect. The gameplay is smooth, and feels great whether you are flying around bodiless, or taking control of a robot. When flying around, you're faster, and more capable of exploring, but unable to do damage to enemies (at least until you get some upgrades). Whilst utilizing a robot, you can engage in combat with other robots, open warp doors, etc. You can use cover whilst shooting, however this is rarely needed. It's more fun to just shoot and swap bodies whilst running around.
Shooting is pretty good with the ability of a targeting system to see where lasers are going to land. Or you can just fire blindly and watch your lasers bounce all over the place. Some robots have different abilities, meaning that some are more useful in some situations than others, and they vary in power too: some might have a single laser and some may have a quad laser, etc. There's also an upgrade tree, with a decent amount of upgrades, that allow unique opportunities, like headbutting and swapping your head onto the now decapitated robot's body, getting shields around your helmet and a vacuum ability to pop the heads off of robots that you plan to take over.
Collectables are fun to look for and not too many that it makes it tedious collecting them. They're also useful collectables, as they allow you to upgrade, which makes it more of an incentive to find them rather than just for achievements. The game wasn't very hard overall, and the bosses were few in number (and generally not that difficult to defeat either), which was slightly dsappointing. It would have been good to have had at least a few more bosses to lengthen the game a bit more, as generally speaking, you can complete it, in it's entirety in around 8 hours or so.
Voice acting is fantastic and there's a good dose of humour to the game, which is of course a Double Fine staple. Richard Steven Horowitz makes a vocal-appearance too, having previously voiced Raz in Psychonauts, here he is voicing the Mappy robots, as well as the automated turrets. The styling of the rooms and areas is really cool, and really fit so well together. There are dances available to do whilst in control of the robots, which is funny, and lands you an achievement for doing them all.
Full of the usual sci-fi tropes, this keeps the humour going, whilst nodding to all of the things inspiring the game. Double Fine are just so diverse as a developing team, and that's why we really love them. From genre, to art style, no matter what they choose to do it just always hits the right notes with us. And we're excited to see what else they bring out in future (PSYCHONAUTS 2! - that we pledged a lot for on fig). Really loved the game, hence why we 100% completed it.
Fantastic game, and truly worthy of the 9/10 score we've chosen to give it.
Have you played Headlander?
Let us know in the comments below!
- V x