Headlander Review

The 60s is one of the most important eras for humanity giving a lot of strong ground for the culture of entertainment such as movies, music and other movements such as the hippies, but most importantly, they gave us the first successful trip for humans to the moon through the mission of Apollo 11.

Up to the point of seeing the moon landing though, there was always the fantasy that gave in her own unique way examples of how the future would look in a few years. It showed us how futuristic the world would be through various technologies that would make human life easier, but always in vintage style. In all of these, there were floating chars, unique robots and a lot more that in today’s time they still seem old. In all of this, it is quite interesting to see a feature by Gizmodo on the matter.

This entire 60s culture though, of course evolved into the later 70s and 80s, while maintaing some stable points on the futuristic part. The classic caricature of robots and the rockets that would be able to travel through the vast space gave room to even more famous movies. Even though the focus on this review is the creation of Double Fine Studios, Headlander, which has a directo connection to the 70s era, a little bit of story here and there never hurt anone.

Headlander is a recent creation of Double Fine Productions and it is a platformer game that in just a few and simple words, takes us in a psychedelic Trine style place filled with the scent of the 70s. The story of the game takes place in space where our character may be the last human being in the universe (almost human) since our head is the only thing that has survived within a specially modified shuttle. Hence the nickname, Headlander. Instead of doing our head in though and not knowing what to do, the story of the title commands us to travel to the heart of the world of machines and uncover the mystery of our true fate, which is that of humanity.

Inside the game, we roam around various facailities with the purpose of fighting enemy robots but also finding possible allies that will follow us in our long journey. The game has a very nice look and its atmosphere is as if it was taken out of a sci-fi movie of the 70s. That style comes along with every bit of fantasy that people had about the futuristic world back then. In all of this, the atmosphere, the psychedelia of the 70s as well as the music, all get brought together very strongly through the game, making it a very solid experience. Headlander’s gameplay follows the very simple logic of a platformer game and it won’t tire players too much. Even though the game on PC has obviously been ported from the PlayStation 4 version (you can see it on the layout) it didn’t really work as a negative since the player can easily get used to the controls.

Thanks to the easy commandeering, the moves of the player move around his head head. What that means is that they can go to other robot and remove their head in order to control their body in order to fight other robot or use their body as a key to open some kind of door. Those change depending on the colour of the body. If we don’t match the colours right, we can immediately tell that the AI of the space center finds it funny and thus starts making all sorts of jokes on us based on our mistake. Other than the things that we do with our body, the rest is done by our head, such as fighting and exploring for collectibles that can increase our life, power or even our upgrade points for our abilities. The collectibles and the points are usually found in narrow space on the map, except for some that we can gain through side missions that certain characters give us.

As a platformer title, Headlander respects itself and when it coems to puzzles we are called to take into account very complicated parts of the game such as taking advantage of robot bodies or weapons that they have on them in order to achieve our goal. We are not really asked to become experts on those, but they are still complicated enough to be interesting. The puzzles follow a certain kind of simplicity that follows an objective kind of gameplay allowing the player to focus on his tasks which are usually to either move from one point to another or just to fight a certain boss.

Even though I am explaining all of these nice parts, there was something that I didn’t like that much. As a PC gamer, I always give emphasis to what the game allows me to do when it comes to all kinds of optimization and in this case, the port of Headlander dissappointed me with each frames. Even though there were quite a few options, the title was locked at 30 fps and rarely ever made it to 55-60 fps before going down to the initial one. I don’t know if it is my R9 290 that I have on my computer or if it is generally PCs (which is unlikely, since other AAA games run just fine) but if I take into account the PS4 layout that the game had left on it, it makes me think that Double Fine may have not given much attention to the port. That of course does not mean that the game will be “buried” by me, since the general consensus here is that it was exquisite. As my first game review for Hyper Light Up I recommend it to anyone that loves platformer games.


Verdict

In just 7 hours, Headlander managed to keep me hooked and made me love it a lot. This surely has to do something with that fact that it was made by Double Fine since it is a company that has quite a few other amazing games. The company’s latest creation goes to show us that even in the past, we can find a lot of fun. Even though I had to take a conscious step back due to the FPS, the rest of the experience really did offer a lot and it is ready to satisfy all fans of platformer games by giving a space adventure a la 70s.


70s atmosphere
Unique and fun gameplay
Humor and voice acting

–  Locked frames at 30 for PC version

Score: 9/10

-Vasilis “Eniantas” Kamakaris

Translated by Constantine “Kelfecil” Christakis.

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