Double Fine Productions and Adult Swim released Headlander, a Metroidvania-style game, on July 26 for PC and PS4. Double Fine Productions developed Headlander with Lee Petty overseeing the project, while Adult Swim published this title.
This comedic game brings the player to a futuristic world, one in which humanity opted to upload their consciousness into a world wide ‘cloud storage’, forgoing their bodies in the process. This allowed humans to escape things like illness, old age and even death. By having the ability to occupy the minds of robots they could still enjoy physical things, albeit at a very limited scope. Things seemed fine until an AI named Methuselah started taking control of the robots after something in his programming went haywire. The human consciousnesses became trapped inside their robots.
Players start as the last human, awakening from cryogenic storage to deal with Methuselah. You get to choose between three different characters however this has little consequence as the hero of this story only has one line. The catch is, only your head survived the process and you have amnesia. The player’s head is safely inside a special helmet which allows you to fly. The helmet can use its tractor beam to pull robots heads off so you can use the body yourself. Some puzzles require just your head however most must be done with a body mainly due to doors not opening for floating heads. Your helmet can be upgraded as you progress in the game. Hidden throughout the game are power ups that improve your speed, increase your shields and health. You can also level up your head’s abilities by spending experience. These range from upgrading your tractor beam, improving your melee damage and even turning anything your tractor beam holds into a bomb.
Enemy robots are the security Methuselah sends after you. These robots are color coated to dictate what security level they have. Most doors in Headlander are color coated to show the security level of that area. One of the main puzzles in this game is figuring out how to get the right robot to the right spot. Beyond just that, each robot can have a different laser ranging from double and triple shot to a crazy spread shot. These lasers not only hurt enemies but also can open doors remotely,which is important as robots can’t jump and many rooms have obstacles to them. Memorizing the spawn points of enemies will save you a lot of time.
Headlander plays and feels like a much more puzzle based Castlevania. Some levels are very intuitive and strait forward while others are very hectic and can be approached in different ways. At times you are limited to using just the head to maneuver a battlefield, which feels much more like a bullet hell game. If you feel like changing it up just jump into a robot and join in the laser shooting, or melee depending on your bot. Some rooms even make you shoot a door from across the room, then quickly fly through it before it shuts. The beauty here is how they made a variety of difficulties that challenge different sets of skills, and still made the game flow between them very well.
This game is heavily influenced by 1970s science fiction shows and movies like Logan’s Run and it shows well. The lore was rich and it was very evident in how the game brought it to life. After wandering through the various areas players will note that these robots say some strange things, but every once in a while you can hear them ask for help. That is creepy but it fits well with the story. Methuselah installed a chip in every robot to stop human emotion and gain more control. These chips are starting to malfunction, and the people are starting to wake up. Players meet up with a faction of these ‘awakened’ robots and that is when you start taking the fight to Methuselah.
The artwork of the backgrounds coupled with the colorful graphics make Headlander what it is. The psychedelic colors and science fiction theme really give this very modern game a strong retro feel. It is very linear and simple in controls but with its style and variation of goals I hardly noticed. Anecdotes and one liners from the familiar voice actors kept a familiar feeling around when the world felt trapped with the illusion of freedom. By the end of Headlander you really feel like hope has finally been brought to these recently freed people.
I liked this game for what it was. A solid puzzle/platforming game with RPG elements to it. The fact that Headlander forces you to utilize different play styles keeps it interesting, while they way everything is presented to the player really lets you connect to it. This game is great for any age gamer and almost anyone can find some humor in it to boot. Casually playing this game should allow players to complete it in a few days while more experienced players of this genera could finish it in around a day and a half.
Gamer Professionals thanks Double Fine Productions and Adult Swim for giving us this opportunity.