In what seems to be a renaissance period for metroidvania styled games, it has become a bit convoluted to find the ones that stand out among the rest. While Headlander does not attempt to reinvent the wheel per say, they do add enough flavor to make the experience enjoyable from beginning to end. This Double Fine developed game has all the classic flare that you would expect from one of their titles, and manages to give you plenty of laughs along the way.
Set in a futuristic space station, they gave the game a 1970’s TV Show vibe that feels right at home between the art style the team took, and the stellar soundtrack that keeps you in the zone throughout your play through. Narrated by a mysterious voice, you are guided through the game as a human head that has the ability to attach itself onto enemy robots that vary in color- which later grants you access to different areas of the game. The gameplay loop, although simple, becomes very frantic and entertaining as you begin to upgrade your arsenal of abilities. From zooming across the screen by amping your thrusters, to the bubble shield that allows you to get close enough to your enemy to literally pull their head off- the name Headlander becomes an obvious choice of title.
One of the aspects of the title that I enjoyed the most, was the banter that I received from the airlock doors that I would attempt to run through, but lacked the correct color of suit that would grant me access. From awful puns such as “Are you REDdy” when I would run at the red colored door, to the direct insults doors would throw at me if I had attempted multiple times without success, “Seriously, I don’t want you near me”. While I loved the gameplay to a high degree, it was the dialogue of those around me, along with the narrator as he guided my quest to defeat the evil Methuselah, which gave me a continual smile.
The most important aspect of Headlander is the gameplay, which is a valuable trait, as it wants to join a genre that boasts some of the greatest games of all time. As I moved from room to room, it was becoming vastly apparent that I was getting the hang of the gameplay loop and never really faced a challenge that left me stuck for more than a few minutes. Learning your abilities is key to survival as you enter a new area, as well as the skills that the enemy robot offers as you take over their torso- Double Fine created a game that didn’t lose my attention for a single moment offering all of the special elements that make the metroidvania genre a favorite of mine.
Headlander is a great addition to the side scrolling action library that so many others attempt to fill. While they don’t try to change it up too drastically- the fact is that there was no need with this title. The development team at Double Fine knew exactly what they wanted to do with this game, make the metroidvania game with that flair and humor that we all know and love from their previous titles. If you are looking for a game that offers all the familiar strokes of others in its genre, but gives you a fun story with great pacing- then I couldn’t recommend this game more than I do. Fans of the genre will be pleased with what Double Fine has created, and I hope they have more like this up their sleeve as we look to the future.