Double Fine has certainly produced an interesting title here. Headlander is quite different to most of what’s available in the gaming industry currently and retains Double Fine's characteristic quirkiness that they had seemed to have lost in some of their more recent endeavors.
At the start of the game you find yourself in a ship that is falling apart as it careens through space. You are a head. A head that must escape the ship while a voice in your helmet starts to explain things to you. It would appear that the universe is under the control of some relatively generic evil that has transformed its citizens into robots and seems to want to rid the universe of humans. You crash land on what can be described as a space station type colony and have to navigate your way through to achieve objectives and get around the numerous security measures that stand in your way.
The core mechanic of Headlander is that your head can attach and detach from robotic bodies and certain pieces of the environment. This allows you to take control of hostile guards by removing their heads and replacing them with your own and is central to being able to progress through the game. The main puzzle solving of the game is working out how to get the correct colored guard body to get the security clearance for the next door you need to get through. You can also attach your head to a few other things to take control of mechanisms or unlock power ups.
The gameplay has a definite Metroidvania feel to it, which is an issue for anyone who’s not a fan of backtracking; but usually said backtracking is either essential to progression or leads to great upgrades for your funky floating helmet. Certain sections of the game require you to traverse through passages without the use of a body but luckily as you progress your bodiless form gains additional abilities that you can upgrade, making certain areas of the game traversable or just considerably easier. Unfortunately at times sections of the game begin to feel very tedious because of the need to go backwards and forwards so often, but the overall enjoyability for the game manages to stave off those feelings for most of the way through. However, those who find themselves a little short an patience may begin to struggle about four hours into the storyline.
Visually, Headlander is utterly stunning. The graphical style is perfect and everything about the in-game environment looks gorgeous. Rich colors and a beautiful art style with a retro vibe leaves you with a breathtaking visual experience. Everything is done beautifully, though occasionally the colors do get a little overbearing. On whole, though, the art style is fantastic.
The soundtrack is also absolutely superb and compliments the colorful visual style perfectly. It fits in wonderfully with the in-game scenarios creating the right levels of tension where required. The futuristic electronic beats also fit in smoothly with the game’s setting and generally plays off the scenery extremely well.
The options menu provides a suitable range of graphics and sound options as well as controller support.
Overall, Headlander is a lot of fun. The pace and humor are absolutely spot on with witty one liners being thrown out by the superb voice acting. Each element of the game is well crafted leaving the player with little to be desired. A great experience and well worth trying out, especially if you’re looking for a game that takes a retro approach to the gameplay but has successfully modernized it and created something to be enjoyed by a wide range of gamers.