By Richard Jewell
Reviewed on Playstation 4
Released on July 26th, 2016 on Playstation 4 and PC
Developer: Double Fine Productions Publisher: Adult Swim Games
Double Fine has a history of making games full of quirky humor, odd situations, and memorable characters. Headlander is no different. Taking place in the future as it might have been envisioned back in the olden days of VHS and rainbow power, the game manages to feel both sci-fi and retro at the same time. The story begins as the unknowing protagonist wakes up from cryogenic storage, short of a body. No memories of the past, either. Not the best way to start off your day, but I’ve had worse happen to me. Ok, not really. Anyhoo, before you have the chance to clear your head, a friendly voice pops in through the speaker of the special helmet your noggin is nestled in. He announces in a classic southern twang( Dr. Phil is that you?) that his name is Earl and for some reason an AI named Methuselah is after you. As it turns out, humanity has taken a horrible turn, and you are the last known human in the universe. Humankind has left their fleshy bits behind by uploading their consciousnesses to robotic bodies so they could live forever. Unbeknownst to them, however, is that the AI Methuselah planted control chips in them so he could put them to work. It seems like he was thinking one step ahead of them the whole time. Now it’s up to you to set things right by confronting Methuselah and putting an end to his tyranny.
Color plays a huge factor in this game. While traveling throughout the space station you will encounter color-coded doors that will only open if you are in control of a body of the same color. The doors are governed by a super intelligent, pun-slinging AI that takes his job very seriously. I always get a chuckle when he reprimands you for trying to pass through a door without being the proper color. There are many instances throughout the game where you will either need to find a certain color bot to get past a door, or else find another way to circumvent it. There can be quite a bit of backtracking, but there are a few good game mechanics in place that make it easy enough without losing your head. The map is perfect for easily keeping track of where you have been and marking off important things, such as the color of the doors and other important locations. The map fills out as you progress through each area, but sometimes you will come across a series of bots who call themselves Mappy. You can headland into them and download a complete scan of the immediate vicinity, which also marks off points of interest on your map. Finally, each major area has at least one teleporter you can find, so it makes traveling back to an earlier area less of a headache.
Overall, Headlander is another fine edition to the Double Fine catalog. The graphics and overall aesthetic design fit in perfectly with the retro sci-fi theme they were aiming for, from the clunky looking robots, the brightly colored laser beams, and the crazy tie-dye special effects you sometimes encounter during the course of the game. The electronic synthesizer-laden music soundtrack that accompanies it fits the bill perfectly as well. My main gripe with Headlander is how many times it crashed on me. During my 100% completion playthrough the game crashed a total of 3 times on me. It doesn’t sound like a very high number and the game autosaves after every room, but for a title that was released over two months ago, I expected that any game-crashing bugs would have been worked out by now. I also find that spending too much time per play session can seriously lessen the fun. Sometimes it just feels like matching color after color and it gets pretty boring. It definitely isn’t the best game available from Double Fine, but anyone who enjoys a good Metroidvania-style romp should check it out, you won’t be disappointed.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 7.5/10
+ Loads of Double Fine humor
-Game crashing bugs
-Can be a bit repetitive