E3 2016: Headlander Hands-on Impressions – Don’t lose your head…

… because if you lose it, there’s no more game to be played!

But before we get into silly noggin’ jokes, I should probably explain what Headlander is all about. Double Fine’s newest is a platforming puzzle game all about knowing where your head should. The thing is, you play as a guy who somehow ended up as the last remaining human, but heck, he’s barely human, given that only his head made it. Thanks to wonderful future technology, our neckless hero head is freely able to fly around and land on robot bodies that litter the space station he’s stuck in during the E3 demo I checked out both at the Sony booth and during the Media Indie Exchange, with the fine folks of Adultswim Games, who are handling publishing.

Trading bodies is paramount to making any headway in Headlander, because the robotic shells you run into aren’t very resilient and can’t do much besides shooting and walking. That’s when your ability to leave bodies and switch around comes in handy. There are lots of tiny passages and locked doors in the station, as well as a fair amount of vertical shafts that the bodies simply cannot fit into. Shooting off an enemy robot’s melon is the key to having a new place to land in, which plays a lot with how lasers work within the game. Using the laser gun was always fun during the demo due to how the rays bounce all around, allowing for some tricky rebound shots.

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Throughout the entirety of the demo, there was a voice that guided the action, but due to all the noise of the show floor and the party, even with headphones I wasn’t really able to pick up much on its identity, other than the fact that it’s pretty funnily written, as in many of Double Fine’s games, poking fun at our disembodied protagonist at every turn, but also offering light tips on what to do next. It was especially useful when it was time to use the hero’s head to land on something besides a robot, into a computer, for instance, that controlled the door to the next area.

The last bit of the demo had the hero and I making our way towards an escape pod. It actually worked as a test of everything learned up to that point, around fifteen minutes or so, that is, changing bodies, using computers and getting through obstacles. The last one bit that we both learned was directly interacting with objects without using a body. That’s done by using your head’s thrusters in reverse in order to suck the hatch off the pod, finally making your daring escape, thus ending the demo.

There’s trying to hide the fact that I’m a huge fan of Double Fine’s games. Sure, some of them had glaring issues in the past that have no direct bearing in this preview, but Headlander itself looked, felt and played wonderfully. And it’s a good thing that it is already doing all of those things – it’s about to hit consoles and the PC in a few months.

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