By Jaran Chance
Head Lander is a totally goofy side-scrolling metroidvania journey through a dystopian ‘70s-themed robot dominated future from developers Double Fine Productions and published by Adult Swim.
The story follows a mysterious protagonist known simply as Head Lander as he/she unravels the secrets of a curious dystopia. The thing that makes this title so amusing however is that the player has to solve the various puzzles laid before them by launching their rocket-propelled severed head to fly around attaching to varying types of robot bodies. Another key element to the puzzle solving is finding the correct robot body to gain access to certain doors. Most doors will emit a particular color, requiring the proper colored robot body to pass.
The enemies in the game, called shepherds, are robot sentinels sent by the game’s antagonist Methusula. The way to defeat enemies is to remove their robo-head which can either be shot off or sucked out with the Head Lander’s handy helmet vacuum. The shepherds follow the colors of the rainbow with red being the lowest ranking shepherd and violet being the highest ranking with access to all doors.
The game for the most part is a straight forward linear story-telling experience. There is not a great deal of challenge to the combat or puzzle-solving and for the most part these elements are just there to progress the story.
The atmosphere that Head Lander creates is the real triumph behind this project. The soundtrack, sound effects and aesthetic that Double Fine have carefully crafted all serve to transport the player into this meticulously thought out hippie robot disco-wonderland.
In this dystopian future every human consciousness was copied and transferred into robot bodies to preserve the human race. All except the protagonist, the last known remnant of human life, a severed voiceless human head in a flying space helmet. These robot humans are all around the game, continuing their lives as if they’ve never known anything else. They’re even inside the doors forced to keep watch and decide who may enter, which makes for some hilariously goofy dialogue.
Overall the game is wildly entertaining with no blatant flaws. Some players may be displeased with the lack of challenging puzzles or combat. Still others lacking the patience for a philosophical storyline may complain on the slightly repetitive gameplay elements. However, more than anything, Head Lander is a brilliantly goofy story with joyfully innovative mechanics added to a classic game formula worth looking into.