‘Headlander’ Review: Trippy, Goofy Fun That Puts Style over Substance

Double Fine’s Headlander is a trippy 70’s romp through “Metroidvania” gameplay and a worthwhile purchase for those who don’t mind its simplified take on the subgenre. Both Metroid and Castlevania introduced us to the idea of “open world” platforming, rendering their expansive two-dimensional mazes as environments tiered by your own capabilities. While you might have begun your journey as a bare-bones vampire slayer or bounty hunter, a wealth of upgrades, new equipment, and additional skills allowed for ever-expanding feats of heroism. Those incremental upgrades allowed you to learn the game step by step, gently pushing you from one challenge to the next. At the same time, familiar spots held new secrets, only accessible with the help of your newfound strength. Going back through places you’d been was a thrilling power-trip laden with even more rewards. It was a curiously addictive experience, both deeper and more organic than virtually anything else available. The “Metroidvania” was born, an essential influence on everything from Grand Theft Auto to Mega Man. Double Fine’s latest dives headfirst (sorry, sorry) into that legacy, with generally positive results as you control the disembodied head of the last human in the universe in a world ruled by robots. Headlander sports an unapologetic 1970’s