Imagine Metroid if, instead of a bounty hunter in a mech suit, you are a flying head. Headlander is kind of like that, mixed with the oddball charm and wit one expects from a Double Fine game.
Your flying head awakens in a distant future, sans humans and full of robots, and starts with the ability to control machines by replacing their heads with yours. Some of the robots are resistant to such a hostile takeover, and you must make a space for yourself using a variety of methods like shooting or vacuuming their heads away. You gain new abilities and increase your stats as you explore the various space stations, uncovering secrets and unlocking new paths.
Though the game’s accessibility suffers from its reliance on action and a rainbow color-coding for its various locks, there are some features that help alleviate potential problems.
While a lot of the mobility issues are moot by virtue of being absent (i.e. there’s no camera to control, no button mashing, and no quick time events), there are still a number of issues. There is no difficulty level, and while you can explore for power ups, the late-game can still be fairly hectic and challenging. There is also a heavy emphasis on precise aiming and the timing of movements, as the game requires that you aim for enemies’ heads and maneuver around bullets and traps. The game does require two hands to play, and while the onscreen keyboard functions, I do not know how useful that feature would be, as the game uses mouse aiming. The best news I can offer is that the keys are remappable (though the controller buttons are not).
The hearing accessibility is the game’s best feature, as there are subtitles for all dialogue, though the speaker identification is done by giving each voice a different color. The game is easily completed without sound, though it does not subtitle ambient noise.
The visual aspects of the game had the most possibility for failure, but there are enough accessibility elements to offset many of its problematic elements. The biggest issue is that the game uses a rainbow color scheme to mark a lot of different elements. Door locks are done in various colors, and you need certain robot bodies with the color clearance necessary to open them. This is generally not too bad, as colors are separated by area, red and green do not appear in the same zone, and there is always an indicator on the lower right of the screen that tells you what color you are and the doors themselves do say what color they are. Several puzzles, while they may involve color, have enough neutral visual cues that they are still solvable.
The main negative issues are the subtitles, which, while letterboxed, identify the speaker with different colors, some of which are very difficult to read. The action scenes too, as you progress in the game, make it difficult to tell where you are on the screen in relation to the enemies and their masses of projectiles.
* A fun twist on the Metroid formula
* Fun puzzle designs and engaging story
* Some nice accessibility features that offset the problems of basing so much of the game on color
* Lack of difficulty levels can make for a challenging end-game
* Much of the game relies on precise aiming and timing
* Lack of true colorblind options is disappointing