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Headlander from Double Fine is nutty neon sci-fi fun

Heads roll in retro Metroidvania shooter

Double Fine's Headlander — announced at PAX Prime this week — is a campy side-scrolling puzzle-shooter with an art style that's straight out of 1978.

Inspired by golden oldie TV shows and movies such as Logan's Run, it follows the 2D Metroidvania method of room-exploration and enemy zapping, except with significant twists.

Chief among these is the central mechanic of detaching the main character's head, steering it around rooms Lunar Lander style, and re-attaching it to another body. The story offers a bonkers narrative about precisely why you are a nut-without-a-bod and how you are able to attach yourself to other bodies but it suffices to say that many of the game's puzzles demand a transfer of the protagonist's noggin.

The head zooms around rooms, seeking ways past security points. Sometimes the head, which is inside a rocket propelled helmet, works its own merry way through tubular systems and portals. Other times it must be steered onto the body of an enemy, whose corpus is then co-opted into progression.

Enemies are mostly laser-toting robots. Once you lop off their conk, you gain control of their weapons and powers. Through missions, the helmet also gains useful power boosts.

Expect puns, double entendres and emotionally vulnerable gun-turrets

Combat generally involves finding cover and using the laser's variously configured bounce capabilities to target enemies. It's all about finding the right angle. But players have plenty of choices about how they fight. Melee is also an option, as are suicide attacks in which bodies charge pell mell at the bad guys, only for the head to detach at the critical moment and fly away to safety.

Via upgrades, tools are provided that encourage the player to navigate laser defences, offering puzzles that ultimately rely on angles and lines. Bounce the laser against a turret in order to effect mayhem and destruction.

This being a Double Fine game, there's a certain humor to be found in its story, dialog, animations and scene-dressing. You can expect puns, double entendres, emotionally vulnerable gun-turrets and a color palette that brings to mind brain-rot candy wrappers.

Headlander is out on PC and consoles next year. Game length is expected to be in the six-to-eight hour range.

The next level of puzzles.

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