Watch Half An Hour Of Double Fine’s Headlander

Oh, hallo there! You’ve caught me tidying up the last of the E3 stuff on my desk. Sweeping away Tunnock’s Teacake wrappers, mostly. But this? Ah yes, this is a half-hour of gameplay footage from Double Fine’s Headlander [official site]. Yes, I’d also almost forgotten they were making it. Headlander is a side-scrolling action-adventure about the decapitated head of the last living human romping through a ’70s retro-future world. Always got style, that Double Fine lot. See:

As I understand it, Headlander is a Metroidvania sort of a thing, by which I mean it’s an action-platformer where you gain new powers and abilities over the game to opens up new areas – only here you can straight-up swap bodies.

Sidenote: Has ‘Metroidvania’ reached the point where, like ‘roguelike’ [the Unofficial RPS Style Guide dictates: “unless an actual Roguelike, use ‘roguelikelike’ -ed.], it’s a piece of jargon divorced from its roots? Do most people even know what it means? Perhaps most people haven’t even played a Metroid or Castlevania. I don’t know.

Double Fine expect to launch Headlander in “late July” through Steam. The studio are also working on the crowdfunded Psychonauts 2 and a Psychonauts game for cybergoggles too. However, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin is only announced for PlayStation VR so I’ll certainly not mention that!

Do check out the rest of our E3 2016 posts, previews, odds, ends, and gubbins.

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60 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    Cool, looks like a buy. “Mappy” had the voice of Raz.

  2. SavannaJeff says:

    After the DF-9 saga, I’m never buying another DF product again.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      I’m sure nobody cares.

      • Paxeh says:

        You must bring all the joy to the party.

      • Catweasel says:

        I’m in the same boat, I have very little reason to trust Double Fine at this point. There are people who do, in fact, care.

        • DuncUK says:

          Boycotting all DF products forever is a pretty dumb reaction. I bought DF-9 (at a discount) based on all the promises too, but all I learned from it is to not buy any DF products in Early Access again. If a DF game is released, complete and getting good reviews then I see no reason not to buy from them.

          On the other hand, if DF want to use early access as a ‘toe in the water’ testing ground for a games eventual popularity, then they should charge much less at EA to reflect the risk early adopters are taking of not getting a finished product.

          That they have left DF-9 for sale on the premise that it could be great with community work is an insult. They should take it off the store and open source the entire game.

          • socrate says:

            i really don’t get why people still defend double fine,then again standard today are quite low.

            Their track record is insanely bad at this point and i don’t even get why people keep thinking they can still deliver when even when they are backed with an insane amount of money be it from kickstarter or publisher they overspend and have horrible delay and expense that make literally no sense,but i think that is gaming these days..a bunch of people that would rather dream then actually get result.

            The game ive enjoyed from them were only Ok at best which was iron brigade and brutal legend…and its not like i enjoyed them massively they both had really bad thing going for them and were only average at the peak of their gameplay.

          • Xocrates says:

            “Their track record is insanely bad at this point”

            Every single game they’ve ever released has been, if not good, at least interesting.

            Also, their track record regarding managing time/money isn’t worse than other developers, they were just more open about it.

            Heck, Metal Gear Solid V famously went overbudget, over schedule, and had the last chapter cut, and yet people aren’t blaming Kojima for it.

    • Capital-T-Tim says:

      NEVER FORGET

      that one time you feel you didn’t your $15 worth on an early access game

      (NEVER LET ANYONE ELSE FORGET either)

      • Waltorious says:

        Pretty much this. I do not understand the level of hate some people express towards Double Fine.

        I’m considering buying copies of this for SavannahJeff and Hobbes, just to annoy them.

        • bp_968 says:

          I’m not sure I understand why some people feel the need to bash people who are legitimately upset over being screwed by an early access game. Why is it so terrible for them to be angry at a company that promised a complete game and then almost out of the blue said “gosh, making games is expensive and you guys already payed us for this so we are going to go make some other game now. Your welcome to come over here and buy that new game if you want! Oh yah, we’re done with this “game”, enjoy the bugs and incomplete features. Your welcome!”

          • Yachmenev says:

            Because at some point, you will need to learn to move on. I know it’s a lot to ask on the internet, but some needs to at least try.

            It’s been years and five, soon six games from DF since Spacebase.
            How long can those $0-15 people spent (or didn’t spend, most didn’t actually buy or play Spacebase) continue to hurt?

          • Hobbes says:

            You seem to think I have some personal emotional interest. Nope.

            I’m more interested in holding DoubleFine to account for being a sketchy bunch who are now promoting their games through a shady investment vehicle (Fig) under the veneer of San Fran luvvie “Indie” Timmy who is entirely incapable of managing money and projects.

            I used to think it would be a cold day in hell before I would agree with Bobby Kotick on *anything*, but here we are.

          • Premium User Badge

            basilisk says:

            Yes, he’s so incapable of managing money and projects that he’s kept an indie studio running for 16 years, releasing dozens of games. Your argument is ridiculous.

            And of course you have a personal emotional interest. You’re waving your hate-boner for Tim Schafer all over this comment section. I’m not saying you’re not entitled to it, knock yourself out for all I care, but don’t pretend you’re some kind of detached observer here, because everyone (except you) can very clearly see that you’re not.

        • Oasx says:

          I generally agree that the Double Fine hate is too much, but DF are not making things better by continuing to sell Spacebase DF-9, with no mention of the state it is in.

        • lyralamperouge says:

          Never spending a penny on DF again. They’re the most cancerous developers around, and I’m including the big ones in that.

    • Kitsunin says:

      You mean pre-buy, right? If so, suddenly everybody arguing against you lost their legs. No worries though, I’m sure you meant the brash, irritating statement you gave.

    • Jeroen D Stout says:

      I’m pretty upset about the quality of Messiah and I’ll never purchase a new Shiny game.

  3. Kodaemon says:

    Please think about what “decapitated head” means and why it doesnt make sense unless the head had a head of its own.

    • Jac says:

      I have heeded your plea and thunk upon the matter and can reveal that a decapitated head is a head that was decapitated.

    • Inph says:

      But don’t Google it like I just did.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yes, the word is surely “decorpitated”.

  4. Banks says:

    Looks a lot like The Cave. Avoid.

    • funkstar says:

      Is a completely different genre to The Cave. Play on.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Ii think he meant to say that “cave” is another word for “a void”.

  5. harley9699 says:

    Ooh! A new side-scrolli……..wait! Double Fine?
    Absolutely Not.

  6. Frank says:

    Looks great to me, as a big fan of metroid and DF’s writing.

    I know it was in amnesia fortnight 2014, but looking back on it, I don’t see anything on the humble bundle site. Did it not make the cut?

    Regarding Alice’s riff on “Metroidvania”, I love metroid but hate castlevania, so I wouldn’t mind if that term was left by the wayside.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      I haven’t yet played any Castlevania, and what I’ve seen of it [bits of 1 and 3] didn’t seem very Metroid-like to me, so I tend to invent dumb alternatives. “Metroidquaria” is in my phone’s autocorrect dictionary, for example. o_O

      Hope this Headlander game turns out well, at any rate. Sounds like a fun concept.

      • funkstar says:

        It came about because Castlevania (Symphony of the Night onwards) started using the Metroid template more often than not, so there you got your Metroidvanias. TBH I kind of wish the term Metroidvania only referred to the Metroid-like Castlevania games.

        Maybe we should retire it, and go with Metroidlike, and then Metroidlite, and then Metroidlike-like and then… *head explodes*

        • Premium User Badge

          particlese says:

          Aghhhhhhh! I’m covered in head particles!

          Also: Ahhhhhhh! Now it makes sense. I always just assumed the term started soon after the NES games. Should’ve done my research. I think I’ve used “metroidlike” myself once or twice, but I’ve so far avoided that decapitative rabbit hole. Thanks!

          And sorry ’bout the head thing. A replacement should be there soon.

          • funkstar says:

            if you get the chance, you really should try Symphony of the Night – it’s rather fantastic

  7. Hobbes says:

    Seeing as DoubleFine have essentially burnt all their bridges (after DF-9 most crowdfund platforms won’t go near Doublefine, and Valve had to *rewrite* their Early Access TOS explicitly because of that specific event, so even Valve considers DoubleFine to be less than reliable), so outside of releasing -finished- products at this point, it’ll be interesting to see what happens when they’re forced to actually create and complete a product as opposed to go running to the crowdsource well and hope little Timmy doesn’t urinate everyones’ money and goodwill away.

    They have Fig, which is their own “in house” crowdfunding system, but frankly the stories coming out of Fig aren’t exactly hopeful to say the least. So far there’s been a few successful funds, one definite fail, and a few projects which are anyones’ guess. The contractual terms Fig offers are absolutely terrible (they make Kickstarter and Indiegogo look like paragons of good business) which isn’t helping them any.

    Interesting point of fact is that as of Psychonauts 2, all future DF games are going to go through Fig, which means that Timmy intends to keep plumbing the crowdsource well, but on his own terms, via Fig. That can’t end well. *shudder*

    • Yachmenev says:

      How does this rant relate to this game? A publisher funded game that’s being released as a complete game, next month?

      • Hobbes says:

        My point is that DF are now basically in a position where the only way they get to put games out are either :

        A ) Via their own very sketchy crowdfund platform – “Fig”, because sure as the day is long nobody else is going to endorse crowdfunding them at this stage.

        or

        B ) By actually FINISHING and producing complete games as opposed to half finished bug ridden bilge that festers on Early Access.

        In this case, Headlander is option B. We’ll see how that works out for them. Who knows, producing finished products might be such a revelation they might even finish Psychonauts 2 on time and on budget. I think that’s one of the signs of the apocalypse, but don’t quote me on that.

        • Yachmenev says:

          About A, it’s not theirs really. Fig’s founder worked at Double Fine before, and Tim Schafer is and advisor for it, but as are people from 4-5 other developers as all.

          About B, you do know about all the games they have finished since Spacebase? Headlander will be their sixth relased game since SB9.

        • Hobbes says:

          Two remasters, one middling sequel, one -good- game (massive chalice) which got crowdfunded before DF-9 tanked, Hack’n’Slash which was a bit of a mixed bag depending on if you’re into code, and Broken Age, which part 2 was essentially part 1 recycled.

          Their strike rate isn’t exactly top notch as of late, and there’s only so many remasters they can pump out. Shame, I quite liked Dropchord on mobile.

          • Yachmenev says:

            Not sure why you’re so insisted on spinning what they’re doing in a negative way. One game you like, two succesfully delivered remasters, a middling sequel that was developed under tough terms (google Costume Quest 2 post mortem on Gamasutra) but still delivered and the succesfully delivered Broken Age (it was, even if not everyone liked it). And that in two years.

            Aren’t all that signs of improvement since the mistake and failure of Spacebase?

            And isn’t that all you can ask after a failure? Improvement and to not repeat the mistake?

          • Buggery says:

            I didn’t even know Hack’n’Slash was a thing, and thanks to your posts, I’m now going to buy and play it. Thanks mate.

    • bill says:

      They appear to have burnt one bridge out of many.

      Considering they’ve had several other successful crowdfunded campaigns, and that Psychonauts 2 got almost 3 million despite being on their own almost-unknown service, I think it’s safe to say they still have a lot of bridges left to burn.

      • Hobbes says:

        Not since DF-9, there’s a reason they’ve said they’re putting all future games through “Fig”, and that’s because they dare not risk any more bad press from blowback from bad crowdfunds elsewhere. Fig is -their- platform, regardless of what people suggest, it’s predominantly set up to act as a vehicle to protect DoubleFine in the event their budget blows out on any of their games (hence the scary terms that are in the signup if you get involved).

        DoubleFine even as a *publisher* tends to net negative publicity (see the bashing the devs of GangBeasts got when DF-9 happened) so at this point they need to prove that they can produce the goods as opposed to producing sketchy investment vehicles.

  8. ropeladder says:

    Visually it looks fantastic–I’m really impressed. Audio sounds great as well. But after 20 minutes I’m not entirely sold on the body-changing aspect. It looks like it could be pretty fun… or it could be a lot of ‘find somebody with the right body and get them through the right door.’ The combat in the initial section didn’t seem like anything to write home about either. Presumably that gets more interesting, but it will be interesting to see if they really manage to make it consequential if you are switching bodies all the time.

    The silent protagonist seems like an odd choice as well.

    On the topic of metroidvanias, this looks like it has a lot of the genre conventions: open world that gradually opens up, new abilities, side scrolling.

    • Urthman says:

      “Stacking” showed Double Fine could do some pretty neat and entertaining stuff with that formula.

  9. subactuality says:

    Is… is that Joe Don “MITCHELL” Baker?

    • myelbow says:

      Joe Don Baker??!? I thought it was Tekken’s Heihachi. Shows what I know.

  10. April March says:

    Hope this is when DF finds their platforming-legs. It looks to have more meat on its bones than its previous attempts.

  11. racccoon says:

    Yep that’s the future of human kind just a head! well, it will be just your brain! sad, but, at least this game looks at the funny side of a our lives ahead..lol

  12. calcifer says:

    I’m getting a strong Rochard vibe from it, which gives me hope. Then again, this is Double Fine so who knows…

  13. Geebs says:

    Having the rocket-powered head is a bit of a mistake I think – it makes all of the gating seem terribly contrived. The part in the video where there’s a bunch of laser beams in the way, and the head couldn’t just fly around them and complete the game? Immersion gone.

    As an aside, I think DF need to re-hire the person responsible for making their games charming, because they’ve been MIA since Psychonauts.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Not sure what games you were playing but most of their post-Psychonauts work has been plenty charming.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Shooting doors with correctly colored lasers just to open them is also totally inexcusable. I can’t possibly feel like a disembodied head with that contrivance in the way.

      Non-sarcastically: Oh well. I suppose I can relate via bad science (≠disregarded science) in movies, but so far, I personally find the flying head, 70s theme, and southern American accent charming enough to forgive such grievances.

  14. Ross Angus says:

    There exists a parallel universe where Double Fine got to develop the Mass Effect series.

    I want to live in that universe.

  15. stoner says:

    DF-9 anyone? Anyone? Anyone? I thought not. I now have a simple rule: if Double Fine, then Do Not Buy.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      Since you are asking, sure. I not only buy their games, I happily crowdfunded Psychonauts 2.

    • Ross Angus says:

      I feel a bit guilty. I paid for their adventure game, got two games for the price of one, plus that amazing documentary. I probably owe them, to be honest.

    • Yachmenev says:

      You might think that rambling on about “Something something Spacebase!” makes you seem like a smart person, with insight and knowledge worth sharing to others.

      But it doesn’t. At all.

    • Buggery says:

      I’ve bought about seven games from Double Fine over the years and I’ve been pretty happy with all of them. You should try playing one of them instead of weirdly fixating on a game that they discovered wasn’t commercially viable to continue development on under the model they attempted to release it in.

  16. Laini says:

    I thought this sounded interesting but for me it’s the art style that puts me off, more so than “I don’t trust DF cos of that one game”.

  17. Masked Dave says:

    The spaceship is called Starcophagus! :D Instant buy.

  18. thatfuzzybastard says:

    Well, I’m interested! Massive Chalice had weak writing, but fantastic mechanics, and DF always does well with platformers and secrets, so combining the two is a great idea.
    (anyone still complaining about Spacebase is beneath consideration).

    • Premium User Badge

      Angstsmurf says:

      What’s not to like about the writing in Massive Chalice? I’m genuinely curious.