Headspun has had a rocky launch, to say the least. The game came out a few months ago but, as with all of the games I personally review on the site, I wait until the game is in a decent state until I write my review on it, even if that means it’s a few months after launch. This isn’t because I want to sing praise for the game and ignore the issues (as I’ll be talking about those as well), it’s so that you get an accurate update on what the game is like today (after a few updates) rather than how it was three months ago.
Thankfully, developer Superstring and publisher Wales Interactive have listened to all of our concerns, issues and reports, and they have provided a number of updates, with the latest one ultimately ‘fixing’ the game – at least for me. The whole situation has been quite ironic, a game about a brain which is in pieces, requiring you to help fix it and make it function again, all whilst the game was very much broken, requiring the developers to fix it and make it function again!
Regardless, I feel Headspun is now at a point where I can happily talk about it, although please read until the end as there are still a few issues which may or may not occur if you pick up the game on the PS4 (I’m not sure about other platforms)…
Following a tragic accident which happens to Theo Kavinsky (the protagonist) before the game begins, we find ourselves within a hospital, awoken after five weeks in and out of a comatose state. With very little memories of people and events which happened before the tragedy, our life is currently a blank slate and every new revelation comes as a shock and surprise thanks to amnesia kicking in. However, despite the protagonist being the human being who is laying in the bed, unable to move as he tries to regain his strength, you actually take control of one of the people who live within his head.
That’s right, you’re in control of Ted, one of the workers who maintain and run our protagonist’s brain. You’ve awoken, along with Theo, to find that the mind is in dire need of repair with dead bodies lay on the ground, various facilities in ruins, and rats running around like they own the place. You, along with your foul-mouthed punk alter-ego, Teddy, must help your ‘vessel’ rebuild both his strength and mind as he begins the recovery process in order to move on with his life.
As you work your way through the five-hour narrative, you’ll unlock new rooms, discover hidden memories, play various mini-games, and complete a bunch of side and mandatory quests in order to get Theo back on his feet and out the door. This will all be going on in between watching a lot of lovely FMV and looking for ties around the inner layers of the brain…
Headspun is a strange combination of FMV, puzzles and resource management. Every day, when Ted wakes up, he heads off to the control room in order to start a day of recovery for our hospitalised buddy. This usually starts with a mandatory FMV sequence, shown from Theo’s eyes, which sometimes gives you various choices on what you want to say. However, choices don’t matter as none of them actually change the narrative or alter the story, they simply move it along with the occasional different response on a few occasions. If there isn’t an FMV, or it’s just finished, you’ll move into the meat of the game – the recovery process.
Whilst you’re within the control room, you can perform various mini-games in order to earn NC (the game’s currency). These range from reading a book by tapping on Cross when a bar goes over a marker, answering simple questions, tapping certain buttons as fast as you can, or hitting the right button as they appear on the screen. Once you’ve got the money, you can use it in the HR dept to unlock new rebuilding projects or buy items such as ties or comics. Alternatively, you can use it to boost the amount of NC you earn per ‘button press’ in the mini-games or how much you earn per hour even if you’re doing nothing.
What I found the most efficient was to invest all my money into the hourly amount boost. This allowed me to simply enter the Control Panel and keep skipping hours until the end of the day, racking up a large sum within seconds for doing nothing!
You can also use the money to recruit and train up to ten staff members, all of which can be put to work whilst you play games with Theo. Basically, you can send them out to repair the various renovation projects you’ve bought, tidy up things you’ve spotted (like the dead bodies), and even work on a bunch of research projects in order to further improve your recovery. For me personally, I love games in which you can get teams of people to do jobs for you, so seeing this mechanic in a game like this was a nice surprise.
Bugs and issues
I would love to say that all the issues are now gone and you can grab Headspun today and it will work perfectly, but I can’t. The development team is only a small one and I understand there have been issues on multiple platforms, including on PC, so I imagine it’s put a lot of pressure on the team to get things fixed. Maybe a few months delay would have been a bit better for Headspun, asking a few reviewers to play it early and feedback what issues they found before it went on public sale? Regardless, it came out in September and the game had multiple issues on various platforms.
The main issues, which I believe are now fixed, were trophies not popping up when you hit certain criteria (like doing all the Research items and fixing all the rooms), the navigation menu stopped working at some point (when you push the Touchpad), the game messed up after a certain cutscene and locked you on the screen you were on, quests would be given but the people you need to talk to in order to complete them never appeared in the right place, etc…
On version 1.09 I was able to get the remaining trophies and grab the platinum. So, I know that it is ‘possible’ to now complete the game (ending cutscene and all) but there are still people having some issues once they reach chapter 4. The main issue is the game still sometimes locks you in a scene, not letting you go in rooms, fast travel, or walk around. When this happened to me, all trophies after this kicks in are disabled and even if you ‘fudge’ the game to work by tapping the Touchpad before you press Cross, it still only lets you progress but not earn trophies.
So, if you want to play Headspun but aren’t too fussed about trophies, it’ll be fine – you just may have to use the glitch above IF the game plays up on you. If you do want the trophies, it’s hit or miss as to whether you’ll get the issues that restrict earning them. However, as far as I’m aware, the developers are still working on fixing the issues (three updates came out last week for it), so hopefully all the issues will be gone in the near future.
I really liked the visuals in Headspun. The animations are rather basic at times but the whole game has its own artistic aesthetic which looks ‘fun’. All the characters are 2D paper-thin assets, like South Park, so it all looks very ‘indie’ and low-budget. Yet, as I said, it works really well together, especially when you add in the FMV and various hand-drawn backgrounds.
Speaking of which, the FMVs were all well done, delivered from the perspective of Theo’s eyes as he lay in the hospital bed, panning around as he looks at the people who come to see him and even blinking every now and again. The story being told was interesting and I felt all the characters played their part really well, even the mute protagonist who just lay in the bed the whole time. My one issue with the FMV was the subtitles – they didn’t always match up to the voices. Sometimes long sentences went off quickly, others stayed on the screen after the sequence had ended, and there was one choice which didn’t give me any subtitles for what was being said.
I’d love the devs to ‘fix’ the subtitles, but I think making the game more stable is the highest priority right now.
Headspun has a very interesting concept and narrative, but it’s let down by the technical side due to the bugs and glitches. As of version 1.09, I’ve been able to complete the game and achieve the platinum, but I have played the game seven times in total, unlocking a few trophies with each playthrough until prior versions hit a wall and glitched out on me. The use of FMV was, in my opinion, a really smart thing to do as it perfectly depicts the human viewpoint (FMV) as real life and the cartoon-like ‘Brain control people’ as a much more fantastical concept. The narrative itself is well written and acted, delivering a story which was very interesting and fun to play through.
Had it not been for the bugs, glitches, and bad launch, Headspun would have got a much better response upon release as it’s a genre we need more of, FMV. Hopefully the team will squish out the few remaining bugs and gamers will be forgiving enough to give the game a second chance – I’m happy I did.
- - Interesting combination of FMV, Adventure, and resource management
- - Good story with good acting by the FMV stars
- - Nice artistic style combining the FMV with the cartoon-like visual representation of the people who live in our heads
- - Quite a lot of side missions and events to discover and complete
- - Since day one there has been issues with the game, most are fixed but some people are still having issues with trophies and the game halting progression at times
- - No deviation from the main narrative, despite having a few conversation options
- - With a limited amount of activities, repetition and monotony kicks in after about an hour or two