There’s not too much to say about Headmaster. It’s short, it’s simple, and above all it’s fun. I liken it to an exciting carnival game that you get to keep playing over and over again without handing over hoards of cash. Although the acquiring of a certain amount of stars to progress is still annoying, no matter how much you are enjoying it. Still, the twenty-dollar price tag mixed with such simplicity is definitely worth writing home about.
Headmaster’s story is a little wacky but is all the better for it. You’re a supposed professional soccer/football player who is deathly afraid of goaltenders and horrible at hitting balls with your noggin. So the team sends you to a training camp to improve your skills. Unfortunately, the training camp turns out to be a bit sketchy as it’s essentially a prison complex. There’s barb wire fences and guard towers surrounding the grounds. Even the super small room you call home has all the amenities of a prison holding cell. A crappy bed, a two in one toilet and sink combo, and itty bitty living space. You won’t be able to move around here as this just acts as a hub to choose challenges when you’re not on the field.
All of it though is never taken seriously. The instructor of the training does so through an automated megaphone. He’ll carry you through the drills, challenges, and instructions but will do so through bumbling about, mishaps, slapstick humor, and goddamn Carl. For those wondering, Carl is the groundskeeper who sets up (or fails to set up) the “course” for each level. Carl will also sneak you letters once you acquire at least one star on a challenge. They’ll be stupidly sweet and really bring the game’s atmosphere, if you can consider this title having one, to a head. Point being, Headmaster has some nice humor and witty dialogue.
The gameplay is incredibly simple. You stand just outside the goal box and have to hit the incoming soccer balls at a variety of targets. Of course you aren’t allowed to use your hands and must direct them via your head and the PlayStation VR headset. Your objective is to redirect them into targets, objects, around obstacles, and other obstructions. This can be as delightful as hitting close and unblocked targets to hard and crazy as a cardboard cutout of a goalie being flown around by drones to block your shots. Your surroundings on the other hand aren’t at that level. There’s a plain goal in front of you, lights that illuminate parts of the field you’re on, fences, the “training” building, and a beautiful, starry night sky.
You’ll need to acquire points that will net you anywhere from zero to three stars. For the most part, Headmaster works with the PSVR and general hit detection thereof. It was strange that hitting an incoming ball by motioning my head was so exhilarating. Just one more game that really immerses you. However, reality is soon broken when power-ups and unique ball types make an appearance. A few examples are beach balls, golden soccer balls, and even balls strapped with TNT. They add a nice mix to an already fun and simple premise. Am I a broken record yet with that word? Even a few levels break the mold with a pinata, cake, and cardboard musicians.
Now some of you may be wondering why I used the phrase, “for the most part” when referring to the hit detection and perception of the headset with the soccer balls. Well, sometimes the screen will flicker and slide over for a split second before returning to normal. It’s not a major issue but it’s still annoying. Especially when you realize recalibrating with the options button won’t help. Other times your hits won’t be registered properly and the ball will go flying off somewhere you didn’t want it to. This isn’t to be confused with miscalculating the hit though. That will happen. However, just remember these problems happened in rare instances.
Whereas Headmaster is fun, it’s also repetitive. You’ll find that taking breaks is the best way to enjoy this title largely thanks to working up a sweat. The other, more minor, reason to take frequent breaks is the way you progress in the title. You eventually work your way up to bona-fide exams where you’ll have more balls tossed your way and more powerups to acquire. These can only be attempted once you have earned a set number of stars from previous lessons. If you don’t have enough of them, the grind can be really irritating to earn them due to the aforementioned issues. I realize that without these roadblocks the game would only be a few hours long but that isn’t a bad thing. Just requiring a one star effort to move on would have been preferable.
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