On paper, Headmaster didn’t appeal to me very much. I don’t even like football. So, seeing all these amazing blow-yer-brains-out VR games coming out, Headmaster seemed to pale in comparison. After playing a little on the free VR demo disc, my opinion had begun to sway in the other direction. I dare say the game’s limited exposure has led to similar feelings in the eyes of others. Others like myself who find themselves sneering at any videogames, football related. Purely from a pre-disposition for just not being into football. I know, right? A bloke who doesn’t like footie? Preposterous. I am here today to address this small group of people like myself, that they would be wrong in their assumptions about Headmaster.
Avg Game Length: As long as you like to head footballs in just over 40 levels
Footie Fan Or Not, You’re Going To Have Fun
Yes indeed, Headmaster is consistently fun. Sure, the novelty of VR is likely at play here. However, in a decade, when we’re seeing ever new mind bogglingly technical delights on offer, Headmaster will still find success in its sheer simplicity. The only button that needs to be pressed is the one that starts the game. Everything, from level selection to heading balls, to nodding to answering brainwashing questions is all done with your head. That’s right. There is a sinister, yet tongue in cheek theme hiding in the wings of Headmaster.
You see, unlikely as it may seem, Headmaster does have a story. The player is seemingly the only pupil here at the Football Improvement Centre. A prison like complex with laughably unsafe facilities and horrendous accommodation. The owner of this place is a man with a dream. He’ll shout at you through the facilities’ many speaker systems. You’ll often be reminded of how this man is never lacking for ambition, so much as practically applying his dream.
It doesn’t take long to realise, given the state of the place and the insane heading related tasks he has you doing, this dream is failing spectacularly. So much so that he seems to be wrestling with court proceedings, presumably from unhappy clients of the past. Several heated and leaked phone discussions follow. Aside from playing through Headmaster’s levels, you’ll also be piecing together just how much trouble this faceless, stressed out individual is in.
Tongue In Cheek Humour Holds The Torch To Light The Way To A Game That Can Be Enjoyed By Literally Anybody
This is cleverly an aspect of the game that non football fans like myself can get involved with. As a result of Headmaster never ever taking itself seriously, players not-so-invested in the idea of football can laugh along with its whacky levels. So Headmaster is definitely NOT an homage to professional footballing. It’s not a respectful nod to a beloved hobby, so much as an unflinching satire of just how seriously people take football. An idea us non-fans can get behind.
I remember showing a relative a skit on Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust by Weird Al. We both like Queen. Although, while I was able to laugh along with Weird Al, said relative did not. Their angle was more along the lines of “how dare you disrespect Queen in that way”. Alright, bloody hell. Calm down. If you absolutely adore football and have a shrine for it in your home, as I know some people do, you may be inclined to have a similar reaction to Headmaster. For everybody else, ie – normal human beings, this game is guaranteed to make you laugh out loud many times over. Headmaster totally nails a “you’re doomed” kind of rhetoric that so many games have attempted but failed to achieve. Phrases like “Before playing, please check to ensure your surroundings are clear by waving your arms about” are very reminiscent of Portal.
Consistently Whacky Levels Are Sure To Grip The Player’s Attention
Not only does Headmaster nail this tone in its story, but it also finds success in its whacky levels. A soccer helmet flies onto your head and before you know it, you’re playing a game of bowling with your bonse. Or, perhaps you’ll help clear away bin bags, heading the recycling into the appropriately coloured dumpsters. The first wave of Headmaster’s levels will be fairly generic football pitch settings. But after that, Headmaster consistently delivers fresh new ideas, guaranteed to surprise the player time and again. An impressive feat, given the simplistic nature of the game. This fresh and surprising delivery of levels only serves to make them more enjoyable. There’s a heck of a lot of them too!
Each level is crafted in a way that ekes out a new understanding of how to head balls. You’ll not progress from simply bobbing back and forth on your sofa. Genuine skill and thought is required to pass each level as Headmaster, it turns out, is very technical. All kinds of physics are play here. Momentum, force, angle and where on your virtual bonse the ball hits is all to be taken into account when lining up a shot. Suffice it say, Headmaster’s technicalities translate wonderfully to a real time heading session. Getting to the very end of the game will only be possible if you master every single unspoken rule Headmaster expects you to learn. Hence the name, I suppose.
The Technical Nature Of How To Play Contrasted With Headmaster’s Themes Of Simplicity Can Lead To Huge Amounts Of Frustration
Simultaneously, Headmaster’s greatest strength can sometimes be its greatest burden. It could be argued that Headmaster is too realistic in its physics. I often wonder how a professional footballer would handle some of Headmaster’s levels. If a ball is spewed towards you from the left at high speed, and your target is directly in front of you, frustration ensues. By the time you wrestle with this scenario, you’ll likely be aware of just how technical this game is in terms of handling. Seeing a level setup before the first ball instantly informs what kind of skill is required to pass it.
I’m not sure there’s a single human being alive with the inhuman skill required to intentionally pull off the shot just described. To nail it, we mere mortals must lean back, then lean forward and hit the ball with the exact pressure on the exact part of our not so exact virtual head… All in the space of half a second. Then there’s millisecond timing of angle corrections at play. Nail THAT several times in a row. So yes, these scenarios are maddening. Does it make the game impossible to finish? No.
I passed this level with sheer dumb luck. Its moments like this where application of skill or intent go completely out the window. Which sadly cheapens the uniquely charming originality of Headmaster’s premise. These rare difficulty spikes will frustrate you to the extent of giving in to dumb luck and the law of averages until the game finally tells you the level is cleared. These ultimate tests of patience are few and far between and most other levels delightfully progress to the next with little hindrance. It’s just a shame to think Headmaster may lose a portion of its player base because of these insane difficulty spikes.
Here’s Hoping Headmaster Enjoys The Recognition It Deserves
Regardless of this gripe, it is the strong opinion of this writer that Headmaster deserves to live on for a very long time. Not just because of a huge selection of levels that offer great variety. Or even the existence of a party mode that offers fun competitive, living room play (something that is undeservedly dying out in the games industry). Not just because its developers are still hard at work updating the game with patches. Really it doesn’t even matter how flashy or clever VR games become in the coming years.
It is the quick pick up and play nature of Headmaster, combined with its sheer simplicity that should keep die hard fans returning for a long time. At the very fair asking price of around £15 / $19, we really can’t complain. After all we’ve spent far more money on far worse experiences many times before. Headmaster is available on the PS Store right now!