E3 2016 – Adult Swim Games’ Headlander & Rain World Previews – A Place for Misfit Games (PS4)
Categorizing any of the TV shows on Adult Swim is difficult to do, probably because that’s exactly why they are there. Adult Swim is known for picking up the misfits — the things that just don’t belong anywhere else — and giving them a home. Incidentally, Adult Swim Games is doing the same thing for publishing interactive entertainment, which makes sense given the wide breadth of ideas coming in from developers everywhere. I had a little free time at E3 and decided to stop by Sony’s booth to check out two such misfit games: Double Fine’s Headlander and Videocult’s Rain World.
I first had the opportunity to play Headlander at PSX 2015 where I delighted in the unique metroidvania gameplay and humorous subtext hidden all over the game — both in plain sight and under layers of irony. In Headlander, you are a head in a space helmet, with nothing but a rocket on the bottom to propel you around. You’re pretty powerless except for the ability to land on other bodies and take control of them to help get you through areas. Need to get through a red door? Land on that red robot guard to open it. How about small maintenance vents? That’s where attaching to the tiny vacuum robot comes into play (and makes way for the “a-hole, b-hole,” joke I mentioned in my PSX preview).
I asked Chris Johnston, Senior Games Producer at Adult Swim, if the Headlander demo had changed much since its PSX showing. He told me that it was the same section of the game, but that they had made a few tweaks to the puzzles based on player feedback, as well as the option to select from two different heads now, though they didn’t have any different abilities, it was just an aesthetic choice. I believe one was male and one was female, however without a body they may as well be androgynous. And besides, when you’re landing on the body of a dog, it really doesn’t much matter the gender of your head.
Speaking of the dog, Chris let me know that the full game would have sidequests that would follow along with the game’s twisted, indirect, yet in-your-face style of humor that permeated the demo. The example he gave was an old lady that was looking for her dog, and to bring the dog back to her, you need to land on i’s body and control it. Of course, once you get back to her she’s now got a dog’s body without a head, but hey, I guess you will have fulfilled her request. Check out the trailer below to spot more antics.
Headlander is a Double Fine game, so we can expect a unique and quality experience when it finally releases.
Let’s visit the opposite end of the spectrum for Videocult’s Rain World. Unlike Headlander, there’s no bizarre humor with this one. There’s just…weird. Rain World is another of those misfit games, a unique experience that just doesn’t fit in elsewhere, so Adult Swim gave it a home. In Rain World you play as a slugcat. Yes, that’s a weird hybrid of a slug and a cat that’s a lot cuter than it sounds. Unless you think slugs are cute, in which case carry on. Slugcat is searching for food and other slugcats while just trying to survive in a harsh ecosystem where everything bigger than slugcat is out to kill it. It’s basically “Ecosystem the Game.”
The developers of Rain World asked a question. What if in those metroidvania games where you gained a ton of power by the end, you didn’t? That’s right. No upgrades. No better weapons. Just fighting to survive in a world full of things that want to eat you for dinner. And it’s different every time you play. Enemies each have personalities, and goals. Some may ignore you and some may hungrily chase you endlessly across multiple screens. From my short time playing I was challenged immensely as I tried to platform around huge crocodilian looking things to avoid getting eaten and get to…somewhere. I’m still not exactly sure what I was doing, except just trying to not to end up digested.
The most striking thing about Rain World is the visuals. Though it has a pixelated aesthetic, the animations are so bizarrely smooth and attractive I can hardly look away from how the creatures all move in this game, and every time I see it, I’m amazed. Check out this gameplay walkthrough by GameSpot to see it in action and become as deeply enthralled with the visuals as I am.
Also, slugcat is basically the most adorable thing, and I really wanted to take the slugcat plushy home that the had next to the demo station. For more information on Rain World, you can check out the website here.