Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that can be the most effective, doing away with complicated and convoluted plans, getting right to the bare bone essentials. That theory can be applied to all walks of life, videogames included, giving players a core gameplay mechanic that everything else revolves around. And that’s certainly true of Frame Interactive’s Headmaster, a sort of football – or soccer, depending on where you are in the world – arcade simulator that solely wants you to use your head.
Originally released as an exclusive PlayStation VR launch title in 2016 that exclusivity has ended so that the studio can bring its heading master class to Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (reviewed).
Set in a ‘Football Improvement Centre’ you have to head balls back at targets to score points, the greater the tally the more stars you’ll earn to unlock further levels, increasing in size and complexity. To start off with you’ll find yourself on a pitch in front of a goal mouth, with targets either on the floor or suspended via the frame. Then it’s just a case of directing the balls with enough accuracy, which is easier said than done.
What Headmaster does right straight away is the physics. If heading the ball felt inaccurate or a bit flimsy then then entire experience would just collapse, you’d be frustratingly trying to get those points, getting bored along the way. Luckily that’s not the case, as with a bit of practice – and going through the tutorial – it’s easy to find what part of your head/face you need to use for certain shots. Need the ball to go high then it’s the top of the headset, while the bottom is for those low shots. There’s no curling of the ball but on certain levels you’ll need to arch over obstacles.
It’s when Headmaster starts mixing things up that things start to get really fun. Boxes will appear that have to be smashed through, or a goalie will be introduced to make those high scores harder to achieve. Thankfully, to aid you are several ball variants that can be used tactically. How about a giant beach ball to knock over several close knit targets, a multiball option, or a ball packed with explosives that only detonates on impact – great for removing items in the way.
Such is the mixture of challenges that there’s plenty to keep you entertained for a few hours without even looking at the other modes. Additionally, there’s a practice arena filled with most of the ball options and obstacles found in the main campaign, plus the balls have motion trails to aid in the fine tuning of shots.
And let’s not forget Party Mode. This is Headmaster’s final feather in its cap, ensuring that once the campaign is complete there’s still content to come back to. This mode is all about local multiplayer allowing friends and family to compete against one another for bragging rights on the best score. It’s in Party Mode that the developer has added some of the best levels – particular favourites include darts and the beer cups – giving a different twist on the heading mechanics.
All in all Headmaster is a well put together title that the majority of VR gamers will find enjoyable. It does feel a bit 2016 in its gameplay offerings, with VR having moved on leaps and bounds in terms of the depth of content available. Headmaster is a tongue in cheek experience that doesn’t take itself too seriously, supplying light hearted fun mixed with good physics, and that’s no bad thing.