Ported from its original mobile release, Headland on Switch might look like a mobile game, right down to its mostly vertical stage design orientation, but its gameplay loop is more addicting than it has any right to be. This is a good example of not judging a book by its cover because there is plenty of satisfying gameplay here.
Playing as a generic boy avatar, the ultimate goal is to find some crystals and restore color to the world. Each stage reminds me of Super Mario 3D Land on 3DS as each area is linear, confined but still explorable. Uniquely, there is no jump button for this top-down action game but there is a dash move, most likely a thoughtful compromise from its mobile origins. Common enemies stand between you and the stage ending goal but most can usually be bested with a two or three hit combo or the super move that recharges over time. Along the way, materials can be collected and then spent on weapon upgrades in the main hub world. Occasionally, a key can be found in a stage then used in the hub world, exposing the player to a trial by combat gauntlet. Survive and be rewarded with a new weapon that carries a unique skill set. Then, use your collected materials to upgrade it and make it even better. The constant upgrades and new goals laid in front of the player at any time is what makes this game so entertaining.
Headland deserves some credit for putting an emphasis on the use of bright colors throughout each stage. Unfortunately, the framerate is never smooth and seems like it is working extra hard just to keep a steady pace. The lack of fluidity isn’t game breaking but it doesn’t help create a seamless combat system. Often times combo bashes are jerky, cannot be stopped once started, and the player moves forward a bit with each swing. This results in taking more damage than needed and I found myself adjusting my approach to each fight from the lack of smoothest from the game engine as opposed to modifying actions to counter the moveset of each enemy. Again, it doesn’t break the game by any means just something that is very obvious.
Even with flaws, Headland is still an enjoyable game and I am not entire sure why. Yes, I like the weapon progression system but I find the simplified approach refreshing here in 2022. Headland is a straightforward, uncomplicated game that is just easy to play. You might die a few times but that is usually because you rushed into a fight and got impatient. But everything is just simple, from the combat to the stage design, and it just feels like a breath of fresh air when it seems like all games are tough-as-nail roguelites these days. Combat is nothing more than button mashing, completing each stage is a linear experience that only last a few minutes, and the challenge is on the easier side. This title might play best with a younger audience but busy adults, like myself, should find the simplistic approach therapeutic after a long day or busy week.