Review: Headmaster (PSVR)

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 None
  • PlayStation Move None
Title: Headmaster
Format: PSN (3.42 GB)
Release Date: October 13, 2016
Publisher: Frame Interactive Studio
Developer: Frame Interactive Studio
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: E10+
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Audio Review:
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 497 of the podcast.

Gameplay:
There is but one gameplay mechanic in Headmaster, hit a soccer ball with your head. In fact, after choosing a session, Individual or Group, you’ll put your controller down and go completely hands-free for the duration of the game.

How could this possibly hold up if all you’re doing is heading the ball? Can this really be a worthwhile experience? Will I get bored after five minutes of heading? Where did I leave my keys? The answers, in short, are: variety, yes, no, and the kitchen counter.

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The premise is that you’re a soccer player who’s had a down year. You need to beef up your heading skills so you’ve been sent to a place that’s totally not a prison. Just ignore the barbed wire and guard towers off in the dark.

Variety keeps things fresh, that and a lot of humor. The variety comes in the form of different challenges throughout your lessons. After learning “The Proper Heading Motion”, you’ll start your first lesson which consists of hitting some small round targets in a soccer goal.

… as long as you’re actually using the proper motion …
Each target has a point value and gathering enough points to pass a lesson with one, two, or three stars is critical to moving forward in the game. You’ll also learn to interact with a clipboard by staring directly at certain spots on it. It’s an amazingly sublime use of the VR technology.

I should note that it’s recommended that you play the game in a seated position. I played Headmaster at several events over the past few years and stood every time. I understand the legal and safety reasons for the recommendation and I’ve now tried the game at home both ways.

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Honestly, it works either way as long as you’re actually using the proper motion. I was skeptical at first but I played seated for several hours and was even able to get three stars a number of times. When standing, it’s best to have something in front of you as a reference point.

When playing the early builds, I often had a chair that I could reach down and touch to keep myself oriented. At home I stand with a coffee table directly in front of my right knee so I can brush up against it and know where I am. Otherwise it’s pretty easy to get shifted around and either hit something by accident or lose your balance.

… a bit of a risk/reward assessment …
The key to hitting the ball well lies in keeping your eye on it, following it directly into your head and bending at the waist to hit it. The physics are fantastic and people who have experience with the beautiful game will quickly do well in Headmaster.

Each lesson has a set number of balls though some bonuses may be available. These come in the form of targets that, when hit, will give you five extra balls, golden balls which double the score of targets hit, explosive balls, or multiballs. Hitting the targets for those is usually harder, leading to a bit of a risk/reward assessment.

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If you can get enough points to collect three stars you’ll receive a reward for your room. Yes, you have a room at the Football Improvement Center and you can visit it after any lesson. From here, you can check out your rewards or select any lesson you’ve unlocked to play for fun or to improve your score to collect any stars you may have missed.

You’ll need a certain number of stars to unlock each of your exams. This is where things get much tougher and you’ll be using everything you’ve learned up to that point in an effort to pass and move on in the program.

… take a quick look around before things get started …
The exams can be an exercise in joy and frustration. They tend to incorporate a lot of really fun elements but they’re designed to be difficult. To pass, you’ll often need to hit some very hard to reach targets.

The deeper you get, the crazier things become. I don’t want to spoil too much but balloons, explosives, and drones all come into play, and this is why the game never really gets stale. There’s a lot of humor in the game which also gets much much more off the wall as you progress through your lessons.

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Visuals:
This is a really good looking game. That might seem like an odd statement based on the screenshots I’ve provided, but there’s a lot more going on the deeper you get into the game. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the locations and setups in the later lessons.

The use of light is meant to focus your attention on a particular area of the play field, but remember to take a quick look around before things get started. Not only will you be able to see where the balls will be coming from, you might also spot a hidden target or two.

… a critical part of the atmosphere of the game …
Audio:
Audio is a very important part of the game. The use of 3D audio will give you a clue as to where the next set of balls is coming from if you didn’t spot the launchers before the lesson started. Every now and then a boom box or a jukebox is placed on the field to give you some light entertainment as you take your lesson.

The disembodied voices and music coming from the speaker are a big part of the humor here. It’s really something you have to hear to appreciate as any attempt on my part to describe the jokes just wouldn’t do it any justice. Essentially, it’s excellent and a critical part of the atmosphere of the game.

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Online/Multiplayer:
While there is no online component, the is a local multiplayer aspect with Group Play. Two to six players can compete for the highest score in a session by taking turns. Currently only one session, titled “La Bomba”, is available though at least four more as listed as “Coming Soon”.

You can set the New Player Tutorial to on or off but that’s across the board so if you have a mix of veterans and novices, they’ll all have to take part in the tutorial if you turn it on.

… an excellent, well designed party experience …
Player one will play through the session of about thirty balls and then pass the VR headset to the next player. Each turn only lasts a few minutes which helps to keep everyone engaged throughout. The scoreboard keeps track of all players and even highlights when someone new takes over the lead.

La Bomba is a good starter for people of all skill levels, and having the TV available for players to watch each other while they compete can lead to some really fun moments. This is an excellent, well designed party experience that doesn’t really feel tacked on at all.

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Conclusion:
Headmaster is a, pardon the pun, masterful example of building a strong game around a simple mechanic. It’s a well thought out experience, from all the ways VR is used to the humor and variety in the lessons.

The local multiplayer component is a great addition to an already complete experience and at $20 it’s one of the best values on PlayStation VR at launch. This one is highly recommended.

Score:
9.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 25 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation – minus the Switch.

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  • ChazzH69

    Thanks Josh, now I have to add another game to my wishlist.
    #PSVR