Headland – Review
Follow Genre: Action-adventure game
Developer: Northplay
Publisher: Northplay
Platform: Switch, Android, iOS, PC
Tested on: Switch

Headland – Review

Site Score
Good: Inventive puzzle designs
Bad: Severely overpriced
User Score
(2 votes)
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VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)

Developer Northplay has put out some interesting little vehicle based puzzle titles over the past few years, including the underrated Conduct This! and Fly Together!. For their latest Switch release, Headland, however, the developer is straying away from the puzzle gameplay featured in the aforementioned titles, and instead opts for an action-adventure approach. Does Headland herald Northplay’s triumphant entry into a different genre or should they stick to familiar grounds?


Although it’s not explicitly stated, the titular Headland is a thinly veiled metaphor for the inside of protagonist Nor’s mind. The opening level of the game introduces us not just to Nor but also his robot companion, Spud, who guards Nor’s imagination, in the form of a crystal embedded in his chest. When Headland is attacked by the minions of a mysterious and malevolent worm-like creature, the imagination crystal is shattered, representing Nor losing his creative spark. It’s now up to Nor and his robot friends to travel all over Headland to recover the shards of the crystal and restore his imagination.


From an aesthetic point of view, Headland may look a little dated, but there are enough little details to keep things interesting. A particularly nice touch is that elements that we see in protagonist Nor’s bedroom in the opening of the game make a return as supersized versions once Nor enters Headland; such as the wooden toy blocks on the floor which become massive roadblocks. Character designs are appealing as well, with the exception of our protagonist. Nor himself turns out to be a pretty creepy kid, because no matter what happens on-screen, he’ll simply keep smiling. The lack of facial expressions makes for a protagonist who simply doesn’t respond to anything, making him come across as emotionless.

What doesn’t help here is that Headland isn’t a visual powerhouse. Part of this is because you’re looking at the port of a mobile title that should be able to run on lower-end Android handsets. To Northplay’s credit, some changes were made for the Switch port though. The main difference is that the Switch version makes full use of the Switch’s horizontal screen surface, whereas the mobile version of the game is played on a vertical screen. Additionally, the Switch version features improved lighting effects and different color grading. The game also tries to run at 60 fps, though it doesn’t do so as smoothly as we’d like. We noticed severe fluctuations in frame rate during our time with the game, especially when there were lots of enemies on screen, which hurt the overall experience.


Unfortunately, Headland fails to avoid a pitfall that is all too common with mobile games that are ported to console, and that is that the audio is underwhelming. We understand the mindset behind this -mobile games are typically played while people are commuting or on a break, and these players generally put their phones in silent mode, so why bother with an expensive soundscape, right? There’s no voice acting present, sound effects are generic, and the music is forgettable as a result.


Before we dive into Headland’s gameplay, we should point out that although the game made its debut on iOS and Android, several gameplay changes were made for the Switch port. This includes the removal of in-game transactions and the implementation of button controls, alongside the visual changes mentioned earlier. As such, this review doesn’t accurately reflect the mobile version of the game. There is a lot of overlap, of course, but if you’re considering picking up the action-adventure title’s original incarnation, then keep in mind that your experience may differ significantly from ours.

From the onset, it’s quite clear that Northplay took inspiration from classic Legend of Zelda titles such as A Link Between Worlds, with the key difference that Headland is presented as a series of isometric levels rather than a massive interconnected world. Most of the other elements we’ve come to know and love from Zelda titles are there, from sword attacks to environmental puzzle gameplay. It even has the classic heart icons to indicate health. There are also plenty of secrets to discover throughout the different levels, which makes exploring every nook and cranny fairly important as well. For the most part, this involves collecting imagination particles, which allows you to imagine keys to open doors, bridges to cross obstacles, and the like.

The game never truly reaches its full potential as it seems like Northplay was afraid to really ramp up the difficulty level. The puzzles are on the simpler side, so seasoned gamers should breeze through them. Even newcomers shouldn’t find Headland too difficult, which makes sense given that the game was developed with the casual mobile gamer in mind. That’s not to say that Headland’s offerings are all bad though. The lower difficulty level didn’t stifle the inventiveness of the designers, as the puzzles are varied and quite fun to solve. We imagine that younger gamers will have a blast with figuring out the conundrums that Headland presents them with.

Headland’s transition from touch controls to button inputs doesn’t seem to have gone as smooth as it should, especially when it comes to combat. Attacking enemies feels stilted and there seems to be a very slight delay between pressing the attack button and your character responding. Combat also feels drawn out because your attacks often feel underpowered, especially as you’re wading through a horde of enemies. This becomes less of an issue as you unlock more powerful gear and even elemental attacks, but the sluggishness of taking down enemies slows down the flow of the game.

There is no sense of growth here either. Yes, your character levels up and becomes faster and stronger, but the core gameplay experience remains the same throughout, and the only thing Northplay does to counter Nor’s stat boosts is simply to throw more enemies at him. Headland may be inspired by Zelda and other similar titles, but anyone that played a game like this can attest that playing as Link feels different near the end of the game compared to when you’re just starting out. Headland simply lacks that feeling, sticking to the same shallow formula throughout its entire runtime.

All in all, Headland may not be the most original title out there when it comes to gameplay, but it is an entertaining little romp. This brings us to the game’s biggest issue though: it is severely overpriced for what it is. Picking it up from the Nintendo Eshop will set you back an eye-watering €19.99. Meanwhile, the mobile version of the game is free to try for 45 minutes, with an in-app purchase of the full title for €6 over on Android and iOS. Granted, the Switch version does feature an exclusive bonus level, but that’s hardly worth the justification of the price tag. Keeping in mind that Headland will take most players between 3-5 hours to complete, depending on how much of a completionist they are, it’s simply not worth paying full price.


Ultimately, Headland is a decent but forgettable little action-adventure title that features fun puzzle gameplay but sluggish combat. It’s definitely aimed at younger gamers, and there is a good chance that they’ll have fun with what’s on offer here, but there isn’t enough for veterans to sink their teeth into. Add to this that the price tag is ridiculously high and you’re looking at a title that you should only consider picking up when it’s on sale. If the other Switch titles released by Northplay are an indication, then you’ll have plenty of opportunities to pick up Headland at 90% off in the near future. For now, it’s best to just keep your wallet in your pocket.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
Headland - Review, 8.5 out of 10 based on 2 ratings

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