“Same room chaos” is a fantastic, easy to understand description of the kind of party games I like. I want people losing their minds, screaming, yelling and occasionally cussing as unexpected stuff happens on screen. Smash Bros often satisfies that, but because I’m not really good at Smash Bros I’m usually on the wrong end of the cussing.
Now, I’m not necessarily comparing Iguanabee & Iceberg Interactive’s upcoming multiplayer party game Headsnatchers to Nintendo’s legendary Smash Bros series, but I can say this: there is just as much swearing possible.
Headsnatchers is a 4-person single arena battle royale game, where the goal is to decapitate our opponents and throw their head somewhere. It may sound morbid, but it’s actually rather adorable, especially with the nice liquidy “POP!” that occurs when said noggin is removed. It helps that the character designs are more like gingerbread men than people, too. Yum! We can just pop the heads off and kick them away, or actually try to steal them, running around the level with someone else’s giant orb in our possession.
The game is played in a “Best Of” set up (Best of 3, Best of 5, etc), with players selecting which arenas they’d like to play in. Each arena has us performing a specific task to win, whether it’s as simple throwing heads off cliffs or something more. In one we have to grab our opponents’ domes, carry them onto rafts and chuck them into shark infested waters. In another we take said craniums and throw them down bowling lanes, hoping to eventually knock down all of the pins. We get to use weapons, call on a kraken and more in the plethora of levels. There’s some nice stretching of the concept, but we’re only ever really throwing heads around.
And, when this all takes place on a PAX East show floor, all levels of professionalism go right out the door. I swear like a sailor (sorry, sailors!) as other PAX-goers punch off my face, sending me flying to the floor and my head rolling off of edges (in the game, of course). This is when things start to get a little less easy to swallow. Losing our heads knocks us to the ground, but we can’t get back up right away. No, our dead weight lasts an excruciating couple seconds, just long enough to let whoever grabbed our head get away and drop us. We’d only ever survive a knock down if our opponent actually made mistakes. This, unfortunately, is easy. The game has physics-based movement, meaning that ragdoll animations end up prolonged. With all of the characters the same color (sans unlockable unique heads to differentiate us) it makes it a little difficult to find our heads, or discern who’s head is where. When in the bowling arena, we’re required to throw the heads down certain colored lanes, and with all lanes open and the heads so similar, we need to remember what player color each head belongs to.
It needs a little more definition.
Headsnatchers feels like a really neat proof of concept. It has a novel idea that’s simple to understand but can rapidly turn into high energy (enjoyable) chaos. We may not always win, but it’s the craziness in the game that could keep us entertained. How the developers refine the game based on player input during and after release will be key to its longevity. Headsnatchers releases this year on PS4 and PC.