Headsnatchers is a surprisingly unique party game in which you need to, er… snatch the heads off your opponent’s bodies in order to score points. This may be by kicking the head into a football (soccer to those on the other side of the pond) goal, slam-dunking the head into a basketball hoop, or climbing to the top of a giant three-tiered cake and plonking the head onto a statue. Sounds pretty fun, right? Unfortunately, Headsnatchers’ potential is scuppered by really poor gameplay, right down to basic movement and jumping mechanics.
Presented from an isometric viewpoint, the main bulk of the game focuses on 2-4 player party mayhem. Attacking your opponents with X knocks their head clean off if done properly, and you can also use a dash attack with Y for a quicker, more effective attack. Once you’ve knocked your opponent’s head off, pressing A then allows you to pick up the head and either pop it on your own body or transport it to its designated destination in order to win points.
If you’re adverse to playing multiplayer games at all, then you can pretty much forget about picking up Headsnatchers and go ahead and choose something else from the eShop. There is a mode purely for solo gamers called Zombie Castle in which you traverse a series of increasingly difficult stages, jumping over lava pits, avoiding traps and knocking the heads off zombie enemies.
The problem though is that it’s downright awful to play. Because of the isometric view, you’re never quite facing in your desired direction, and whilst this is more or less forgivable in a multiplayer session whereby you’re confined to an arena, it’s a much different story when trying to jump across narrow platforms. We lost count of how many times we fell into the depths below because our character simply wouldn’t face in the right direction.
The actual multiplayer consists of a mixture of various mini-games designed around the head-snatching mechanic, to varying degrees of success. Our favourite was probably the basketball game, largely because its overall simplicity allows for some pretty frantic fun. There are also races you can take part in, which involve running around a track and avoiding obstacles along the way that might knock your head off. There’s a decent variety of game modes overall, and there’s a mode called Roulette which – in the style of a TV game show – essentially picks out the modes randomly, meaning there’s a constant rotation of different objectives.
Aside from the main game, there’s also a big focus on head customisation. Starting with a blank canvas in the shape of (you guessed it) a head, you can add and alter all aspects of the face, including the eyes, nose, mouth, hair, and more. Once you’re happy with your creation, you can go right ahead and start using it in the main game, whether that’s in the single-player Zombie Castle mode, or playing online against a group of strangers (if you can actually find a match!). It doesn’t feel like the most in-depth creation tool in practice, but you’ll be surprised at the bizarre faces you’ll conjure up.
Graphically, the game is okay. The characters themselves are inventive and colourful, and they almost have a sheen to them that looks pretty unique, making them look like plastic toys. Unfortunately, with the game presented in an isometric view, you’ll rarely get a good opportunity to view the creations that other people have come up with, simply because the camera angle doesn’t afford you a good enough viewpoint. The levels are similarly designed, with big, blocky colours and minimal textures, which sounds bad, but it actually works quite well. The cutscenes, on the other hand, are pretty dreadful, and the characters are often set against a completely blank background, and it just makes certain aspects of the game feel unfinished.
Headsnatchers is a cool premise let down by really poor controls. The multiplayer modes are pretty decent as a whole, with some of the more simplistic objectives providing the most frantic fun, for a little while. On the flip side, if you enjoy single-player experiences, avoid this one at all costs, because the one solo mode available is an absolute chore to play thanks to wonky movement and awful platforming mechanics.