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‘Headmaster’ Review: The Re-Education of Sports and Posture

by Jason D'Aprile • October 17th, 2016
Platform: PlayStation VR
Positives

- Excellent showcase game for VR newbies
- Promotes decent posture
- Hitting virtual balls is fun
- Quite a lot of balls and targets to hit

Negatives

- Consistent angled shots nearly killed me
- Pretty much just hitting balls over and over
- Gimmick runs out quickly
- Decent posture is frustrating to maintain, dang it!

If there’s one thing that the era of motion controls has taught us–going back to the original Nintendo Wii–it’s that everyone likes simple games where you hit pretend things with your body. Or, at least, that’s what we’ve been lead to believe. There are a lot of similarities between the Wii and the PS VR in terms of technological power, which is, overall, a bit unfortunate.

As a result, some developers see the head tracking and motion controls of the PS VR as an opportunity to seemingly shovel old Wii concepts onto a new platform. This notion brings us to a crossroads with Headmaster waiting in the middle, a PS VR launch title that basically just consists of the player using their head to bounce a soccer ball (usually) into targets. Through Headmaster, I have learned two things. First, the head tracking on the PS VR is actually pretty good, taking fine movements into account. Second, I really suck at hitting balls with my head.

Headmaster has a great set-up though, despite the seemingly simplistic concept. You are an inmate forced to take part in a weird re-education program within the prison that, for whatever reason, requires you to go through dozens of scenarios where you stiffly move around like a bobbing toy to hit the ball at targets for points. All the while, there’s a strangely calming British bureaucrat-type narrator guiding you through, with a distinctly and delightfully sadistic bent.

Each level has three attainable stars, each dependent on the amount of points you score. One star will get you through the level, but unlocking more levels costs stars. So, doing as well as possible leads to faster ascension. It’s not a complicated system.

ps-vr-spinning-wheel

What is complicated–for me anyway–was hitting balls at the exactly precise angles the levels require. Hitting the ball straight on or to wide angles is simple enough, but you’ll need military posture and very precise understanding of the subtle differences slight angle changes make on the ball’s trajectory.

Headmaster tries to change things up with different configurations of targets and even balls (the giant beach ball is probably the best for someone with my lack of skill.) There’s plenty of ball handling to be had here (just not with your hands!, but really, this isn’t a game designed upon deep and meaningful gameplay. Headmaster is the quintessential demo game for a launch. Anyone can try it, it’s fun even if you completely suck, and it’s entertaining to watch others play it.

As a side benefit, proper play requires excellent posture, so there might be some weird health benefits here. Maybe. Headmaster has you sit upright, arrow straight, while moving your hips–not your head. So, you look a bit like those inflatable punching dolls that you can knock over, but they won’t fall down.

headmaster-targets-soccer

Final Score: 6/10 – Decent

Except I can fall down, so maybe don’t take the analogy too far. Either way, it’s amusing to watch and play in short doses. Headmaster is fun enough for what it is and the extra effort on providing an amusingly dark and sadistic background is a bonus. Just the same, this isn’t a game that will linger in your memory past the initial glow of acquiring a new toy. It’s a solid choice for getting newcomers to put the headset on, but that’s about it.

Headmaster is now available for PS VR for $19.99. Read our Game Review Guidelines for more information on how we arrived at this score. Jason D’Aprile is a freelance writer with work appearing in prominent publications such as Gamespot, Playboy, and many others.

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