Review: Gedda Headz
Gedda Headz starts with an interesting premise, take a bundle of two player mini games on a smartphone, and pit the whole world against each other in a massive multiplayer game where people can earn reputation, improve the strength of their character (which is, naturally, a head) and buy new accessories and heads to help in the game. Give it all some balance, so new players can have a fair crack at the whip if challenged by an old-timer, and then roll it out as a huge social network/game hybrid. And it almost works.
Version Reviewed: 2.00(1)
Coded in Java to give it the most cross-platform reach, Gedda Headz is a free download from the Ovi Store, presumably hoping that some of those free users are going to buy the extra trophies and power-ups to get ahead in the game - whose ultimate goal is to have fun and collect the 36 different Headz in the world. Naturally, you can trade with other players to get to that goal, and lots of other interesting stuff along the way.
There is a lot going on here, and there are a number of pop-up help dialogs as you go through the game, but strangely the process of challenging, accepting a challenge, and starting your first game isn't covered that well. If there's one thing worse than no help, it's help when you don't need it, that disappears when you do need it.
And when you get to the games, there's not a lot of handholding. You'll need to play a few of each to understand what's going on.
Colourize is my favourite, where you have to change the colour of a group of balls to surround the Headz in the playing field. It's strong enough in my opinion to be a standalone puzzle game, and one I'd like to play more of, because it doesn't seem popular when I challenge people with it. Arcane Decks is probably more to people's liking, and it's little more than a 'match the pairs' game. You also have Plot 4 available to you initially, which is the classic Connect 4 game with power-ups on some of the pieces that you have to place in the game grid.
Each of these games can be modified by the attributes in your Headz. Like an RPG game, you earn reputation and experience in certain areas as you complete games. So you might improve your cleverness, which allows you to see more of the game grid in Colourize than an opponent with a weaker head. Every game is playable and winnable with a basic headz, but if you can build up experience, the game is biased slightly in your favour.
I'd love to tell you more about the first three games, and presumably the other games open up as you play and the intricacies in playing them, but even after four days I can't say much, because there's a fundamental flaw in Gedda Headz which was enough to frustrate me to such an extent that I was ready to throw in the towel on this review. Headz is designed to be played as a 'Headz to Headz' game, and to do that you need to (a) go online, (b) challenge other players online and (c) have that challenge accepted to play a game.
(a) is not a problem, either on Wifi or over the network. Neither is it (b) because there always seems to be people in the digital lobby showing up as online. The issue is (c). Very few people actually accept a challenge to play a game. Right there, that issue is enough to cripple the game score.
Thirty five minutes.
That's how long it took me from starting Gedda Headz for the first time, to having a challenge accepted. That is unacceptable. It was another twenty minutes to play a second game. No matter how engaging the mini-games are, the time between finishing one 45 second long game and starting the next is completely unbalanced.
Colourize, as shown on the Gedda Headz website
You could argue that this is a nice viral nature to the game, to get you signing up your friends, having them online at the same time, and organising your gaming that way - and with the inclusion of Bluetooth to allow local head to head, that's a strong argument. But as we've seen from the N-Gage Arena going forward, multiplayer gaming is very much via online and on the wide internet, not local. And the amount of confirmation and button pressing on each handset to start a Bluetooth game is nowhere near earning Headz its "Friendly UI" badge.
This could all be mitigated by two additions, The first is a "practice" mode on the handset against a computer A.I., so you could play whenever you wanted, perhaps by earning only 20% of the experience of an online opponent, up to a certain level. The second is a timer feature on the server - if you've been waiting two or three minutes, a computer A.I should pop up and offer to challenge you. That way nobody is left in the lobby, everyone gets a game in short order, and people go away happy.
The idea behind Gedda Headz is strong, and the gaming mechanics appear to be well balanced. The developers just need to sit down and seriously sort out the multiplayer environment and think about the limitations they've coded into the game. Right now, it's a thumbs down, but I'd really like to re-evaluate this in three months and see an improvement.
-- Ewan Spence, September 2011.
Reviewed by Ewan Spence at