Version tested: Retro
An unnatural evolution of 8-bit hero Jon Ritman's adventures into isometrics, Head Over Heels shook the home computing world by the neck in 1987; berating every last scrap of sanity from player's addled minds with the game's unrelenting eccentricity overload.
Head Over Heels took the exploration and puzzle solving of previous isometric games and expanded them exponentially with unique and dynamic characterisation, lending a revolutionary, cerebral slant to the typical single-screen arcade adventure. Each of the 300 rooms provided some form of vibrant challenge, requiring all manner of cunning, brute force, twitch reflexes and strategy for the player to progress. This constant cross and change of speed, dexterity and analytical prowess is, above all the game's other incredible qualities, the real reason players embraced Head Over Heels and continue to thrill over it today.
And, as if creating an absorbing, logistical labyrinth inside our home computers wasn't enough, Ritman also infused an element of gameplay which has seldom been attempted; even to this day. Players were required to control both Head and his obscure partner, Heels, alternately in order to solve the many physical conundrums laid out before them, but the real brilliance is in the necessity for co-operation. Some puzzles required the high-leaping, doughnut throwing talents of Head, while others demanded the hot-footed, object carrying skills of Heels. And, for those particularly irksome tasks, the two characters could be brought together and combined (Head would be place on top of Heels, totem pole style) allowing their individual strengths to be pooled and greater challenges overcome.
Head Over Heels is a celebration of unabashed fun, devoid of purpose or pretence, lavishing decadent thrills on players in a way that most developers refuse to even attempt. It's the epitome of the gamer's game, and doesn't ask for permission to be enjoyed.
9 / 10