Retro Review: Dynamite Headdy

Dynamite Headdy is quite a unique game. Made by Treasure, it’s a game that masquerades as a simple mascot platformer and lulls you into a false sense of security. You think, “Pshh, I’ve played these games before. Jump on the guy and grab the thing, right?”

But, remember, this is a game made by Treasure. Dynamite Headdy will kick your ass. This is a game I owned as a child. It got a lot of playtime on my Genesis as a wee one and yet I barely remember anything past the first couple levels. That’s because I never made it past those levels. Even though I could barely defeat the second boss, I must have played that cart almost as much as Sonic 2. Something about the presentation of throwing shit at you left and right without half a chance to think makes Dynamite Headdy a frenetic and crazy experience.

Headdy presents itself as some kind of puppet show. The backgrounds look flat and layered like they’re being held up by rope and painted on cardboard. The enemies come at you on strings and sticks with stilted, limited movement. Often there’s so much happening on screen that you can’t tell who’s an enemy or just an NPC running by. Little of the game is spent running through a level fighting baddies and doing any actual platforming. In fact, even though it controls and boasts itself as a platformer, Dynamite Headdy really isn’t one. It’s a platforming character who happens to be adventuring through a run-and-gun.

This is obvious when you really think about the structure of the gameplay. Most platformers go, platforming section, platforming section, boss. Repeat. The first platforming section of Dynamite Headdy happens after two boss fights, then has a miniboss followed by another boss. It’s like if you played Contra as Mega Man.

Also like Mega Man, Headdy has a selection of other heads that give him special powers like hammer head.


Super speed.

Or shrinky head. Plus many more.

Keeping with the fast-paced tone of the game, all the heads have a time limit. Often in platformers with power-ups, the player will find his favorite and hang on to it as long as he can. Why be fireball Mario when you can fly? Dynamite Headdy throws situations at you where whatever head you’ve picked open up several different options for how the player can tackle an obstacle. You could shrink and run under it through a series of pipes or use Headdy’s spiked head power to repel up the wall around the section. The game becomes totally replayable when you’re given these options, which is great because Game Overs WILL happen.

Dynamite Headdy is a totally great game with fast-paced gameplay, wild visuals and some really interesting boss fights. No two levels are the same. It almost feels like Headdy is travelling through different games rather than different sections of the same adventure. I’ve always been a big fan of the title, which leads me to ask where has Dynamite Headdy been? No sequels, 3D rehashes or even references to him in other games. Maybe he’s popped up in the back of some Treasure games but that’s not enough for me. I want more Dynamite Headdy. Get on that, Treasure.

Readers Comments (6)

  1. This game sounds awesome. Gonna have to try it out although it’ll still probably kick my ass.

  2. I could never get pass the puppeteer boss.

  3. This is another one of those amazing Sega games that I somehow managed to pass up when I was younger. Luckily I did, because I would have probably gone through 500 controllers by the time I finished. I’ve only seen Let’s Plays of this, but I really love the boss battles. Each one is pretty creative, especially Spinderella, which makes use of pseudo-3D and such. Also, Baby Face is the greatest boss…ever. Hands-down. As for Twin Freaks…no. Just…just no…

  4. I just youtubed the baby face boss battle. Oh my goodness, that was strange.

  5. Yeah, maybe I should have done this one for Trippy games

  6. I was always surprised how good the Game Gear port of Dynamite Headdy was. Both it and Gunstar Heroes are some of the best games on the handheld. Not as good as the console versions but still good nonetheless.

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