It’s easy to lose your head sifting through the vast, vast archive of local multiplayer games on the Switch eShop. Headsnatchers, a captivating, decapitating party game, tries to set itself apart from the rest. It does this with a colorful, slapstick experience based on knocking your opponents’ heads off and dunking them through basketball hoops, striking them into bowling pins, sacrificing them to a giant Kraken, and much, much more. Headsnatchers ultimately impresses with its vibrant levels, wonderful variety, and simple, easy-to-learn gameplay. While it does suffer from cataclysmically dull single-player, occasionally choppy controls, and some hamfisted objectives, you’d be hard-headed not to at least give Headsnatchers a look next time you’re on the hunt for a new local multiplayer game.
As implied, local multiplayer gameplay is the absolute star of the show in Headsnatchers — while online multiplayer is available, this is the sort of game where it’s best to see the look on your friends’ real-life faces while you’re flushing their in-game faces down the toilet. In the pre-match setup, you can customize your character with a host of different head designs, select how many rounds must be won for overall victory, and set up a map rotation from the game’s many stages. After that’s all done, it’s pure noggin-knocking chaos.
Each round begins with everyone trying to knock everyone else’s heads onto the ground with basic attacks. These skirmishes are oafish but also quite fun. If you lose your head, ragdoll physics briefly take over, sending your body to the ground and softly rolling your head across the stage. Pretty quickly, your body can give chase to the rolling cranium. If you get it first, you can plop it back into place and return to battle. If someone else picks it up, though, then you need to slap it out of their arms before they can use your head to satisfy the stage objective, whatever it may be.
The variety of different head-splitting objectives is one of Headsnatchers’s strongest points. There are 25 stages (though you’ll have to unlock many of them through continuous play), each bringing a new type of cranium chaos to the table. Some objectives will be pretty similar to one another; the soccer and football field levels, for example, both boil down to kicking your adversary’s head from a set spot, either into a net or through the yellow uprights.
For those who do not have folks nearby to play with, Headsnatchers won’t be worth the plunge. The game has a single-player mode starring a zombie castle loaded with platforming challenges and hordes of undead with a hankering for your melon, but it’s awful. Headsnatchers is not that mechanically sound, and while that accentuates a chaotic, condensed local multiplayer match with friends, it’s just frustrating when you’re trying to make long jumps amidst awkward camera angles, meandering controls, and tedious level design.
Beyond the single-player farce, Headsnatchers’ controls can be a minor gripe. They are a bit choppy, like a lesser extreme of the clumsy imprecision that marks games like Gangbeasts. You’ll be awkwardly angled against your buddy at times, each of you sort of swinging at each other but not connecting. Or you’ll be trying to dunk a head in the color-appropriate basketball hoop, but due to poor angles combined with the pitfalls of three-dimensional navigation, you’ll barely misalign yourself and miss the net. The first time, it’s fun and adds to the chaos. The next few times, not so much. Luckily, headaches like this are fairly rare, and they become less and less frequent with time as players become accustomed to the wonkiness.
Headsnatchers is an energetic, crazy local or online multiplayer game. General wonkiness with the controls leaves it a bit rough around the edges at times, but with a whole bunch of different objectives, the heavily-varied head-snatching gameplay is quite fun. The game does nothing to revolutionize couch multiplayer, but it’s a fun, cheap little game that anybody can get the hang of right away. It’s a solid title for a few family gatherings or kickbacks with friends. It is unlikely to find a permanent spot in anyone’s local multiplayer rotation, but if you’re in the market for a unique, colorful game that does a whole lot with its conventions, Headsnatchers is a great choice.