A unique 2D platformer with an electrifying central hook.
ElecHead is brilliant in its simplicity while staying incredible throughout thanks to its depth and mysteries. At face value, it is a familiar-looking game, calling to mind numerous retro-themed 2D platformers and various NES and SNES-era classics. You control a little robot character through a series of puzzling challenges and sequences with wordless guidance and a lot of secrets. The way you’re forced to toy with a simple set of tools through a variety of puzzles is endlessly clever to the point of being breathtaking. ElecHead is astoundingly cool.
The whole game won’t take you too long. My leisurely initial playthrough clocked in at around two hours, collecting a smattering of hidden goodies along the way. It’s a fantastic way to spend an evening or two, wrinkling your brain to figure out how to make this electric head avoid harm while you get to the other side of a room. Your actions are simple, expanding slightly as you go. You can jump and at a certain point, throw your electric head off the top of your body. The electric part of your body can trigger platforms or hazards and you’re challenged with trying to figure out how to get to the next area. The controls aren’t complex, but the ways you use these abilities are fascinating and neat. Over the course of the dozens of challenges, these ideas are shaken up and tossed around, often requiring you to think outside the box in ways I won’t describe because it’s cooler when you figure it out yourself.
The lack of specific explanation and instruction is novel for the most part, but I reached a few points where the game made things very unclear, moreso on the periphery than in specific puzzles. Where do I go next? Am I going the right way? What does this unlockable mean? Those were the moments that frustrated me more than any tough puzzle. ElecHead is deliberately obtuse at times, which is assuredly the appeal for a wealth of the audience. For me, it toed the line of inscrutability, being saved largely due to the helpful warp points that zoom you around the world.
Those warp points are the key to collecting the hidden doodads, which include 20 computer chips that are key to 100% completion as well as optional palettes that let you change the colors of the retro aesthetic. There are also a bunch of poop icons you come across that I truthfully have no idea what’s going on with them. I think they just signify dead ends? See, there’s an example of how the limited explanation of what to do can be confusing.
But those issues are at the fringes, because when you’re just working your way through the challenges and figuring out the puzzles, ElecHead is a delightful breath of fresh air. It feels familiar, but also so distinct. While I appreciate a satisfying game that doesn’t overstay its welcome, I easily could have spent much more time with a more expanded version of this concept. On the other hand, maybe ElecHead is as good as it is because its pace is so fast and joyous. Regardless, it’s a wonderful thing this game made the leap to Switch.