REVIEW: Gear Head

Gear Head ($1.00) is the kind of game you’d get if Mario was a car nut instead of a plumber. Given his Italian heritage, you could probably find him extolling the value of a Fiat on some street corner in Milan. Or, considering his wealth acquired over the years, maybe he’d be a Maserati or Lamborghini guy. If you’re picking up princesses from fancy castles, you need to look the part, right? Yeah, Mario would be a boss, blasting Jay-Z’s ’99 Problems’ on his way over.

Unfortunately, Gear Head in reality is nowhere near the original kind of fun you could have envisioning Mario in a three-piece suit and playing a high-stakes (and high buy-in) game of poker, Peach on his arm feeding him Martinis, dueling Bowser not with the bottom of his boot, but with his mind. Nor is Mario the only mascot referenced.

A platformer with very familiar mechanics, you’ll bop the skulls of many a docile animal, breaking ‘?’ and ‘!’ bricks with your head. The latter ‘!’ blocks supply you with car parts to rebuild your stranded wreck at the end of each level (each stage requires a set amount to be collected), while the question bricks award you with ‘gears’ that work primarily as your health. Get hit by an enemy, and the gears will scatter, with the next hit being fatal, a la Sonic.

The game is split into three hub worlds of four stages apiece. With no continues and only a small reserve of extra lives (more can be earned by completing each world), you’ll have to play it somewhat smart, planning jumps and attacks accordingly. Gear Head does a nice job of accentuating that challenge, as well, putting you on a timer and running its routes through enemy-lined corridors with low ceilings.

Gear Head - Screen

Snow World? You bet your ass you get a Snow World.

It’s all fine, albeit very pedestrian, until the third hub of levels swaps out cute animals for head-stomp-resistant zombies (this is XBLIG; you didn’t think the Undead would be left out of the fun, did you?). Though this move turns out to be a pretty smart one, as it forces you to rethink previous strategies and play more frugally. It’s not a drastic change, of course, but for a game that played it virtuously-safe prior to them, zombies help the cause here.

It’s still all mimicry and borrowed parts from other platformers, but Gear Head does a better impersonation than most. Though as has been the case before with fan projects, that statement works both with you and against you. I’ll drag out my line: A dollar is a cheap introduction, yes, but when the much better originals are always widely-available, there’s little reward in playing a low-rent homage.

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12 thoughts on “REVIEW: Gear Head”

  1. “Mario in a three-piece suit and playing a high-stakes (and high buy-in) game of poker, Peach on his arm feeding him Martinis, dueling Bowser not with the bottom of his boot, but with his mind.”
    That… may be the most amazing sentence I’ve ever heard. Holy hell, I need a cigarette.

    1. Think I was channeling Daniel Craig in Casino Royale for that one. Curiously, I wonder why I felt the need to stress ‘high buy-in’ when ‘high-stakes’ clearly illustrated the point that this was a serious poker game for serious poker players only. Everyone knows Bowser and Mario have got that kind of cash on hand, even with the Wii U losing money…

      That said, I do like picturing Mario (with a heavy Italian accent) spitting verses from ’99 Problems’.

  2. I’m not surprised there’s a lull. I heard a friend of mine (Chronoblast dev) doing some serious bitching about what’s been going on behind-the-scenes there recently. I don’t know how many folks it affects, admittedly, though.

    Still, if you’re short on stuff to play, I have a working (albeit pretty unfinished) build of the OUYA FB clone thing I mentioned a few weeks before. 😀

    1. Yeah, I wasn’t aware of the whole story either, but apparently, Microsoft screwed up the Q1 Payments for XBLIG Devs? Seems they haven’t responded to emails / tweets either. I’d be pissed too. The company takes a chunk of their profits, then doesn’t send out payments for the rest. Still don’t get how there’s no one at MS to contact about XBLIG-related issues. Really a sad state of affairs.

      That might be why there’s a lull in releases, but it seems I won’t have to resort to drastic measures (not sure what that’d be anyway). Shutshimi is out today, so I’m covered for some good times over the rest of week at least. Thanks for the offer, though.

    1. Xbox: You haven’t turned me on for three days now, what’s wrong dude?

      Me: I just don’t feel like playing on a console lately.

      Xbox: Are you betraying me with this other thing… what is it called again… ah, got it… are you secretly playing on your PC?

      Me: Lalala can’t hear youuu…

    2. @Saansilt & Soosh: Bad couple of weeks. 🙂 Outside of The Undead Syndrome 2, there hasn’t been much happening on the channel. Getting hard to find review material. That’s good for you guys, so you can play catch-up with other games. Me too, I guess, but that leaves the site in limbo for the rest of the week now, unless something interesting releases.

      Certainly not going to spend $5 on a Tetris-like (Flex), or review DEEP, as it claims to be more of an educational tool than videogame.

      …These are dark, troubling times.

    1. Thanks! And another ‘Thanks!’ for stopping by. 🙂 Monstrum looks neat. Although I don’t review mobile games here, feel free to drop me a line if you guys decide to port to Xbox Live Indie Games.

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