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Video Game / Head over Heels

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"Charlie is my Dalek, my Dalek, my Dalek..."

An isometric puzzle game by John Ritman and Bernie Drummond released for the ZX Spectrum in 1987 and later ported to more machines.

Undercover spies Head and Heels, working to overthrow the corrupt Emperor Blacktooth, have been captured and thrown into separate cells. The pair must escape from prison, gather the tools of their trade, and then meet up before attempting to spark revolutions on all of the worlds occupied by the Evil Empire by finding and recovering the lost crowns of their original rulers.

The two agents have unique skills when alone. Head can jump higher than Heels, and can direct himself in the air. He also carries a donut-firing hooter to stun enemies. Heels runs much faster, though, and has a bag that allows him to move objects around to get to those out-of-the-way places. But when they meet up, Head can jump up on top of Heels to combine their abilities.

Head over Heels is considered to be one of the best games in the genre not developed by Ultimate. The gameplay is very similar to their previously developed Batman title, and contains numerous surreal friends and enemies, most famously a Dalek with Prince Charles for a head. The player can switch between Head and Heels at will, and while the start of the game focuses on getting them together in order to complete the escape, the game soon has you needing to split them up again.

That crazy plot, though? The developers freely admit that it all went in as an afterthought once they'd finished the game...

Retrospec has remade the game with updated graphics, and you can download it for free here.

This Game Provides Examples of:

  • Abnormal Ammo: Head's Hooter fires only doughnuts.
  • Acid-Trip Dimension: On the Amstrad CPC version, and even more so on the Atari ST version, wearing sunglasses is advisable for certain screens. In the case of the Atari ST port, this is because Ritman and Drummond had no control over the colour schemes used.
  • All Your Powers Combined: Once the two characters meet, their combined form can jump and run faster than either can individually. But they can't fit through small gaps anymore.
  • Bag of Holding: Heels' unique ability, which allows him to carry certain blocks around.
  • Big Bad: Emperor Blacktooth is the leader of the Evil Empire that the title characters are working to overthrow.
  • Binomium ridiculus: The manual gives the title characters silly Latin-inspired names: Headus Mouthion and Footus Underium.
  • Block Puzzle: Push them, stack them, you'll be doing this a lot.
  • Build Like an Egyptian: Egyptus, one of the worlds you have to save.
  • Canis Latinicus: The manual gives the title characters silly Latin-inspired names: Headus Mouthion and Footus Underium.
  • Collision Damage: Some blocks kill on contact.
  • Control Room Puzzle: Only a few, but quite clever compared to the norm.
  • Crate Expectations: Some of them very odd looking indeed.
  • Cute Bruiser: Several of the enemies, in line with the game's cuddly/surreal look.
  • Dead-End Room: In Egyptus, it is possible for Heels to miss a critical jump and fall into a room where only Head is supposed to go. Since there is no way for Heels to go forward from this area (not even by joining up with Head), the only option is to quit and restart. Let's hope you ate a Reincarnation Fish recently...
  • Door to Before: Once you reach a world's crown, the very next room (or sometimes the same room) will drop you back into the first screen of that world so you can teleport straight back to the hub. (Most often, it's the previous room. And it's a one-way teleport, so get the crown first...)
  • Flip-Screen Scrolling: Although sometimes you're shown a little of what's on the next screen. The remake merges these sorts of rooms, so huge rooms scroll as you'd expect.
  • Golden Ending: You can flee to the rebel home planet of Freedom from the teleport hub at any time, but the full ending needs to you find all the crowns first.
  • Hub Level: After completing the escape, you reach a teleport station that allows you to visit the remaining worlds in any order.
  • Improbable Weapon: Head wields a klaxon horn that fires donuts which stun enemies.
  • Involuntary Group Split: The game is very inventive in coming up with ways to force you to split the characters up.
  • Isometric Projection: The game uses a modified isometric screen-by-screen engine created for Batman (1986) and similar to the Filmation technique.
  • Jump Physics: Different for each character (and for the combine).
  • Jungle Japes: Safari, one of the worlds you have to save.
  • Penal Colony: Penitentiary, one of the worlds you have to save.
  • Platform Hell: Occasionally drifts into this.
  • Save Point: Reincarnation fish.
  • Sequence Breaking: Mapping a key to the 'jump' and 'change character' actions, then hammering it, will allow Head to jump the barrier separating him from Heels at the beginning of the game. Don't forget to fetch his hooter first though, or you'll be blocked. (This helpful bug has of course been eliminated from the remake.)
  • Shout-Out:
  • Training Dummy: Head's first screen has a ladder you can climb for practice (with an extra life rabbit at the top), a skill you'll need later.
  • Unwinnable by Design: If one of your two characters runs out of lives, you can't finish the game. But it doesn't actually tell you. Averted in the remake; the other character can sacrifice two lives to give one back to a dead character if required.