While watching the trailer for Sony’s upcoming PlayStation 3-exclusive The Puppeteer, it dawned on us that it could be the spiritual successor to Dynamite Headdy.
By the time the trailer ended we did perhaps think otherwise, as the differences between the two are vast, but still, any excuse to dig out Treasure’s often forgotten Mega Drive platformer is a good excuse.
The bright yellow puppet made his appearance in 1994. Treasure had already made a name for themselves with Gunstar Heroes – a game which showed what the Mega Drive could do when tickled in the right places – but gamers were yet to be treated to the run ‘n’ gun delights of Alien Solider. We don’t recall Dynamite Headdy gaining as much press attention as either of these, although it was well received at by the ‘90s gaming magazines who did give it some coverage.
The market at the time was swamped full of colourful platformers, which is more than likely why it was overlooked. There’s no arguing though that it was more creative than most. In fact, it has often been said that there’s more imagination in the first level alone than in other entire games. Bosses feature heavily, be it mini or fully fledged, while every level was suitably different from the last.
Matching Headdy’s puppet ethos, the whole game was meant to be a theatre production. Backdrops were designed to look like wooden sets; occasionally they toppled over to reveal tiny little toys running around behind the scenes. Headdy’s health meter meanwhile was a stage light, while the pre-level splash screens featured red curtains.
Rather than start with a tutorial, things kicked off with a fast-paced chase sequence in which Headdy’s friends were being carted away by a bright red robot. Headdy managed to escape, only to bump into Heather, or ‘Fingy’ as she was known in the Japanese version. Heather was Headdy’s love interest but she was no damsel in distress – she even beat Headdy to one of the earlier bosses, defeating it before Headdy arrived.
Trouble Bruin was then introduced shortly after. A lot of gamers mistook this character for a cat – a very easy mistake to make – but he was in fact a bear. A bear assassin, no less, who had been hired by the Dark Demon to keep Headdy away from the keys required to access this evildoer’s lair. True to his name, Trouble Bruin appeared in several of the boss battles, usually behind the controls of an elaborate contraption. He also appeared in the backdrops now and then, popping his head up from behind bits of scenery.