Headache is a platform game developed by Andrew Bailey and Jon Menzies, and released by Firebird in 1984. You are in control of Ned. He is the janitor of the head, and his job is to transport impulses between the nerve centers, the brain and the neck. There are of course some foes in place who see to it, that your job will not be easy.
You are a FAST moving janitor. Your work environment consists of platforms and ladders, which we all know is inside our skulls. You will also see the incredibly small brain at the top, and the nerve centers (guys sitting down) scattered around the platforms. You need to keep an eye on these nerve centers, as well as the brain. These are the places the impulses will appear as small green boxes. You need to pick these up, and transport them to their appropriate destination. Impulses from nerve centers go to the brain, and impulses from the brain go to the neck. When you have picked up an impulse box, your color changes (shirt and hat). Green means it needs to go to the brain. Blue means it needs to go to the neck. If he is grey, no impulse box is currently carried. If impulse boxes are left at their source too long, they will start to decay. When this happens, the color of the box will turn red, and eventually brown. There is a timer in the lower left corner of the screen. If you are still alive when this timer reaches zero, you advance to the next level. There are 8 levels.
You need to be sharp all the time. Before you know it, a Throb or a Head Banger is breathing down your neck. Throbs are presented as monsters, that will appear unique in every level. A limited set number of these are born near the brain, and then move randomly around the platforms. The amount of Throbs and their movement speed both increase as the levels progress. If you touch a Throb, you lose a life. Then there is the Head Banger. He is a tiny guy with a hammer (I think..), and he always appear at the neck and move upwards very fast! You need to stop this guy before he reaches the brain. If he reaches the brain or if you touch him, you lose a life. Luckily you have a weapon – an “Atomizer”, which is sort of a laser gun. Use this weapon to stop the Head Banger and kill the Throbs. But be careful. Shortly after a Throb is killed, a new one always appear at the top. So shooting the Throbs can be dangerous if you are near the top yourself.
Let’s be honest. The game is not of the highest quality. My biggest problem is the title screen. I’m aware it’s not that important for the game itself, but I see it as part of the whole experience. The title screen looks very simplistic, and the monotone music seemingly uses only ONE of the SID’s three available sound channels. Quite poor. It all throws your expectations off, because the game itself is definitely of higher quality than the title screen. The game itself works well, but a few changes would make it better. First off, the game is too fast for my liking. Not saying the game should be slow, but if it was slowed down just 15-20% it would probably feel better, and still pose a reasonable challenge. Another small improvement would be showing Ned carrying the impulse boxes, instead of just indicating it by changing the color of his clothes. The overall graphics in the game (especially Ned) is also a bit on the simple side, but perhaps this is nitpicking. The fast pace is the most annoying factor, and eventually makes me put the joystick down. But of course, this is just my opinion.
Headache was my first game for my C64, so no matter what is wrong with this game, a space in my heart is always reserved for it. My mom gave it to me, along with a C1531 datasette. That was a good day! Up until then I never had a storage device and only used my C64 for BASIC tinkering, so I LOVED my new C1531 and Headache! For a long time, that was my only game. Ah, cool memories. Oh.. When you get a high score, try pressing the fire button instead of entering a name. The game will give you a special name.
Sound (title) 1/5
Sound (game) 3/5