Cosmic Spacehead is a weird mess of a game that felt truly a thing of its time. I can’t see it ever existing now. Originally released in the early 90s, I stumbled across it in that way that tends to happen when you’re only about 9 or 10 and your access to insightful games media is limited. I saw it in a second-hand shop in London and decided I adored the colours of the box and would quite like it for Christmas if possible. I’m not sure how my Mum retraced her steps but a few days later, I inadvertently spotted it in her suitcase and discovered exactly what my main Christmas present was going to be. To be fair to nosy-child me, I never said a word. I acted surprised on Christmas Day, appreciating the importance of the occasion, and dived straight into the weirdness. Because Cosmic Spacehead is very weird.
Much of that weirdness is because Cosmic Spacehead makes very little sense. It’s a sequel to Linus Spacehead, a platformer for the NES, and it starts out by completely forgetting that you may not have played the first part. I certainly hadn’t and I only learned this fact through a sneaky Google search while writing this. Instead, child me was up against Cosmic/Linus clearing needing to complete a series of fetch quests without much logic to the plot. You eventually figure out he’s trying to get hold of a camera and a working spaceship but none of it is well explained.
The game plays out like the most illogical of point-and-click adventures. Want to freeze a body? You need icing sugar! No, really! Similarly, you need to get past a one-eyed Godzilla-style monster. The only way is to give it a tiny helium balloon so it floats away. Weirdly, you don’t float away through holding the balloon.
That lack of logic continues throughout the game in a thoroughly abstruse manner, until the action is broken up by platforming sequences. The most frustrating and ridiculous platforming sequences. They’re technically only brief but you have to jump perfectly at all times and each enemy can kill you at the slightest touch. Ultimately, they’re simply not needed. A throwback to the previous game perhaps? There’s a weird car racing mini-game too that again isn’t comfortable in the slightest.
So, why even remember this game? The visual style beguiled me. Colourful and cartoon-like, it was charmingly like all those Saturday morning cartoons that I adored. And it was funny too. Ok, not every joke hit the spot but it was the kind of humour that was perfect for a kid my age – typically British and comic book-esque. Fearsomely hard, of course, but somehow (I honestly don’t know how) I remember one day finally completing it. How?! I have no idea. It’s not like I had a walkthrough. Sheer stubbornness and force of will, I guess. It set me down a path of adoring the likes of Broken Sword and Discworld (also abstruse), and that makes Cosmic Spacehead so very important indeed.