Heads Up! Review: This Souped Up Version of Charades with Auto-Video Recording is Worth Your Dollar
There are some apps that sit atop the App Store’s paid chart for months before I get around to checking them out. I suppose there are various reasons why I might avoid getting on any given app bandwagon—in the case of Heads Up!, all I knew was that Ellen DeGeneres was behind the game, and nothing against her show, but I assumed there was some kind of gimmick at play… In a way, I was right. What you get after throwing down a dollar for Heads Up! is essentially a modernized version of the classic party game Charades. Instead of relying on just pen, paper, and your acting skills, Heads Up! equips the players with a pocket-sized version of the game that’s always available with a myriad of fun categories, as well as video recordings of any hilarious moments that might result from you and your friends’ goofy efforts.
It’d be tough to come up with an App Store game that’s easier to get started with than Heads Up! But that’s not too say the game doesn’t introduce some fairly ingenious twists that have surely contributed to its staying power at the top of the paid charts. From the ground up, Heads Up! is designed to be a memorable, funny, low-competition-factor multiplayer experience. It succeeds at all that due to its straightforward, elegant gameplay. To make sure you know exactly how to play before getting thrown into the mix, Ellen DeGeneres kicks things off with a quick intro video. This is where you find out the game is broken up into categories—or “decks”—such as “Superstars,” “Act It Out,” “Blockbuster Movies,” “Animals Gone Wild,” “Accents & Impressions,” and a whole lot more…
Once a round gets started, it’s up to you and your partner to see how many cards you can “complete” before time runs out. If you’ve ever played Charades, there are few surprises here. While your partner holds the iOS device facing out against their forehead, you see the item listed there and try to make them guess what it is without rhyming or enunciating any part of what’s written there. Get it right and the person holding the device simply tilts the iPhone/iPad down and it’ll ‘ding’ and move onto the next one. Can’t guess the item? Tilt the device up and you’ll pass. The fact that there’s no touching of the screen involved during a round might not sound like a big perk, but I’m convinced that it’s a primary factor in what’s made this game such a hit.
The fun doesn’t end when a round does—at least, it shouldn’t if you and your partner have done your job (acting like fools). Upon viewing the wrap up and seeing how many points your team earned, there’s an option to re-watch the round… See, while your partner was holding the device up against their head, it turns out the camera was on and recording your every word, gesture, and super-embarrassing attempt at impersonating Arnold Schwarzenegger. Of course, everything is shareable, so there’s always the chance that you and your friends are making a legendary recording at the same time that your enjoying some after-dinner games.
There are very few reasons to consider holding onto your dollar if you’re in the market for a great party game that’s all about the multiplayer and memories. Even costing just one dollar, don’t be surprised if you get a lot more use out of Heads Up! than you have from that closest full of board games… The only group that might find something lacking in Heads Up! would be those looking for some serious competition. While the game does keep track of your points during any given round, that’s where the record keeping ends—leaving it up to you to keep track of who’s winning and how many rounds will take place. This might be seen as a detraction by some, but the lack of structure and necessary navigation is also the primary reason that Heads Up! is such an easy, in-and-out experience.
If you’ve got an event coming up and need an ice breaker or a new game to play with some long-time friends, there’s little chance you’ll do better and go lighter on the wallet than by picking up Heads Up! You’ll even save yourself the trouble of shuffling cards or picking up game pieces when all is said and done… If you’re as skeptical of Heads Up! as I once was, rest assured there’s no gimmicks to be found here. Instead, we get a pretty brilliant reimagining of a classic game that packs some endless fun and really makes the iOS platform shine.
Our Score: 4.5 out of 5