Heads Up! Review

You can play an iPhone in its vertical orientation. You can play it in its horizontal orientation. But there are darn few games that take advantage of the iPhone’s little-known third gaming orientation: stuck to your forehead. Heads Up! is one of those games.

Heads Up! claims to have been created by the staff of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, but “trademarked” might be a better description. It’s reverse charades, with one player holding up a clue and the rest of the players trying to communicate that clue to the first player. The iPhone displays the clue and keeps track of whether you guessed it (signalled by tilting the phone down) or whether you passed and got another one (signalled by tilting the phone up). You have one minute to guess as many clues as you can.

Note that we’re saying “iPhone.” Heads Up! runs just fine on an iPad, but don’t try to play it that way. The iPad gets heavy and you’ll look like an idiot holding it on your forehead. Trust us, we found that one out the hard way.

If the player with the iPhone guesses a clue, somebody scores a point. The game rules never really specify who scores the point, but it’s a party game and we’re all friends here. Work it out among yourselves.

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There’s no win condition, either. Competitive players may decide that the person with the most points wins, but in her cheery video introduction to the game Ellen seems to think that you’ll play a round or two and then just put the game away.

She’s probably right. There’s no question that this is the lightest of party games. If you own it, you’re likely to pull it out during a slack moment with your friends. You’ll play with it for a few minutes, everyone will have a few laughs, and then you’ll be done with it.

On those terms, the game is successful. The interface is quick and easy, and when you buy the game you get seven packs of clues covering the topics people expect to see in party games. There are clues about pop stars, movies, animals, music, and a bunch of stuff you’re expected to mime. There’s something for everyone in the topic selection, and new clue packs are just an in-app purchase away.

Even casual players may find the clues a little lacking, though. There’s nothing obscure here — you’re guessing animals like “Lion,” and there are few limitations on what hints the other players can give. Figuring out an impression of “Sylvester Stallone” should take you about half as long as it takes someone to shout “ADRIAAN!” — and that’s about as hard as the game gets. You may spend more time trying to remember which way to tilt the phone than you do figuring out the clues.

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There’s nothing else to the app, either. It shows clues, and it totals the score at the end of the round. It doesn’t track anyone’s individual score, it doesn’t keep a high score, there are no leaderboards or achievements or additional difficulty levels to unlock. Heads Up! is a few packs of clue cards, a timer, and a score counter, and that’s it.

For what it is, though, Heads Up! is a good value. Most physical party games can be summarized as “a big pack of cards and a rules sheet,” and those games cost a lot more than 99 cents. There’s nothing wrong with having a party game in your pocket, and Heads Up! is totally okay at what it does.