Anthony Capone
13 Jan, 2008

Dead Head Fred Review

PSP Review | Ahead of the rest?
Fred has lost his head, yet he isn't entirely dead. The premise behind developer Vicious Cycle's exclusive PlayStation Portable game, Dead Head Fred is an impressive and imaginative adventure platformer that puts players in the shoes of a headless private investigator. Although the game becomes a little frustrating and repetitive at times, it injects a breath of fresh air into the PlayStation Portable's limited catalogue of titles that is so sorely needed. Combined with the tongue-in-cheek humour and excellent voice cast, Dead Head Fred makes for an enjoyable and highly interesting gaming experience.

Fred Neuman PI, the lead character of the game, begins his story in the hands of insane researcher Doctor Friedrich Steiner. Fred is brought back from the dead following an encounter with a gangster, minus his memories – and his head. Thus, the private eye has to unravel the mystery behind his untimely demise, all the while saving the city from untold legions of zombies and other horrific creatures.

Fred begins his journey through Hope Falls, the game's dark metropolis, equipped with a new head – a brain in a jar that is worn above the shoulders. As the story progresses, players are tasked with acquiring news heads, one of the main objects of the game. This gameplay element is rather innovative, and is one of the standout features of the Dead Head Fred. Fred can obtain a mannequin dummy head, a corpse head, or even a scarecrow head – just a few of the eight different heads that can be found over the course of the game. Each head has different properties, so players will find themselves swapping between them, depending on what the situation calls for. For instance, the mannequin is used for talking to humans as it won't scare them away, whereas the scarecrow head is used in combat to shoot crows at enemies.

Like most people, Fred just wants to get ahead.

Like most people, Fred just wants to get ahead.
Players can quickly switch heads through the easy-to-navigate radial menu. Heads must be used effectively against different foes, so unless you're wearing the correct one, opponents will not be beaten easily. To dispatch foes, you have to hit them in order to stun them. Once opponents have been stunned, their heads may be removed and added to Fred's collection. Though each of Fred's heads has a special attack power, they cannot be used very often. Enemies seldom use their powerful moves on you, but rather, they team together, and through a succession of attacks player health quickly goes down. Even though Dead Head Fred's controls are will designed and executed, the high number of player deaths and sluggish nature of dispatching opponents makes combat one of the poorest elements of the game. Combined with the inadequacy of player health, the challenge of beating enemies becomes rather frustrating.

Level design is one of the highlights of Dead Head Fred – the game is massive, with numerous environments and a multitude of tasks to complete. In order to access each of the game's different stages, players will have to brave a number of load screens. Even though they are not really that long, load times sometimes lag behind the quick nature of the game. Once you do access each area, a number of side-quests will open up – people will sometimes require your assistance, and you can even do a bit of trading. There are also a few minigames to be played along the way, such as pool and pinball, which are quite fun and provide a quick escape from Fred's intense journey.

One of our other gripes with Dead Head Fred was the path finding. Though exploration of larger areas proved simple, in some of the other crowded spaces it was sometimes tricky discerning the exact route to take. The slow camera doesn't help things much either, especially when wearing the head that makes Fred smaller, allowing him to navigate tiny spaces. Players can control the camera manually, but you have to be at a complete stop to do so – indeed, players will find themselves standing still quite frequently in order to survey the game's surroundings.

The game's HUD only appears when necessary.

The game's HUD only appears when necessary.
Graphically, Dead Head Fred rates up there with some of the PlayStation Portable's best titles. The animations are quite good, especially in the fight scenes. Each unique head and character is highly detailed, as are all of the different environments that players will find themselves venturing across. The vanishing HUD serves to reinforce the game's visual splendour, and indeed, Dead Head Fred sometimes feels as though it is too big to fit on the PSP's small screen.

Fred's dialogue, voiced by Scrubs star John C. McGinley, tops off the wacky nature of the game. Music is well intertwined with the game's frantic pace, and the voice acting will make you laugh, screw up your face, and roll your eyes all at the same time. The constant dropping of swear words and Fred's bitter personality will entertain an older audience, and indeed, Dead Head Fred's ending credits make for one funniest moments of the entire game.

Dead Head Fred is an entertaining romp, mostly due to its wildly wacky story, fantastic voice-acting and interesting head-swapping mechanic. The well-rendered graphics, expansive environments and numerous quests give the game a solid foundation, but the sluggish combat and repetitiveness of gameplay make it a little tiring. However, if you can forgive the few poor elements of Dead Head Fred, it will make a welcome addition to the library of any PlayStation Portable owner.
The Score
Dead Head Fred is an interesting, immersive and innovative game that makes good use of the PlayStation Portable's capabilities. A few gameplay issues and the eventual receptiveness drag the title down a notch or two though.
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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1 Comment
6 years ago
Ive been waiting for this one since it was announced with baited breath. Thanks for the review icon_wink.gif
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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  2/11/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $59.95 AU
  AFA Interactive
  Action Adventure
Year Made:

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