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Dead Head Fred

Developer: Vicious Cycle | Publisher: D3
Players: 1 Player Game | Genre: Action

Release Date: 08/28/07

Having recently published some surprisingly good titles earlier this year (notably, Earth Defense Force 2017 and Puzzle Quest), D3 has become my own personal “company to watch”, and it seems like my instincts were right on the ball looking at their E3 lineup this year. In particular, Dead Head Fred seems to fit the company’s M.O. when it comes to picking unassuming games that packs in a lot of fun and originality.

With a story that starts out like an old ‘40s film noir and quickly turns into a 50's B-horror movie, the game’s titular Fred (voiced by Scrubs’ John C. McGinley) is a detective tasked with investigating shady mob boss Pit, who amongst other evil deeds has taken possession of a nuclear power plant and has been somewhat irresponsible in his methods of disposing of nuclear waste. However, like all good mob bosses, Pit doesn’t appreciate anyone snooping into his affairs, and he has Fred eliminated – decapitated to be precise. While it would seem like such a plot would make for a particularly short game, Fred comes into contact with some of the errant radioactive goo, and springs back to life again, borrowing heads as they become handy to assist him in his quest to fight his way past mutants, zombies and other enemies so he can bring Pit to justice.

The game takes the form of an action-adventure with some platforming elements, and as Fred progresses through the game he attains new heads, which give him an assortment of new abilities. While his default head is nothing more than a brain and a pair of eyes in a glass jar, Fred can get a zombie head that will let him suck up gasoline and water to attack enemies and solve puzzles, a stone statue head for pushing heavy objects, a mutant head for climbing walls, and numerous others (9 total), each with its own upgradeable abilities.

Dead Head Fred developer Vicious Cycle has built the game's engine from the ground up for the PSP and as a result looks great. The demo shown at E3 featured an amazing amount of detail for a PSP game, with fantastic textures and some hilarious animation. Each head Fred puts on changes everything about the way he acts, from his fighting moves to even the way he stands – the stone head has him walking around all stiff like Frankenstein’s monster, while the zombie head has him flailing around like... well, a zombie.

The most hilarious moment from the demo we were shown at E3 was when Fred plopped on a mannequin (a dorkishly-grinning Ken doll-ish) head Fred uses to interact with people who might otherwise be terrified of him. Immediately his stance changed to that of a man artificially walking around in a way as if trying to look human, flashing thumbs-ups and just generally looking like a mindless boob (which is amusingly not far from the truth).

With a quest that’s aiming for about 15-20 hours in length, along with 4 minigames, Dead Head Fred promises to have a pretty decent amount of content, and the premise is certainly inventive and full of humor. PSP owners looking for an original action-adventure game should keep their eyes out for this title when it hits next month.

The game looks pretty much finished, and is well on-track for its August 28 release next month. We like what we saw and are eager to get our hands on the final version.

By Jake Mcneill - 07/17/07
ESRB Details: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Strong Language

Screenshots for Dead Head Fred

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