previews\ Aug 24, 2007 at 8:00 pm

Dead Head Fred - PSP - Preview 2

Ah, life as a private eye can be quite exciting and interesting. One minute you’re trailing a dangerous gangster and the next you wake up in some mad scientist’s laboratory without a head but still alive. This is the strangely morbid but hilarious situation that private investigator Fred Neuman finds himself in in Dead Head Fred for the PSP … a game that’s uniquely different and very welcome.



During this year’s E3, we got a nice peek at the features that make Dead Head Fred an interesting game that brings to mind unique games like Stubbs the Zombie for the original Xbox or the point-and-click PC classic Grim Fandango … but with lots of fistfights. The preview build we received covers a lot of ground and introduces a title with plenty of action, entertaining puzzles and dark humor that goes well with a dash of pulpy noir.


You see, Fred is no ordinary hero. The moment he wakes up in Doc Steiner’s lab, Fred realizes that the gangster he’s been tailing - a grotesquely misshapen man named Ulysses S. Pitts - killed him and thanks to the tinkering of the good Doc he’s alive but missing his head. So in the place of his own mug, the Doc fit him with a jar and the only remains of his head … his brains and eyeballs. Fred swears revenge on Pitts and his freakish hoodlums that include a thug named Lefty (who has a left arm that’s more muscular than the other) and an army of undead monsters.


Taking place in an alternate 1940s, Fred embarks on a quest to seek revenge on Pitts and do away with all the supernatural creeps that surround the Doctor’s castle. The game’s first level has you attempting to escape Doc Steiner’s castle while learning how to make use of Fred’s ability to change heads. Fred begins with his usual Jar head that has the ability to heal yourself over time as well as activate your Stealth Generator (which turns you invisible for awhile). You’ll also start with the Corpse head which comes with a Super Spray ability that allows you to spray a toxic fume as well as allowing you to suck in other elements to spew at your enemies. Finally, we’re introduced to the Stone head; an attachment that makes Fred into a powerhouse that can breathe underwater and ram or pound enemies with your incredible strength.



You’ll certainly uncover more heads throughout the game like the Shrunken head, which allows you to shrink entirely to fit into really small spaces or cracks in certain buildings. The demo introduced Sam Spade, a gravedigger who also operates the Head Shop where you can upgrade each head for a price. While the different heads are useful during combat but the heads also play a role in solving the various puzzles you’ll encounter throughout the game. For example, one puzzle has you attempting to put out a fire that blocks your path in Steiner’s castle. A fish bowl in the corner and the Corpse head’s ability to suck in elements like, say, water from said fish bowl might just be what you need to put out the fire. See that rusty old garage door? Maybe the Stone head’s ability to ram into things might do the trick.


Fred’s only weapons - aside from his various interchangeable heads - are his fists and Fred gets to battle a number of enemies that range from zombies to deranged executioners that wield giant axes. The demo also introduced two boss battles. One battle pits you up against Juju Judy, an undead voodoo priestess who tries to burn you alive while you battle her zombies. Then, reaching an area known as Creepy Hollow, you’ll encounter a hilarious version of the Headless Horseman who throws his fiery jack-o-lanterns and tries to trample you with his horse.


The demo even introduced a few of the mini-games you’ll be able to play such as betting on mutant rooster fights (you can even own your own, name and prepare your mutant rooster for a fight) as well as play a game of pool at the pool lounge. Pool was actually quite fun to play and a good diversion from the main game. You’ll also encounter a number of characters who will offer you various side quests for rewards you can use to upgrade your heads’ abilities.



Visually, the game looks downright impressive thanks to its Tim Burton-like visual style and wonderfully detailed characters. Everything from the backgrounds to the visual effects will not fail to impress and while there are a few clipping problems, it doesn’t get really bad. There’s also a snappy soundtrack that works well with the theme and the sound effects come alive on your PSP speakers. As far as the voice acting is concerned it’s top notch and handles the witty dialogue to perfection. Along with some great lines (often filled with profanity), Fred will even sling insults when you die (e.g. “Thank you so much for sucking.”)


While there are a number of glitches that publisher promised will be sorted out before the game ships, there are a few things that still seem a bit uneven such as the camera and the somewhat repetitive nature of combat. Still, with an interesting story, a good sense of humor and plenty to see and do in this game, Dead Head Fred looks like it will be a pleasantly surprising treat for the PSP.

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