Dead Head Fred

Review

posted 11/12/2007 by Cyril Lachel
other articles by Cyril Lachel
One Page Platforms: PSP
Talk about having a great year, D3 is one of those companies that seemed to pop up out of nowhere and has released several of the most entertaining games of the year. Not only is Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords one of the best games of the year, but PQ2: Practical Quotient 2 is a fantastic puzzle game and even their guilty pleasures (in this case Earth Defense Force 2017) proved to be one of the most enjoyable action games of recent memory. After so many must-own titles I wondered how they could top themselves. And then I started playing Dead Head Fred, one of the finest 3D adventure games currently available on the Sony PSP.

Dead Head Fred is a comedy adventure that feels like a cross between a Tim Burton movie and those film noirs from the 1940s and 50s. It tells the story of a recent deceased private investigator named Fred (sarcastically voiced by John C. McGinley, best known as the evil Dr. Cox from TV's Scrubs) who wakes up in a run-down laboratory manned by a crazy scientist. At first Fred is just grateful to be alive, but it doesn't take long before our hero realizes that his head has been replaced by a large glass jar filled with liquids and his floating brain.

As you might imagine this troubles Fred, especially since it all is happening so suddenly. Like any good mystery, Fred doesn't fully remember what happened to him before his untimely death and would really like to figure it all out. But before he has that opportunity to start putting the pieces together the mad scientist is kidnapped by a couple of rough looking characters and it's your job to save him while also trying to bring some normality to your life. Unfortunately that is easier said than done.

Dead Head Fred's adventure takes place in and around Hope Falls, a quiet community full of eccentric people with a lot of secrets to tell. The biggest problem (as far as I can tell) is that Hope Falls has suffered from the radiation that is leaking out of the local power plant; this plague has led to rampant mutations and a zombie infestation.

It won't take long before you realize that Dead Head Fred is about more than just helping some old scientist and resolving your mysterious death. At first the scope seems small, but as you start to meet new people and journey through the fully realized world you'll begin to appreciate just how large and deep this adventure is. Then again, given how long this game has been in development it should surprise just about nobody that Dead Head Fred is a lengthy game full of enemies to kill and cases to solve.

The gimmick behind Dead Head Fred is that our hero can swap out different heads whenever he feels like it. Usually this is done to solve puzzles and make your way through the world, but you'll find that some heads are better for fighting and other heads will help you blend in with the normal human population (and yes, I use the word "normal" loosely). For example, if you need search underwater but you don't want to drown you should equip the big stone head that will not only allow you to breathe underwater (or not breathe, as the case may be), but it will also sink your body to the bottom of the water so that you don't have to worry about swimming about. Another head you can use is the Tiki head, which will allow you to do a funny Tiki dance in front of marked locations and get transported from one secret area to another. Other heads include a skeleton head (which gives you large claws and lets you shoot bones at your foes), a mannequin head (which allows you to blend in with the humans), a zombie head (which you can fill up with gasoline or helium) and a shrunken head (which shrinks you down to a teeny tiny undead character). In total there are eight different heads, each with their own special abilities and uses.

As you can imagine most of the puzzles in the game revolve around you using the heads, so it's important for you to understand what each of these eight heads can do to get you farther. Dead Head Fred's world is not one linear path, you'll have to do your fair share of backtracking in order to find everything and ultimately beat the game. With every new heads you earn you will unlock areas you normally could not access in earlier levels, so it's important to go back and check out older levels to make sure you didn't miss anything along the way. While it's easy to complain about the concept of backtracking, you are often pushing yourself into brand new areas that are both interesting and exciting.
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