|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Vicious Cycle||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: D3||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Aug. 28, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-2||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Cole Smith
A weekend with Dead Head Fred is better than a weekend at Bernie's anytime. Playing as a once-deceased gumshoe, you find yourself resurrected by a mad scientist. Now you can investigate your own murder and exact revenge. But there's a little problem. You don't have a head.
As Fred Neuman, private eye, you uncover some information that has series implications for very high profile underworld figures. That makes for a deadly situation. One in which you could lose your head over. Upon awakening one fateful day, you soon discover that you've been killed, but at the same time, revived by a doctor Fredrick Steiner. Although you're missing your head, the good doc has managed to improvise, placing your eyes and brain in a jar filled with some life-sustaining liquid. This allows you to see and think. But the interesting twist is that you can outfit yourself with different heads. There are nine heads in all. They not only give you different attributes, but they are upgradeable as well. Whoever said that two heads were better than one wasn't kidding.
The game has a decided retro vibe to it. Most of the locations, outfits, and situations recall the forties. A vein of dark humor feeds the story like oxygen to a flame. While you can't really say that the characters posses incredible depth, they definitely are well developed and display tremendous personality. There is plenty of cussing and dissing to satisfy any jaded gamers. The dialogue is not only well written, but thanks to the professional voice talents of John C. McGinley (Scrubs), the lines are delivered with personality. It may be hard to imagine a story about a detective with an interchangeable head, but thanks to the excellent production values, you'll have to remind yourself that this is just a game.
Of the various heads, you'll eventually use all of them. The game ensures this by adding puzzles to the gameplay. You will literally have to use your head to play this game - or should I say heads? In any case, the different abilities come in handy for an assortment of tasks and situations. There's the shrunken head that lets you reduce your size to get into small openings. A stone head gives you incredible strength allowing you to plow through enemies, walls, fences, and other obstacles. A scarecrow head lets you command a group of crows, and have them attack at your will. A zombie head lets you inhale various gasses and liquids, so that you can expel them at enemies or use them to solve puzzles. How else are you going to put out a fire in the laboratory? Then there's the mannequin head. It gives you a semi-normal appearance so that you can walk around town and not frighten the civilians.
The combat is fun, but it gets repetitive. Even though you can upgrade the various heads, the challenges increase exponentially, so that you end up with stronger enemies, or just more of them. The puzzles keep things interesting, and if the game is played in rather small doses, you probably won't even notice the repetition. There are a good assortment of melee moves, as well as combos and animations that show you ripping the bloody head off of a zombie as you add it to your grisly arsenal. The controls are effective, but there's not a lot of variety.