Last Christmas I paid four dollars to buy this game from the Playstation Network, and let me tell you, Dead Head Fred is easily worth five times that amount.
The laziest way to describe it would be ‘Legend of Zelda as directed by Tim Burton, in 1940s America plagued by zombies.’ This is a 3D adventure platformer that involves jumping, fighting and problem solving. Our protagonist is Fred, a detective beheaded by the local kingpin’s goon, resurrected by a deranged scientist who gives him a replacement head. Over the course of the game Fred accesses nine different heads, each with unique power that allows him to access new areas. A shrunken head brings him down to the size of a mouse, an Easter Island head gives him great strength and a scarecrow head lets him shoot crows.
If the Tim Burton flavouring isn’t immediately obvious I’ll repeat the phrase ‘1940s America with zombies’. More specifically, the small town of Hope Falls, also inhabited by a headless horsemen, gladiators, mutants, and other stock monsters. This kooky horror is aesthetic is also deliberately humorous, with many predictably terrible puns being made at Fred’s headlessness and refreshing moments of gross-out comedy. Basically, what I’m saying is that if you like Tim Burton you would enjoy this game.
I should also mention the voice acting, because it’s the best I’ve seen on any video game I’ve won so far. John McGinlery, Dr. Cox from Scrubs, provided the voice for Fred. All the voice cast, whether I know their names or not, did an excellent job and were assisted by an equally fantastic script. (Looking at Wikipedia in another tab, I just learned that Dead Head Fred was the first game to win a writing award from the Writer’s Guild of America.) Usually when I play games with voice acting I only listen to it for a cheap laugh and ignore it, but with Dead Head Fred I actually turned the volume up.
The music was good as well. Nice and jazzy, which I always appreciate in a video game.
This should’ve been the first game of a great franchise. I can imagine several sequels, a cartoon on Adult Swim, maybe some action figures, who knows? With such strong gameplay and such a memorable world, this could have been a franchise that could have been milked for years. Dead Head Fred came out in 2007 – surely someone still owns the copyright and could hopefully be persuaded to remake it for a more popular console.
If you like Tim Burton, play this game. If you like Legend of Zelda, play this game. If you secretly wish to behead a zombie, play this game. Anyone with four dollars, a Playstation Portable and the ability to access the Playstation Network should buy it. I don’t care if you’re young and your parents are easily offended by cartoonish violence, because I know I’d have loved Dead Head Fred when I was a little kid. Everyone who can do so owes it to themselves to play this game.
Can you tell that I liked it?
Seriously, Adult Swim, go make this game into a cartoon!