Dead Head Fred - hands-on

Oddly, not all your heads come from dead enemies. A later level we explored was Zombietown, a suburban neighborhood filled with explorable abandoned houses and (unsurprisingly) ravenous zombies, and it was here that we got to try out the Mannequin Head, which we're told is essential for not freaking people out. When we tried to wear it, however, the freakish-looking, non-zombie citizens of Zombietown reacted pretty much the same as they did when we wore other heads, which is to say they stood around screaming at us. This made us feel especially lame, because we couldn't do anything except wave and stomp the heads of the crawling zombies that grabbed Fred's legs while he was wearing the stupid thing.

Throughout the experience, the camera - which we were promised a year ago would work just fine without a second analog stick - mostly lived up to expectations. It wasn't perfect, but it did a decent job of staying locked behind Fred, and on the few occasions when we needed to look around or move it, there was a simple hold-a-button-while-moving-the-stick workaround. Overall, though, the game felt great; the brawling was fluid, the puzzles were quick and intuitive and Fred himself controlled a lot more smoothly than you'd expect from a dead guy who'd just been fished out of a radioactive swamp.

Above all, the game's biggest strength seems to be that it'll constantly hit players with new things to do, forcing them to find new uses for heads and distracting them with minigames like pinball, fishing and, yes, cockfighting. Add in a charmingly cocky vocal performance by John C. McGinley (Scrubs, Office Space) as Fred, and Dead Head Fred has the potential to be part of the PSP's slowly growing stable of great original games. We'll know more as we draw closer to the game's August release.