Death Jr. II: Root of Evil

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn, Posted on 2007-11-20


Developer: Backbone Entertainment Publisher: Konami
Release Date: October 31, 2006 Also On: None

The first Death Jr. was actually the first PSP game ever unveiled. I can remember the thrilling feeling I felt when I saw how good a handheld game could look. Death Jr. eventually ended up as a decent action-platform title whose inherent flaws were supported well enough by a dose of Devil May Cry-style gameplay, a lot of enemies on-screen, and some of the better graphics on the PSP in its earliest days. The sequel came a year later—and Death Jr. II: Root of Evil is a better game in a lot of ways. PSP owners who haven't already taken an interest in DJ through the comics, merchandise, or other games may want to take a look now at this now-cheap action-platform sequel.

The thing that makes Death Jr. II a viable sequel is that it improves on almost every quality that its predecessor had. DJ's lady friend Pandora isn't causing as many problems this time around, choosing instead to oust hordes of hellspawn just like the little guy himself. At the start of the game there is an option to choose between the two characters, and unfortunately the levels and challenges are the same for both of them. In fact, most of the combos feel identical, even though Pandora uses a whip and DJ uses his scythe. This doesn't keep the game from being fun; not for a second. This time around the controls feel better, despite the awkward pressing of both triggers to activate strafe mode. Jumping isn't quite as awkward because DJ and Pandora don't feel quite as much like they're ice skating through the levels. Strafe mode itself is awesome because it allows DJ and Pandora to run straight through stages, quickly locking on and circle-strafing enemies while picking them off with quick melee licks and potshots from their guns. Speaking of enemies, the increased quantity of different enemy models and improved A.I. will certainly provide a tougher challenge. The enemies will most often swarm around the on-screen character, so hacking out of crowds is an intense practice that happens frequently. Although the game isn't difficult most of the time, there are usually a lot of things going on around the player.

There are still a few honest gameplay-related issues besides strafe-activating and copycat combo attacks. For instance, there are only a few guns and unlocking them is a painstaking and almost worthless process. DJ's default pistols and Pandora's tommy gun will most likely serve as the only projectile weapons most players use with either character. Spending the orbs collected by defeating enemies and breaking open environmental objects is the only way to unlock new moves, and the weapons cost a lot to buy—it really isn't worth it. DJ still bounces off of anything he touches when he helicopter-glides with his scythe, which can and most likely at some point will be frustrating enough to result in the uttering of vicious swear words that certainly don't belong anywhere near a kid-oriented game like this. Also, sometimes enemies can knock DJ or Pandora back very far, and if they happen to be anywhere near an edge, they'll fall off into a pit of deadly goo or water or some other fluid substance.

If there is any huge leap from Death Jr. to Death Jr. II, it's in the visual department. Death Jr. II is one of the better-looking PSP games to date, using bloom lighting effects and colorful models to create a realistic cartoon/comic appearance. The different levels all have a lot of detail, and as I mentioned they're very colorful. In the first Death Jr. the levels were themed more around twisted versions of neighborhood areas, Death Jr. II uses more of an over-the-top theme park approach. The game doesn't actually take place in a theme park, I just felt like the locations you go through are a lot more random and eccentric. The voice-over is pretty darn impressive for a PSP game whose target audience is a little younger than average, and so are the sound effects in general. The only real complaints about graphics or sound effects involve animation and combat sounds. DJ, Pandora, and their enemies look very stiff whenever they attack in any way, making the game look pretty robotic at times. The sound effects are also pretty muffled, but this is a complaint I also had about the original game.

Overall Death Jr. II: Seeds of Evil is a better game than the first one, and it is definitely a good idea for anyone who liked the first game to try this one. It doesn't manage to pull off Devil May Cry or God of War qualities but it is a great alternative to those ultra-violent PS2 and PSP games. A younger audience can play and enjoy Death Jr. II for its characters, and even older audiences can sap some time away and enjoy playing.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 8
Gameplay: 7.5
Creativity: 6.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 6.5
Final: 7.7
Written by Cliff Review Guide

Reviewed by Cliff Bakehorn