Death Jr. Review

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Developer: Backbone Entertainment Publisher: Konami
Release Date: August 16, 2005 Also On: None

Death has never been this great. In Death Jr., you play as DJ, a reaper that takes a class field trip to a local museum. Being the typical bunch of kids, aside from one of your friends having two heads, another being a dead fish, and you being the son of death himself, they of course are curious about mysterious objects. They find a box not meant to be disturbed and open it, releasing a force throughout the museum. Your friends get trapped against the walls, lifeless, and you have to save the day.

Sounds like your average platformer, right? It would be, except it is not really a platformer by its conservative definition. Sure, there is a lot of jumping around, swing-hooking from rafters, and the cartoon graphics, but like many platformers of this current decade, Death Jr. is more of an action-shooter, taking the concept that was popularized this generation by adding guns.

Speaking of which, I should probably name some of the weapons you have to choose from throughout the game. We will start with the scythe. It is the standard weapon, as are the twin pistols. You will obtain new weapons later through one of your friends. How he has this cache, I don’t know. These include a shotgun, C4 hamster, chain gun, flamethrower, an ice gun, electric gun, etc.

Death Jr. plays a lot like a miniature Ratchet and Clank, without the nuts and bolts purchasing system, without the dozens of weapons, and without a solid, enjoyable, and comical storyline that you will care about. What it does share positively with Ratchet and Clank is some similar gunplay, loads of enemies with a decent amount of variety, and some of the largest levels you will ever find in a handheld title.

So what exactly is the goal of this game, again? You need to help your schoolmates. You do this by exploring the portals laid out in the museum. Some areas are blocked off, but you do have choices as you go along as to which levels you want to play, which is nice, because you might get stuck on some and not want to go back for a while. You need to collect three triangular pieces to help your friend. These are found in the three levels for each of the themes (your neighborhood, your school, a meat factory).

The graphics could have used a fresh coat of paint, but still, what they managed to pull off is all impressive. Death Jr. features large worlds, short load times, and lots of enemies on-screen without lag. It does have tough camera angles and controls sometimes, but this is to be expected. You must remember that Mario 64 DS is the platformer to own for the DS and it has both control and camera issues. That said, the two games share very little in common.

The controls might be difficult to manage (weapon management, that is), but they are not all that complicated, thankfully. X is used to jumped; holding it will do a helicopter glide with your scythe. Square is used to swing your scythe, while circle is used to fire your weapon. Triangle dodges attacks while moving. L allows you to freely move the camera, while R locks-on enemies and acts as strafe.

Overall, Death Jr. does very little to reinvent the way we play platformers. It is of the standard Ratchet and Clank action-shooter type with relatively good graphics, an impressive number of enemies on-screen, and vast levels. The camera, and at times, the controls hamper the experience. Until Sony releases a proper Ratchet and Clank title, Death Jr. will more than hold you over.

Being the first PSP title displayed and hyped by Sony, I can’t help but feel that this whole “console experience” promised by Sony is a false hope. At any rate, Death Jr. is the hot summer title that PSP owners have been desperately waiting for. I can’t over-state that for every fault Death Jr. has, it has more good than bad. Judging this as a handheld game, not a console game, Death Jr. more than lives up to my expectations. Current owners of Sony’s handheld need to pick up Death Jr. It’s a much better experience than a visit from DJ’s dad.

Graphics: 8
Sound: 5
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 7
Replay Value/Game Length: 7
Final: 7.5
Written by Kyle Review Guide

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