Death Jr. II: Root of Evil
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-05-31 PSP Action/Platform T (Teen) Backbone Entertainment / Konami

PSP owners will likely remember DJ from his first PSP adventure. The son of the Grim Reaper is back in a brand new quest, this time with Pandora as a playable character.

The story begins as the Grim Reaper himself takes a lunch break at a burger join in the local mall, only to be attacked by an evil creature that looks like a female version of the Green Giant. Flash back to how this all began? Death Jr. and Pandora are working on finding cocoons for their science project, and this is where you start playing.

The game plays as your traditional action/platformer: kill enemies here, walk across some logs over there, do some wall jumps like a ninja, use your scythe or whip to swing on hooks to go across chasms. It's a lot like the previous title, you clear all enemies in a given area and find the end of the level to be able to advance to the next. The beginning levels are used as a tutorial, where you will learn to move around, control the camera, use your scythe in a wide variety of creative ways and use the gun. It's important to learn to master DJ's (or Pandora's) moves, since you will need them a lot. I actually had a really hard time with the hook swinging, the side-stepping and aiming properly with the gun, but the rest was easy enough.

Not far in the game you will discover the reason Death has been attacked. It turns out that the cocoon the kids found holds a powerful evil being named Furi, and it's while fighting over it that the cocoon breaks open, unleashing this creature.

From there on, you will find the levels have certain spots blocked by weeds (a result of the cocoon beign open) and the only way to get rid of them is by inject them with some weed killer, which is spread out throughout the level or dropped from certain monsters.

Other goodies to find include health, energy orbs (your currency) and weapon parts, which can be used to create new and better weapons for DJ and Pandora. The arsenal is quite impressive: Flaming TP Launcher, Icer, Twin Pistols, C4 Hamster Mark II, Shotguns, Mines, a Tommy Gun and a lot more will make killing and destroying a lot easier. To create a weapon from parts, you take them to Smith and Weston's lab. The lab is also where you can learn new attack moves, upgrade your existing weapons and purchase ammo.

Eventually, the goal of the game focuses on finding and defeating Furi, but in the way stand her minions, a series of robot llamas, broken toys, a waffle restaurant and other equally weird things that she has somehow brought back to life. You will visit interesting locales such as dark forests, an abandoned military base, the toy graveyard, a saw mill and the famous River Styx.

I enjoyed the look of the game quite a bit. The graphics are detailed, the level design is clever, the textures are great, the lighting effects are especially interesting since they greatly help setting the mood, and the characters animate extremely well.

The audio is pretty good, especially the voice acting, which the game could have used a bit more of - it's that good. The sound effects are alright and I quite liked the background tunes, though many times they are smothered by the sound effects, which is a shame.

The controls take a while to get used to and I found the camera still needed some work since it insists on reverting to a neutral position when we're trying to look around in a particular direction when moving. Some of the more complex moves like side-stepping and swinging in the right direction take a while to get right, but the basics (jumping, moving, attacking) are easy enough to perform.

Although very similar in play style and weapons, having two characters at our disposal makes it a bit more interesting, especially since you can pair up with a friend in wireless mode.

Overall, Death Jr. II: The Root of Evil is not a bad game, but it could have used a few improvements. That's why I think that only those who have played and enjoyed the previous title will be pleased with it.