Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom
Reviewed by Minna Kim Mazza
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-09-05 Nintendo DS Action/Puzzle E10 (Everyone 10+) Konami

Death Jr., or DJ as we affectionately call him, and his friends participate in the school's annual science fair. DJ of course brings his dad's scythe (the same thing he brings every year), but one of his friends creates a concoction that accidentally mutates all of the science projects, and also opens a demonic portal that again releases Moloch, DJ's antagonistic uncle, and his minions. On top of it all, Dad's scythe has gone missing! DJ needs to clean up the mess before his dad finds out!

There's a certain "cuteness" to this game that is kind of odd when you're trying to describe it to your friends. "It's a game about the son of death and you kill demons" doesn't conjure the image of Death Jr. Maybe think of the kinds of characters that Tim Burton puts in The Nightmare Before Christmas. A little scary, a little humorous, but cute too.

I'm not sure if this is a spoiler, but in all the mayhem, Pandora is now somehow dead, but still able to talk to her buddies. And so she and DJ embark on working through the school, ridding it of monsters, and saving the students trapped inside!

DJ starts in a hub of sorts, which contains doors to the Cafeteria, Playground, Woodshop, and Boiler Room. It also has a locker room, where you should visit after rescuing students, and they'll unlock their locker for you to get goodies such as mini games and even new outfits.

Rescuing trapped students in the school involves the infamous blowing in the microphone of the DS, which might cause a box to shake in the room. You can use your weapon to break the box, and release the student! Be sure to visit the locker room to get your reward.

You begin with DJ and his scythe as his main weapon. Along the way, you'll pick up new weapons. With the DS interface, the weapon switch is easy - just tap the weapon you want to use, which include such gems as C4 Hamsters which are like guided bombs. You also use the touchscreen to tap on enemies that you want to kill. Pretty useful if you're not into button mashing! Some weapons require ammo, which you can find in boxes and other props that you can smash.

Every time DJ hits an enemy, he gains confidence. His confidence level will contribute to performing special moves. I haven't personally been very conscious of what special moves I do on the enemies, mostly because I'm busy tapping the guy to kill him. But, if you're into doing special moves, there are lots to choose from! I'm actually probably doing combo moves or finishers more than anything, which are also fun to see.

Moving around is tricky, but there are a lot of different moves you can make to go forward. Especially on ledges and platforms, you'll need to make sure you do the appropriate move to get on and off, otherwise fall into an unwelcome pit of lava or something nasty!

Pandora makes herself useful even when dead. A little icon in the upper right hand corner switches you to the spirit realm, where you play as Pandora for a short time. She doesn't attack, and DJ stays where he was where you left him. A little clock on the upper screen tells you how long you have left before it switches back to DJ. You can use Pandora to solve puzzles to get across tricky spots, as she can see different things in the spirit world.

For example, every enemy you defeat drops a soul jar, which you can break with DJ. You have to switch to Pandora, however, to pick up the soul sphere that comes out of the jar. Pandora can carry up to three spheres at a time. They are in three different colors (red, blue, and yellow) which can be used on soul targets that are color coded. The soul targets will cause things to happen in both worlds, and will help DJ advance by shooting them with the appropriate color soul sphere.

There are also a couple of mini games that you can unlock, which require at least two players, so you'll have to play these with a friend. One is called Reaper Ricochet, which is kind of like breakout. The other is called War, which basically just involves shooting stuff, and to win you shoot more stuff than your opponents.

I've not played the other DJ games, but I think they've really adapted it well for the DS's capabilities. Being able to use the stylus to quickly switch stuff, rather than cycle through with the "A" button all the time was really useful. Also tapping on an enemy to kill it was fun. I got a lot of looks while doing that on the train! The only criticism is that I just wish these games would stop doing the blow into the microphone thing! I just feel dumb while doing it. But overall, DJ is a very fun character to play with, to channel your rebellious teen within you.