The icy cold grip of Death Jr. is back, only this time he’s making his debut on the Nintendo DS and he’s brought his grim and often times grotesque sense of humor with him. See, in Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom there’s a small mishap and an evil force is created. In all the commotion someone steals the scythe of Death Sr. and one of Jr’s good friends ends up dead, but in spirit form, and if that’s not enough to throw into the mix a bunch of the school kids have been captured and it’s up to you and your group of friends to get to the bottom of all of this. Death Jr. is going to have a busy day and if there’s any dad scarier than Death, I’d like to know who.
One problem I had with Death Jr. is that, while it looked decent enough, the levels were all leaning more toward the boring side. Most of the levels are linear with branching paths for when you’ve picked up additional skills for little Death Jr. Death Jr. features uninspired enemy design and a rather boring combat system that promises combos, but never really delivers a satisfying combat system. You can choose to use the stylus to attack or you can choose to button mash, with the latter being the far easier experience. The one decent aspect about the visuals comes in the crazy character design which really comes through between levels. Aside from that the games visuals are just generic.
The audio is equally as mediocre. Why do I get the feeling that they put about as much effort into the audio as they did with the visual portion of the game. It’s like they laid all the foundation for greatness and at some point in development they either said we’ve got to get this game out now or this is good enough, with either one of those scenarios being a disservice to gamers who may have purchased this game.
Playing through Death Jr. was more like a chore than it was a game. The gameplay mechanics just never came through in the end. Jumps may end up taking repeated efforts and for a platform game that just can’t happen. The game should be difficult, but not frustrating and frustrating is just what Death Jr. ended up being. And to top it all off, there’s no real consequence for dying, there are no gameovers. You begin at whichever room you entered and if you die again, you go right back until you get it right. In some cases, over and over and over again. Yes, respawning enemies tend to gather at the very ledge that you’re trying to get to, so even if you time it right you’re still going to end up falling into that pit that will send you back to the beginning of the room. Just be careful not to end up throwing your DS or DS Lite at the ground in frustration, it’ll be okay, just take a deep breath, it’s only a game.
The bottom line is that I just have a hard time recommending this to anyone. The game tries to be funny but it ends up being more grotesque than anything. It tries to be clever and borrow somewhat from a game like Castlevania and Metroid with their backtracking when you get those new abilities, but chances are that by the time you get to that point you’ll be ready to give up on the game. Sure, they’ve included lots of replay value what with different outfits for Jr., but in the end the game itself makes it nearly impossible to even remotely want to come back and play it through on more than one occasion. Unless you’ve just got your heart set on Death Jr. you could do better elsewhere.
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