Death Jr. is a new action platforming game that seamlessly blends elements from first-person shooters with the exploration of a third-person platformer and serves up a large dose of intense gameplay and weapon heavy combat for the PSP.
My PSP is so nice looking that I almost don’t like taking it out of its protective sleeve, and I even cover it with a tissue when I’m charging it. “Goodnight, sweet prince,” I’ll whisper into the headphone jack before I go to sleep every … morning.
Okay, well, I admit, having to actually touch my PSP is probably the best part of playing Death Jr.. I really and truly wanted to like this game, but it has some problems that prevented me from doing so.
The camera is terrible. Things are bad enough in any third-person action game when a large group of enemies tries to overwhelm you, but when the camera decides to focus on a patch of grass in the middle of such a battle, well, I don’t think I need to say any more. A bad camera pretty much ruins any game, but having tight, responsive controls usually helps the situation a lot.
Unfortunately, Death Jr. doesn’t have tight, responsive controls. Trying to lock on to enemies with the right shoulder button while simultaneously jumping, shooting, and slashing isn’t that easy on the PSP. On a regular controller that didn’t have a screen attached to it, it wouldn’t be as big of a problem, but as it is, it just feels really awkward. This is, of course, assuming that when you do hit the right shoulder button, it will actually lock on to an enemy. You can destroy just about everything you see in Death Jr. , which lends itself to the problem of, say, locking on to a parked car, rather than a charging enemy.
You might be wondering how this game actually plays, how it feels aside from the bad control and camera. Three words: Devil May Cry. We have one button to jump, one to shoot our equipped long-range weapon, and another to slash with our giant scythe.
Death Jr. doesn’t have much in the way of a story to pad the UN-fun gameplay. It seems that the writers for many games these days think that creating a bunch of self-consciously quirky characters is going to make the game a hit. Death Jr. sports a cast of “off the wall” characters such as a dead guppy and a goth girl (bless their black hearts) with OCD, and yet the best they can muster up is a fart joke. Fart jokes aren’t funny, they never have been, and they never will be. It might appeal to 10-year-olds, though.
The graphics are good enough, at least. The levels are pretty bland otherwise and aren’t particularly inspired. The music consists of (from what I can tell) one droning hip-hop beat. Why hip-hop? Has it become so ingrained in our society’s consciousness that rap music is always associated with death and killing rather than being a post-modern musical art form, that it would be featured in a game that stars the very spawn of death itself? Nah, that couldn’t be.
By the later stages, the platforming sections of Death Jr., combined with hordes of enemies and the bad camera can be totally infuriating. There are some mildly enjoyable weapons for us to use as we progress further into the game, however.
One of the most mind-bogglingly outrageous features of Death Jr. is its “save anywhere” system. Press the start button on the PSP, and you’ll see a save option … or rather, insanity disguised as a save option. Normally, being able to save anywhere is good when, for instance, your girlfriend is screaming at you from the other room that she’s out of wine, or, say, your neighbor is playing bagpipes while drunk. We might be playing Death Jr. when one of these events arises, so we’ll save the game in the middle of an aggravating level.
A few hours later, we’ll turn on the PSP, put in our copy of Death Jr. and load our save game. Allow me digress for a second … the levels in the game are accessed via a central hub, which in this case is a museum that DJ and his friends are visiting on a school field trip. Pandora, the aforementioned goth girl with OCD, finds an ancient wooden chest on display (gee, I wonder what that could be?). Our good friend DJ, in a stunning display of strength, opens the box for Pandora. Big mistake, because, well …you know. Anyway, it’s up to us to save DJ’s friends, each of whom are trapped in some sort of alternate nether-dimension, which, like I said, is accessed from the museum.
So when we come back to our PSP a few hours later (after buying wine, or suffering through the “Call to Arms” 10 times in a row) and load our saved game, we find ourselves back in that really annoying level we were trying to beat, right? The one we were almost done with? No! We’re back in the museum, in that central hub, and guess what? We get to play that level all over again!
It’s a cardinal sin, my friends, to do that to a man (or woman). It’s not right to punish the player like that, but you know … I really don’t mind it that much anymore. When I play through another level again, I realize that Death Jr. is bland, boring, infuriating, and above all, painfully disappointing.