The son of Death may have a few tricks up his sleeve, especially when he makes his debut on the Sony PSP.
Throughout the annals of Junior High history, there have been a myriad of different kids who just had a tough time fitting in. There's the fat kid, the nerdy square, the antisocial girl who lights things on fire, the boy who doesn't bathe, and now, courtesy of Backbone Entertainment, there's Death Jr., the short freaky skeleton that carries a giant scythe and whose dad is the Grim Reaper! Our boy DJ's not exactly with the "in" crowd, but he's starring in an excellent videogame, and if you're planning on buying a PSP (you know, like the rest of the world), you're going to want to show Death Jr. some love.
If I were to strip away all of Death Jr.'s components, all there would be is a typical third person shooter. And although it's a really good one, you may be disappointed if you're looking for some revolutionary entry in the genre. Rather, this game excels simply because it's overflowing with personality. DJ and his friends (a motley crew if I ever saw one) are unique and the game's story makes this macabre adventure truly a stand out amongst its competitors.
The game's narrative goes like this: While on a class trip to the Museum of Supernatural History, DJ and his friends, which include Smith and Weston (twins conjoined at the head), Stigmartha (who bleeds from her hands when she gets the jitters), Pandora (a girl who just can't keep herself from opening boxes), and Seep (a foul-mouthed foreign exchange student who resides in a vat), stumble upon this mysterious box. Pandora insists DJ open it, and because he wants to impress her does, but there was anything but dust inside. He unleashes the ancient demon Moloch who, along with his evil minions, proceeds to wreck havoc. Fearing that his dad's going to have a cow, DJ sets out to shove Moloch back into that box before dad finds out. It's sort of like when I broke something and released all these monsters and... ok so it was just a ceramic pot on the table and there was a dead bug inside of it.
I lost track of how long I played Death Jr., but that's definitely a good thing as I just had a fantastic time. It's a well-crafted third person shooter that's fully loaded with globs of style, and the fact that it looks gorgeous and plays great is an added bonus. You control DJ using the PSP analog stick and attack with the face buttons, either with one of his many weapons (which can be switched by pressing the directional buttons), or with his giant scythe. All of the monsters, which include gigantic demons who hurl fireballs to small flying creatures, can be cut and blown to ribbons, and the special effects look fantastic.
There was only one level on display, and while I didn't know what all of my objectives were, I got the gist of what I had to do. There were these giant walls covered in eyes and I had to just blow them up. Of course, standing in my way were all sorts of bad guys - lots, in fact - but they were no match for my deadly arsenal of machine guns, dual pistols, and a rocket launcher (supposedly there's also C4 hamsters, but they weren't available in the demo)!
Did I mention that the game looks amazing? Well I'll say it again. Backbone's really done a great job here, and it's remarkable how far this game's truly come. It's not the best-looking PSP game, but it definitely ranks among the top five. Everything about it, including the character models, level design, and small touches (such as when the grass wilts whenever DJ walks through it) really makes the game special. I had some issues with adjusting the game's camera, but with more than a month before it releases I'm confident that its developers will fix that.
The big problem that I have with Sony PSP and most of its games is that they lack personality. The system itself is just the means to an end, and most of its games are loosely based on dry PS2 titles. However, Death Jr. really stands out because of its style and original characters, which makes it a very unique experience. It's one of the very few original games for the system, and although I only got to play a small sampling of this fantastic adventure title, I highly recommend that you pick it up when it releases during the first week of May.