Death Jr. Root of Evil
Backbone Entertainment, 2008
Because I donít believe graphics make the difference between good games and bad games, I wonít bother to rate graphics in my reviews unless there are glitches or abnormalities that affect gameplay. In this case, there are no issues of that sort. If you wish to judge the graphics, you are free to look at the screenshots and decide for yourself.
Story/Concept (Genre) 9/10
Hey, a unique story, for once! Everything about this story is crazy. The game opens with Death, the main characterís father, being tangled up in a mess of vines by some creature we arenít supposed to be familiar with yet. Then, cut back to earlier that day: Death Jr. and his school friends are out looking for cocoons to complete a school assignment. Death Jr. (DJ) and Pandora, his crush, come across a giant cocoon and disturb it, waking Furi (pronounced ďFuryĒ). Furi was in the cocoon attempting to increase the size of her evil (sounds weird, but you just have to play). Of course, sheís not happy about being woken up prematurely, so she scares DJ and Pandora off a cliff and goes off to do evil things. Since DJ and company sort of unleashed this beast, itís up to them to put a stop to Furi. It sounds like the tried and true formula, but itís in the humor that the story really shines. The dialogue is just plain funny at times, especially when Louie the Llama is talking. While the story isnít complicated or deep, itís functional, and doesnít leave you thinking, ďOh, so-and-so would never do that.Ē It just works.
This is your standard platformer, and that comes with some pros and some cons. The levels are pretty simple: you start at one end, and you get across to the other. Nothing revolutionary there. Sometimes, youíll have to defeat a certain number of enemies or destroy a certain number of pods/flip switches/pull levels, etc. in order to progress. These tasks are pointless and annoying. If youíre like me, youíll be destroying everything you see anyways. There really arenít any puzzles to solve, and if it werenít for the lush environments, things would get pretty repetitive quickly. There are also several areas where youíre required to jump over areas on moving platforms, but to me, waiting for one platform to move toward another so I can jump to it is pretty lame and not a test of my skill, just my patience.
And speaking of skill, I played this game on the normal difficulty level and, other than falling off cliffs, I never died. There is more than enough health around, and plenty of ammo. I only ran out of ammo for certain weapons at the later levels, and thatís because I was wasteful. I will say, however, that the weapons were unique and a lot of fun.
Still, enemies wonít pose much of a threat. If you press B three times, you get a nice ďswipe, swipe, slashĒ attack that will take care of most enemies, and stun the ones it doesnít. This is true from the first level to the last, and once youíve mastered this move, which takes about one try, youíre good to go. Enemies in the sky will have to be shot down, but youíll have plenty at your disposal to take care of this.
Navigating the Toy Cemetery.
There is much to be improved upon here. First, Iíll say that the game does a good job at ranged combat. You hold Z to go into ranged mode, you use the control stick to move your character, and you aim with the Wiimote. Fire with B. This works well and feels natural.
Melee, however, is another matter. The motion controls here are only used for special moves, and consist of upward swings and downward swings. However, detection seems to be a bit off. I would find myself swinging away with B, and then Iíd try to swing the Wiimote, only to have my character do another standard B attack. It takes some getting used to. In other words, I felt that it would be nice to use motion controls for attacks in a greater way. Still, controls are simple and easy to learn, and thatís half the battle.
B, B, B.
Sound effects are above average, but my no means great. The voice acting is what really saves this category. Your friends will chat with your along your journey, the dialogue is funny, and the emotions of the characters really come out in their voices. However, the music in this game, with some exceptions, of course, is largely forgettable.
Replay Value 3.5/10
Ouch. After I beat this game to 100%, which took a matter of hours and only required me to replay one minute of one level, I put it up for sale on the internet. I probably wonít play this game again. Not that itís a bad game; Iíve just done it all. Throughout the game, you collect weapon parts in order to build new weapons or improve existing ones. The only real reason to replay a level is to go back and find a weapon part you overlooked. However, none of these weapon parts are hard to find, and when I came across the one I had overlooked, I had no idea how I missed it the first time around. The only reason this game has any replay value at all is because once you beat the game, you unlock the most difficult difficulty level. Also, multiplayer could be fun if youíre playing with someone whoís never played the game before.
The rocket launcher. Every game should have one.
The reason I bought this game in the first place was to play its co-op mode with my brother, who was recently laid off and had some time on his hands. Co-op allows you to play the game with two players (one as DJ, the other as Pandora). You play split-screen and have a surprising amount of freedom, although you will be teleported to your partner if you stray too far from one another. Nothing in the single-player mode is missing in co-op, which is great. Absolutely nothing is sacrificed. That said, nothing is added, either. This makes the already easy game simply laughable in difficulty. My brother and I played the first boss (which is the hardest one) without taking a single hit. The weapons for each playable character are slightly different, also, so thereís a bit more variety there.
The lovely Pandora whips some army men.
I honestly canít say much here, since I havenít played a Death Jr. game before this one. I can say that the characters in this game seem to have appeared in previous titles, but this is all coming from a short bit of research on the internet. Chances are, if you liked Death Jr. on the PSP, youíll like it on the Wii. This game is a port of the PSP version, and is referred to by the developers as ďthe special edition,Ē but I canít tell you any more than that.
Fan service or not, chickens with lasers on their heads is awesome. The counter in the bottom-right tells you that you must kill all five to move on.
What Makes This Game Great
Despite some of the things Iíve said, this game was fun. There were wacky weapons, ranging from Flaming Toilet Paper Launchers to Rocket Launchers to Hamsters strapped with C4. Unloading these weapons was a blast, and the ranged combat was great. The story was cute and functional, the environments were vivid, and the enemies were creative in appearance. Levels had numerous checkpoints, so you didnít have to worry about dying and starting way back at the beginning of a level.
What Could Make This Game Better
First, thereís only 19 levels. Now, three of them are boss levels, so letís make that 16. Of those 16, at least three that I remember took my less than 5 minutes to beat, and took place in fairly small areas, some of which Iíd played in before. Needless to say, the game is short. Longer levels would have been a plus, or at least 10 more of them.
The first, and hardest, boss.
While youíre able to upgrade your ranged weapons, you can never upgrade your main weapon. Sure, you can learn new attacks that make use of motion controls, but you start out with the scythe or whip and you keep this until the very end. It would have been nice to enhance the destructive power of standard melee attacks.
On the subject of weapons, upgrading them was fun, but it wasnít hard to find any of the parts. My suggestion with ranged weapons, then, is to give the player options with the parts they find. Since the parts range from a chocolate bar, to a magnet, to a fan, to a hamster, to an icecube tray, etc., many different combinations are possible. It would be nice to create your own combinations. That way, players could upgrade weapons as much as they want, or sacrifice the upgrade parts to make a new weapon. For example, letís say I want to upgrade my rocket launcher, so I add hamsters. Now I fire rockets with hamsters on them, and the hamsters help to guide the rockets or something. I would have to sacrifice my C4 hamsters, but if thatís the choice I make, so be it. This would also add replay value, since in order to see all the crazy combinations, I would have to start a new file and find the weapon parts all over again.
Iíve already gone into enough detail in the Controls section, so see that section again if you donít remember what I said.
Lastly, a better multiplayer option would be nice. Sure, co-op is fun, but once you beat the game with a friend, what else are the two of you going to do? Beat it again? Iíd like to see a deathmatch option, with several playable characters and all those crazy weapons in full swing.
The Bottom Line
This game is a fun way to spend a few hours, but it is by no means a great game. If you can find it for $10 like I did, you should give it a try. However, my real recommendation is to rent it one rainy afternoon and play through it. Overall, I give this game a 5/10.