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Videogame Review: Death Jr. and The Science Fair of Doom

I just recently finished playing Death Jr. and The Science Fair of Doom for the Nintendo DS, and I figured I'd like take a little time now to tell a bit about it. Okay, now first off, when I say "finished", I don't mean that I beat the game 100%. Unfortunately, no. What I actually mean is that I just stopped playing it, because the game is simply boring. After several levels, I surmised that since it hadn't gotten any better by now, then it probably wasn't going to later, so why torture myself. The levels are plain and dull, the enemies are repetitive and require little-to-no strategy, and the control is lacking. What more could you want in a game that you don't look forward to playing!

Death Jr. and The Science Fair of Doom was my first entry into the Death Jr. saga of videogames; I've never played any of the PSP versions so I don't know how they compare. I suspect since the PSP versions are on the PSP (obviously), they are probably 3D games. Well, this DS version is also 3D... sort of. Everything is modeled in 3D, but most of the time it plays like a 2D side-scroller. The control in these areas aren't too bad, though I always seem to have trouble with using little Death Jr.'s scythe to grab on to ledges. To do this you're just supposed to jump toward the ledge and it's supposed to catch, but half the time it seems like it doesn't. I suspect that it might be due to me hitting a button, such a direction. I can't tell for sure because hitting a direction while aiming for a ledge is like a reflex action, which is difficult to turn off.

Then there are also 3D parts that are like closeup 3/4 overhead perspective. It is in these areas where the control really suffers. Trying to maneuver little Death Jr. to the correct angle in order to hit a moving bad guy is quite a challenge using the DS's standard cross-shaped directional pad. Thankfully, the game provides another way to hit enemies... hit them with the stylus. Initially this sounded like cheating when the game told me I could do this, but after trying to maneuver in battle with that d-pad, I fully understood why they went that route.

The game takes place in a weird, warped reality, and you play as the character Death Jr, son of the Grim Reaper. Death Jr and his friends are all getting together at the "science fair", and I put that in quotes because it should really be called "show-and-tell", as none of those dufas kids seems to have really done any science experiments. But that's besides the point. The point is a horde of mutant creatures escape and it's up to Death Jr. to round them all up. I hate cleaning up other people's messes!

Luckily, you have some help from Pandora, your goth "girlfriend"... who just died. She's now a ghost, and you can switch to her temporarily to help you out. Of course, being a ghost, she really can't help all that much. Basically, she collects spirits from the creatures you kill... which you actually have to do by switching to her then tapping on the spirits (yes, annoying). She then uses those spirits to help heal you or to hit targets only visible to her which makes a platform materialize or whatever so that Death Jr. can continue on. To accomplish both of these goals, you need to tap one of the spirits circling her head, drag it backward, then aim it by moving it around until a cursor appears over the target you want to hit, and release. This is also very annoying.

As you go through the game, you can rescue children who then give you the combination to their locker. When you visit the locker room, you can then unlock their lockers and get something good, like max health upgrades. To find these kids, you basically just need to bash everything in sight. The game has a "feature" where if you blow in the microphone and a kid is hidden someone on the screen, then their hiding place will shake... but seriously, who's gonna constantly blow into the microphone on every screen? Somebody who likes being out of breath, that's who.

Your main weapon, as I mentioned earlier, is a scythe. There are additional weapons you can get later on, though, such handguns and a shotgun. I rarely used these, and the scythe always seemed to work best. There are some areas when you're required to use the guns, such as when you need to shoot a platform so that it will turn the proper way so that you can stand on it, but against bad guys I found to have better luck just sticking with the scythe.

Okay, lets see, did I miss anything... oh yeah, there was this one bug (or annoying idiotic feature, with this game I just can't be sure) where when I got to a save point in this one area and saved, but every time I saved there instead of just letting me resume from the save point like everywhere else, it would bring me back to the main hub and I'd have to go run to that area all over again. It was really confusing at first, but now I'm pretty sure it's a bug.

So I guess that's about it. The levels were straight-forward and dull, with good enough graphics but not much eye-candy; the control lacks polish; the same baddies appear over and over again, and most require the same strategy of keep hitting them until they die; basically, there are better games out there. You'd probably only want this if you are a Death Jr. fan.

Death Jr. and The Science Fair of Doom was released on May 22, 2007 by Konami. Visit the official Death Jr. and The Science Fair of Doom website for more information.

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