Death Jr. makes his appearance on the DS, migrating over from the two PSP games that bear his name. The resulting offering is something that lacks in many critical areas, making this one into yet another mediocre platformer.
The opening cinematic answers the age-old question of "What would happen if you combine a bunny and a demon at a science fair?" Apparently, what you get is a runaway demonic bunny and an entire school turning into some sort of surrealistic space, opening a doorway into a demon's domain. Death Jr. (DJ to his friends), armed with his trusty scythe, sets out with his now-ghostly friend Pandora to return the school to the way it once was.
The gameplay is basic platforming faire, both in two and three-dimensions. Sometimes - often when platforming is involved - DJ will only be able to travel in the two-dimensional realm, but when fighting groups of enemies and bosses, he'll be given three-dimensions of movement. Each of these modes, have common problems.
The controls of the game are simple, but extremely clumsy and loose. Falling off platforms is too easy, and knowing exactly where DJ is going to land isn't always assured. Clinging to the edges of platforms is a common part of any platforming experience, but even this is a very unreliable element of the experience, as sometimes you will cling to the edge, and other times you won't. At some points DJ will actually look like he's clinging to an edge while being stuck to the ceiling. It's not really clear how that happens. Perhaps the demonic influence has something to do with it, because it's tough to justify otherwise.
The combat of the game is heavy-feeling and not at all smooth either. DJ can use a series of weapons, but it's likely his scythe will be getting the most use. While pulling off combos is a simple matter of simply pressing the 'A' button (or tapping the screen) repeatedly, the actions are jerky and the enemies respond poorly, so therefore it's not very easy to see if the hits have landed at all. It tends to be just pressing one button until everything's dead.
In addition to standard combat, the presence of a 'confidence meter' allows DJ to inflict more damage and pull off special moves. If you get hit, you lose confidence, attack power, and the ability to pull of finishing moves; hit the enemies, and you'll gain back lost confidence. With confidence, DJ can pull of special moves that he finds throughout the game. These moves involve quick stylus moves on the screen or using a combination of the directional pad and the 'Y' button, which was easy to use either way. The attacks aren't too useful, but they add variety to the combat.
Pandora also lends her hand in playable form. Control can be switched over to her ghostly form at any time (for a limited amount of time), allowing the taking of souls from defeated enemies which can be used to heal DJ or solve some simple puzzles). Since she's completely immune to any damage, she's an excellent choice to look ahead for enemies, items, and students.
Students are locked up all throughout the twisted environment in various boxes. Blowing into the microphone will have them shake in the boxes, and freeing each of them nets DJ a locker combination. Each locker contains a bonus for DJ like extra life, confidence, multiplayer games, among other things. It's a fine addition to prolong the gameplay length, but having to unlock some of multiplayer modes is a bit tiresome.
The game has two directions when it comes to graphics. On one hand, the environments are fairly well detailed and original, filled with backgrounds and objects that really scream "look at this place, it's demonic!" On the other hand, enemies and DJ himself look like simple blocky messes, and the low resolution of the DS screen doesn't help either. Cutscenes involve a series of pictures that cycle by with some text, and aren't too impressive.
The problem with Death Jr. is the simple fact that there are some serious flaws with its platforming mechanics which detract from the overall game. There's nothing pulling the player in with regards to the plot or gameplay, and therefore it's impossible to justify this as a decent game. In terms of multiplayer, it's only in the form of a few mini-games, and can't save the lacklustre single player gameplay. Simply put, this is one science experiment that should have been buried six feet under.