Death, Jr. Updated Hands-On

Konami and Backbone's quirky PSP platformer is on hand at GDC--we bring you an updated look.


Death Jr.

Game Developers Conference, San Francisco--The PSP is out in force at the GDC, and one of the major attractions for the system is Backbone Entertainment's unique platformer, Death, Jr. Putting you in the role of the son of the Grim Reaper himself, Death, Jr. boasts a unique mix of third-person action, platforming mechanics, and kooky characters. It has been a little while since we last got our hands on the game, so we happily took this opportunity to get a feel for how the game has progressed.

Death, Jr. tells the story of DJ (aka Death, Jr.), the troubled offspring of the infamous Grim Reaper. DJ is basically on the bubble, having been kicked out of multiple schools, and currently he's on his last chance before being shipped off to child boot camp. It doesn't take the youth long to stir up trouble. When he goes on a field trip to a supernatural museum with his wacky group of friends, he accidentally unleashes a demonic force that sends scads of nasty bad guys all over the place. It's ultimately up to you, as DJ, to send these demonic minions back to hell and to do it all in a quick fashion, lest your father find out what you've done.

Not a whole lot has changed since the last time we got our hands on Death, Jr. Armed with DJ's trusty scythe and a flamethrower-type gun, we found ourselves up against a number of demonic enemies in one of the game's trippy-looking environments. All it really took was some quick button-mashing with the main attack buttons, and we were able to bowl through these demons with relative ease. The controls seem pretty responsive at this point, and moving DJ around feels a little bit tighter than it did in previous visits with the game. Some of the platforming mechanics, like using the scythe to hook onto assorted ledges and zip lines, also felt better. The camera controls, mapped to the right and left trigger buttons, felt just about as they did the last time we played the game, which is to say that they were a little bit cumbersome. Trying to maintain a good camera angle did prove problematic at times.

The biggest visual change we noticed was a slight improvement in frame rate consistency. Things did tend to get a little bit crazy when too much action was happening onscreen at once, but the overall frame rate seemed to be more consistent. The rest of the game's graphics haven't really changed at all, but then, that's hardly surprising, since the game has looked pretty close to finished (at least graphically) for a while now.

We came away from Death, Jr. fairly pleased with how the game has progressed. With the game due out in just under two months, we don't expect there will be too many major changes between now and then but rather some more fine-tuning to further improve the overall experience. We'll be sure to bring you more coverage of the game in the coming weeks.

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