E3 Hands-on: Death, Jr.

Death’s son is heading to PSP for some jumping and shooting action

E3 Hands-on: Death, Jr.

Strange as it may now seem, quirky action platformer Death, Jr, was the first ever PSP game to be publicly announced and seen in action. Since that March 2004 unveiling, it's become a little lost in the rush of other PSP games, but with a summer release date in the US, E3 2005 proved the ideal time to get hands-on with Junior.

First things first, so some plot. As his name suggests DJ (to his friends) is the teenaged son of the grim reaper. This means he has access to some cool weapons, most notable being his scythe; a family heirloom which serves as a slashing weapon and a unique helicopter-type gliding device, which - let’s face it - is going to be pretty vital in an action-platforming game.

DJ is in a spot of bother however. On a field trip to the Museum of Supernatural History, his friend Pandora opens a box (hey that sounds familiar) and unleashes Moloch, a big bad demon, and his minions into the world. So it’s up to Death, Jr. and friends; the box-opening Pandora; Smith and Weston, a pair of brainiac twins conjoined at the head; Stigmartha, a girl who bleeds from her hands whenever she gets nervous; and the Seep, an armless, legless, foul-mouthed foreign exchange student who lives in a vat, to save the day.

All so far, all so funny, but what’s the game like to play? Part of the innovation of Death, Jr is its attempt to mix genres, so although there’s plenty of jumping and gliding around, there’s lots of shooting too. This means the controls, which need to able to deal with wide thirdperson and a tight-in firstperson perspective, can be a bit difficult to get used to. For example, with gunplay, you’ll also need to use the right shoulder button to strafe, and considering the number of enemies on-screen, it can get a bit too frantic. Of course, you can get in close and personal with your scythe as well but the Ratchet and Clank-style crazy weapons, such as a lightning gun, a flamethrower and exploding hamsters, are much more fun.

In other aspects, the game’s looking great though, with a neat art style and plenty of dark humour. Perhaps the key to its success will be how well DJ’s friends are included in the game. Apparently you’ll be able to team with Pandora to perform tag team combos, and presumably the same will be true for the other characters as well. These sort of moves weren’t available in the E3 demo, so we’ll have to wait for another hands-on to see if the first PSP game can make the most of its novel reputation and also end up being one of the best.

Jon Jordan
Jon Jordan
A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon can turn his hand to anything except hand turning. He is editor-at-large at which means he can arrive anywhere in the world, acting like a slightly confused uncle looking for the way out. He likes letters, cameras, imaginary numbers and legumes.