Joseph Rositano
27 Aug, 2007

Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom Review

DS Review | The knee bone's connected to the… something.
The original Death Jr. was never actually released on the Nintendo DS and instead was a PSP exclusive. Surprisingly though, Konami announced a couple of months ago that they would be releasing two direct sequels to the game with one being made specifically for the DS (Science Fair of Doom), while the other would remain on the PSP (Death Jr. 2: Root of Evil).

The Science Fair of Doom takes place roughly one year after the events of the first game. DJ’s (short for Death Jr.) school is holding its annual science fair competition and DJ has decided to enter his father’s scythe as he did the previous year. Meanwhile, his friends have entered a range of bizarre and down-right weird experiments including an obese hamster and an odd flower. Two particular experiments (a demon-DNA infused bunny and a mini-nuclear reactor) however, react to each other and cause the school to enter an alternate dimension. Worse still, DJ’s friend, Pandora, has turned into a spirit while everyone else has mysteriously vanished. Teaming up, both DJ and Pandora set out to find their school chums as well as solve the mystery behind the parallel dimension.

For returning Death Jr. veterans, Science Fair of Doom maintains many of the original’s gameplay mechanics. The game is still largely a mix between a platformer and an action title where you’ll be jumping, swinging and hacking away at swarms of enemies. However, there are two major changes. Firstly, players can now utilise the DS’ touch screen to attack enemies. Unfortunately, for the most part the controls feel a bit gimmicky as essentially all you do is tap an enemy and DJ will fire/swing his weapon. Combo moves, such as a 360 degree spin attack, can also be performed by quickly sliding the stylus in corresponding motions but generally they’re simply not implemented enough into combat. Like most other DS games, most of the touch screen controls have an alternative via the D-Pad and face buttons.

This leads to the second major gameplay change: Pandora. Although you won’t be able to see her when controlling DJ, she follows you and can be switched into play by either tapping her icon on the touch screen, or pressing the select button. The idea behind Pandora’s ghostly abilities (remember, she’s a spirit), is that when a player switches to her, time will stop and hidden objects such as ledges and switches appear that allow you to access new areas. When enemies are defeated, they will also drop souls which can be collected and later used to heal DJ or solve puzzles. These puzzles aren’t entirely challenging however, as they consist of simply matching the colour of a soul switch with a corresponding soul. In order to use a soul, you have to select it via the touch screen and aim it until you lock onto the desired target. To make things more interesting, Pandora also has a few limitations. Firstly, you’ll only have thirteen seconds to carry out whatever tasks you wish to perform (save when you’re aiming souls) and secondly, Pandora cannot attack enemies.

The something's connected to the… red thing.

The something's connected to the… red thing.
Despite the new gameplay mechanics, the game unfortunately carries one particular downfall its predecessor was largely criticised for – repetitiveness. A big chunk of the game will be spent fighting countless enemies. Fortunately, due to the implementation of Pandora and a slightly steadier focus on platform elements, there is a better balance between combat and platforming. Additionally, there is a ton of unlockable content which can be obtained by saving students. The unlockable content includes alternative costumes, multiplayer modes and maps (more on this later) and the usual stamina upgrades. To top it all off, at the end of each level, you’ll be treated to a boss fight which will require minimal, but well implemented, tactics such as waiting until the boss crashes into a wall and thereby exposes its weak spot. Sadly, in the end, the repetitiveness still hampers the overall experience and ultimately effects multiple play throughs.

As mentioned, the game features two different multiplayer modes which can be played by up to two or four players providing they each have a copy of Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom. Bothersome, we know, especially given a majority of other DS games support single-card play. The first multiplayer mode is called Reaper Ricochet, which can be played by up to two people. Essentially, this particular mode takes the arcade classic, Breakout, and adds a few twists in the form of three different sub-modes. These include “To the Death!” where the last man standing wins, “Last Man Standing” which is similar to the former only you have one life, and “High Score” which speaks for itself.

Last but least not, is the second multiplayer mode called War, which is basically a deathmatch-style arena mode that can be played by up to four people. There are four different modes including “Slaughter” and “Team Slaughter” where you attempt to make the most kills under a time limit or reach the kill limit, and “Last Man Standing” and “Team Last Man Standing” where you attempt to be the last man/team standing. As an added twist, if your team mate loses a life, you will too.

Visually, Science Fair of Doom is a bit mixed. At times, the game easily stands as one of the more visually impressive DS games through some decent character models and some dazzling fire effects. However, the background is noticeably plain looking. Also, we cannot help but question what the developers were thinking when they designed the enemies. We won’t go into too much detail but when you’re fighting a mutated vacuum cleaner (at least we’re assuming it was that), you know the art department team either has a disturbing imagination or were desperate for ideas. Another minor complaint is that occasionally, the game’s fixed camera will sometimes zoom out and make it difficult to time jumps correctly. It’s only a slight problem but it’s enough to make you fall into a bottomless pit a couple of times.

The red thing's connected to my wrist watch… Uh oh.

The red thing's connected to my wrist watch… Uh oh.
The audio is unfortunately quite disappointing. While it maintains the game’s theme of doom and gloom, it never becomes dramatic enough to engage you into fighting enemies. Voice acting is also left to minor squeaks and murmurs while sound effects are never over the top – something we feel would actually suit Death Jr’s direction.

While Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom will keep you engaged right up until the end, it lacks an overall oomph to give the game some extra flare. The single player experience is hampered by repetitive gameplay and an average soundtrack, while the multiplayer aspects of the game can only be taken advantage of if your buddies also own a copy of Science Fair of Doom. In the end, the game simply doesn’t standout when there are similar and far better games on offer for the DS.
The Score
Although Death Jr. and the Science Fair of Doom is by no means a bad game, it lacks an overall polish and a certain oomph to bring it in line with other DS games on the market. 6
Looking to buy this game right now? PALGN recommends www.Play-Asia.com.

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  Pre-order or buy:
    PALGN recommends: www.Play-Asia.com

Australian Release Date:
  3/08/2007 (Confirmed)
Standard Retail Price:
  $79.95 AU
  Action Adventure
Year Made:

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