You know that game where you run around and hit things repeatedly? It's the same one with floating platforms, simple combos and a camera that almost gets it - ringing any bells yet? Oh wait, that's practically every third-person run-and-jump game made in the last eight or nine years, and even though it's a marked improvement over the original, Death Jr. 2: Root of Evil still falls squarely in the "pretty OK" department.
Problems with the last game, like a crap camera and total lack of a narrative, have been addressed. The L and R buttons now give you a fair amount of camera control, but when running through tight corridors or locked in a tense firefight with mechanized chickens, the viewpoint can quickly descend into madness. The new storyline certainly livens up the presentation (including fancy new cutscenes), though anyone with a driver's license probably won't be cracking too many smiles at the Nickelodeon-caliber jokes.
The world presented in Evil does have a certain Invader Zim appeal to it, but it's neither creepy enough to disturb nor unique enough to excite. Killer toys? Check. Weird amalgamations of machines and obscure animals? Double check. Area after area filled with crates, switches and every other idea that's been done to death? Yeah, well, we've made our point.
Even the bullet-pointed changes to the game (new lighting effects, upgradeable weapons etc.) are things that should have been there all along, because they're in just about any platformer made after 1999.
The addition of a second playable character, Pandora, seemingly offers an incentive to run through the game twice. However, as you may have guessed, the actual differences between her and the scythe-toting Death Jr. are negligible. A few different goofy guns (hamster C4? Oh snap!) and faster swinging speeds don't necessitate an entirely new character.
And with all that out of the way, it's worth mentioning that nothing is done terribly wrong here, either. Root of Evil handles all the basics of a playable platformer quite well, floaty jumping aside. If you liked the first game at all, this one's a lot better, easily.
Being able to play the whole thing co-op is a nice bonus too. You and a pal can beat back the acres of toy/monster/beasty things together in the game's co-op mode for hours on end, and somehow it's slightly more entertaining than going it alone.
So basically, you're getting a decent platformer that improves upon its predecessor. That counts for something in and of itself. But, when the level mechanics still depend on mashing the attack button mindlessly for minutes at a time, with no real cue as to when to stop, no amount of snappy dialogue or Tim Burton-esque scenery will make it fun to play. An admirable effort, and advances were made, but in all honesty, this is what the first game should have been.