Death Jr. II: Root of Evil - hands-on

We thought Death Jr. II: Root of Evil was a mixed bag when it first released on the PSP in 2006. It was packed with personality thanks to its kooky Tim Burton-esque character designs and quirky humor. However, it also gave us a bit of deja vu - in the bad way - with its rough controls and tons of running and jumping that felt too familiar for its own good.

But publisher, Eidos’ Matt Dahlgren thinks that Death Jr. II was actually meant to be played on the Wii. “Platforming games don’t traditionally play very well on the PSP. [They] don’t have a second analog stick. Also camera controls are clunky. So when Backbone rebuilt the game for the Wii, they fixed all that stuff so that the camera controls are very, very intuitive. They’ve taken all the graphics in the game and rebuilt them from the ground up,” said Dahlgren.

Graphical improvements - like richer textures, bump mapping and normal mapping - can only do so much to pretty up a PSP port. But after playing an early build of the Wii version, we think Dahlgren’s got a great point about the controls.

Controlling the camera with the L and R buttons and wrestling with the d-pad and nub are still all too common in PSP platformers. But these difficulties are absent from the Wii version. Moving the camera and aiming with the remote freely kicks the game’s pace up several notches and makes Death Jr. II feel more like a smooth third-person shooter/action game and less like its stiffer PSP predecessor.

Above: Death Jr. II should look a little sharper on the Wii. But the biggest improvement will be smoother controls

It definitely looks like improved controls and slightly better visuals will make the Wii version of Death Jr. II the better one. But will it be worth your while to pick up a copy? Expect more news as Death Jr. II: Root of Evil’s May 27 release date draws nearer. In the meantime, you can get a glimpse of the latest gameplay footage in the video below and see what we thought of the PSP original in our review.

Mar 26, 2008