The Death Jr. games have a ton of potential thanks to a compelling cast. Sure, the Siamese twins joined at the head or quadruple-amputee kid aren't the hottest ideas, but the idea of the Grim Reaper's son and his gothy little crush Pandora dealing with the same problems as normal Jr. High kids sounds fun. Unfortunately, the world, dialogue and gameplay elements these characters are surrounded by always seem to come out unpolished and half-baked, as if the funding got a visit from Junior's old man halfway through development.
The game starts off with the titular Science Fair, at which two students' projects - a half-demon bunny and a tiny nuclear power plant - combine to create a gigantic mess. The whole school is zapped into a warped, demon-ized version of itself, most of the students are trapped in everyday objects like crates and flower pots, monsters sprout everywhere, Pandora's dead, and Death Jr's science fair exhibit - his dad's soul-harvesting scythe - has gone missing. "DJ" and Pandora's spirit set out to plow in old-school, side-scrolling fashion through four randomly-themed worlds to fix everything.
Unfortunately, the method for this is pretty shabby and typical. You can hack out a fair complement of attacks with DJ's own scythe, either with a button or just by tapping enemies - however, you still have to point him toward the beast with the D-pad for the attack to connect and the tapping timing is sluggish, so it doesn't work as well as you'd think. Over time, you'll unlock a few more weapons, like pistols, a shotgun, and suicidal hamsters with C4 strapped to their backs (they can open new paths as well). Ammo is pretty limited though, so it's usually the scythe or nothing.
Unfortunately, combat is the good part; you'd think the ability to double-jump, combined with the scythe's power to propeller glide, to grab onto high ledges or to swing from hanging hooks would make DJ a veritable Spider-Man. It doesn't. You're mostly hampered by swooshy controls, but the camera views and the fact that the scythe doesn't grab that ledge you'd hoped it would at least half the time also contribute to the anti-awesome.
There's a whole second system in the game, in which you can take control of Pandora's spirit and navigate the spirit realm for 15 or so seconds at a time. She can sometimes reach areas DJ can't (spirit platforms, you see). But mostly she collects the souls of fallen enemies and then shoots them, slingshot-style, to replenish DJ's health and confidence (a mostly useless meter that helps you do more damage when you're feeling potent), hit spirit bull's-eyes that figure into puzzles, and stun enemies.
There's arguably some creativity in the souls-as-power-ups bit, but having to switch into spirit mode, grab the proper color orb (assuming the tapping works; it's erratic), and sling it at DJ's feet in order to heal is a cumbersome chore. And heaven help you if you reach a spirit switch that needs a white soul when all you have is yellow and red - you have to backtrack and slaughter respawning enemies 'til one gives up the properly colored goods. Even with two low-grade mini-games, that's just not enough fun for us to want to keep playing.