A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that while kids play a young grim reaper in the game, the main character is very cute, almost huggable. There's nothing frightening here; it's just an adventure with monsters that aren't very scary. Still, there are weapons young Death must wield like twin pistols, an exploding hamster, and burning toilet paper sent airborne with something that looks like a gun launcher.
What's it about?
Death Jr., a young, determined Grim Reaper, is a terrific character who's on an earnest search for his father throughout this game. Young Death may not be of the Mario superstar variety, but he's at least as likable as, say, Spyro the Dragon. While the story about family loyalty and friendship could have been deeper, you'll have fun as you use Jr.'s scythe to defeat enemies, whack open treasure chests with powerups, hover and climb up cliffs. Death Jr.'s pals are quite a motley crew. There's Pandora, his best friend who's full of independence and attitude. (You can also play as Pandora or both in two-player mode.) There's Smith and Weston, twins joined at the brain, and Dead Guppie, an expired fish who's the rebel of the bunch.
Folks who are game savvy know that a poorly reviewed version of this game arrived on the PSP in 2006. But this version for the Wii is so much better because everything has been tweaked and revamped to make gameplay nearly seamless. In addition to your scythe, you'll have a twin pistols, which are great to shoot flying monsters out of the air. You'll also get a flaming toilet paper launcher and a cute but powerful hamster, which you can place strategically on the ground. It'll run toward enemies and explode, killing them.
Is it any good?
As you move through the strange but compelling 19 levels, you can save the game at any time. You'll use buttons on the Wiimote and Nunchuk a lot since there isn't a ton of motion sensing movement in gameplay here. Shooting and aiming is an exception. Still, the lack of motion sensitivity doesn't spoil what turns out to be a delightful romp through very imaginative environments, especially when you're in a restaurant where encountering sweet syrup makes you see the environments as if you were spinning and dizzy.
ROOT OF EVIL itself may be a tad short, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying a kind of early Halloween with Death Jr., Pandora, and the rest of the cute creeps within. In fact, game-aware parents may be called upon to help with later levels, which can be somewhat difficult to finish. But these challenges just add to the sheer joy of play.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that death isn't always eerie and creepy. In fact, Death Jr. has a purpose and goal here: to save his father. Movies like The Corpse Bride poke fun at the afterlife and death. What others can you think of? If you can think of more scary death-themed games and movies than funny ones, why do you think that is? Which treatment do you prefer?