Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit (PSN [Reviewed], XBLA, PC)
Developer: Arkedo Studio
Genre(s): 2D Platformer
Release Date: September 25, 2012 (PSN), September 26, 2012 (XBLA), October 2, 2012 (PC)
ESRB Rating: T – Teen
Hell Yeah! takes players on bizarre trip through Hell as the Prince of Hell, a rabbit named Ash. The evil rabbit was minding his own business taking a bath with rubber duckies when the paparazzi show up and snap some pictures. The naked bath time photos are posted on the Hellternet where they’ve been viewed by a whopping 100 creatures. Ash is of course completely embarrassed by this and sets out to do the only thing a ruler of Hell can really do, kill everyone who has viewed the pictures.
Yeah, that’s the story. And while it has some often funny writing (no voice acting), the story here is really secondary and non-important. You’re not going to care about Ash as a character. It’s the gameplay that’s going to keep you playing, not the drive to push the story forward to see what happens. And that’s okay because this is a 2D platformer with a serious old-school feel in the same vein as a Metroid or Castlevania (in that it has huge levels where you move side to side and up and down, and generally back track your around levels).
You’ll acquire various weapons and abilities as you work your through murdering monsters. Guns, rocket launchers, grenades, and saws are all here. Throughout the levels there are locked doors telling you how many monsters you need to have killed to be able to pass through. The 100 monsters range in difficulty, some are really easy (all you have to do is shoot them) but there are some that are quite challenging as well (they require you to play with the environment some, which can lead to a lot of deaths in the process of figuring it out).
On that note, yes, you will die a lot in Hell Yeah!. A lot of the time you will deserve your death because it will be something you did. This game does require some trial and error, and learning your limits and when to time stuff. That’s good enough, I like a challenge. Then there’s the other times you’ll die a lot that are frustrating. Some of these will be due to the controls, but others will be due to a rather unforgiving checkpoint system that you have no idea where it will be at. If you cross a checkpoint path with very little life left, you can count on dying due to the smallest of things. Scattered around the levels are stations that will feed you blood and restore your health, but getting there from some of these checkpoints with low life can be brutal.
Wrath of the Dead Rabbit’s biggest strength is its design and art-form. The game is a beautifully drawn 2D platformer. The colors are bright and colorfully, and there’s a lot of variance in the levels (which these are things people wouldn’t typically associate with Hell). Even the 100 monsters are varied and look great. The soundtrack compliments everything nicely as well; it’s really a great soundtrack. With everything tied together, the presentation of Hell Yeah! is fantastic. There is one aspect of the presentation that loses its charm though.
Each of the 100 monsters has a health bar that you have to deplete in order to kill them. There’s nothing new with that. However, once you deplete that health bar you’re going to be tasked to complete a quick mini game that involves pressing or holding a button at the right time. If you mess up during the mini game, you’ll take damage and you’ll have to hit the monster a few more times to be able to try the mini game again.
These mini games (think WarioWare) are a great short break from the platforming , and they are initially charming to the game. If you successfully complete the mini game challenge, you’ll be treated to a ridiculous scene of the monster being murdered (launch a shark from space, a T-Rex, all sorts of quirky stuff). The result is a gore filled screen covered in blood and slime. Again, there’s a certain amount of charm to it. So it’s unfortunate to then have that charm lose its appeal by being repeated too many times. You’ll see the same mini-games and death finishers multiple times, and each time it’s less cool than it was the previous time. Eventually you’ll wish you could skip through the murder scene and just get back to the platforming.
There are a few other things to do in Hell Yeah! besides just murdering monsters. There are gems and collectibles in levels that you’ll want to get. Gems are usually inside or behind rocks, so you’ll be drilling or dashing through them to get to the gems, which act as the games currency. You need money in the game because there are shops sprinkled around the levels that allow you buy a number of items; weapons, weapon upgrades, outfits for Ash, health upgrades, etc. Nothing in the store is ridiculously overpriced, so accumulating enough money to buy everything you want won’t be an issue.
The game also incorporates a place called “The Island” where all the monsters Ash has “killed” are at. You’re encouraged to visit the Island frequently to delegate tasks to the killed monsters. You can put the monsters to work mining for money, health upgrades, research, and special rare items. Each resource can have 20 monsters assigned to it. Returning to the Island allows you to get your reward for your minion’s hard mining work. There’s a management system in place here too, you’ll need to send monsters to the beach to relax or the jail to rehabilitate them as they can get sick or angry, which obviously affects production.
Most gamers will ultimately ignore “The Island” though. It’s just not worth it. The game itself isn’t overly long, but it does have some lengthy load times. To make matters worse, you have to quit your game and exit back to the menu to be able to go to the Island. If you’re going to visit the Island, do so when you first start the game up. Otherwise it’s just not worth it when you consider the load times.
Hell Yeah is a quality 2D platformer that could have been really special. As is, it’s good but doesn’t come close to matching its potential. The platforming jumps can occasionally feel floaty, and the controls themselves can often seem to be overly sensitive. The lengthy load times also break the otherwise great pace and take you out of the game for too long. And more than anything the repetition of killing monsters (and I’m talking the mini-games and murder scenes here) grows tiresome like an initially funny joke that you just keep hearing.
Still though, there is an old-school charm here and there’s more than enough to satisfy fans of challenging trial-and-error 2D platformers. Fans of the genre who don’t mind repetition and the trial-and-error play that some might find frustrating should definitely find Hell Yeah an attractive $15 purchase.
* A copy of this game was provided for review.