Developer: Arkedo Studio / Publisher: Sega / Played on: Xbox 360 / Price: 1200 MSP ($15) / ESRB: Teen [Blood and Gore, Crude Humor, Language, Mild Suggestive Themes, Violence]
Playing Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit left me speechless a majority of the time, which makes it a little difficult to put into words what that game is all about now. This game is absurd, hilarious, and completely unrestrained. Perhaps the best way to summarize it is by saying what I never thought I would — we now have a spiritual successor to Earthworm Jim.
The game’s premise sets a good stage for how crazy this game is. In Hell Yeah, you take control of the prince of darkness Ash — a skeletal rabbit whose love for little rubber duckies was captured on film by paparazzi, causing the denizens of hell to label him a pussy (the tabloid’s term, not mine). In order to restore order and recover these pics, you must rampage across hell killing your own minions.
You do this on large 2D side-scrolling stages that are very reminiscent of Bangai-O. These levels are populated with trash enemies, insta-death spikes, and minions that you must re-kill in order to subjugate them. The minions are basically a series of miniboss fights, each followed by a bizarre WarioWare-esque microgame in which you must throw a quarter into an arcade game, drop a worm into a potion, or whittle a log down into a club and then beat them to death with it. Yes, this game is random as hell, even down to the gameplay itself.
One level may be in a typical hellish lava-filled cave while the next is in a thumping nightclub with pulsing lights and lasers. You’ll go from using your normal armaments — a large circular blade and an array of automatic weapons — to exploring underwater mazes in a rabbit-shaped submarine. There’s even an impromptu motocross arena in which you must perform sweet tricks. Hell Yeah’s gameplay variety is only rivaled by Super Mario Galaxy 2. You’ll never know what to expect, and when so many games fit snugly into their respective genres these days, there’s a real premium on that feeling.
Exploring the game’s stages taps into those Symphony of the Night endorphins, thanks to a rudimentary map and compass that leave most of the discovery to your efforts. Also on the Symphony tick, as you kill minions, you’ll unlock gates that grant access to new parts of the level. On top of this, you’ll unlock the ability to drill through new materials as you play, gradually unlocking previously closed portions of a level. This approach to level design is nothing new, but it works here as well as it always has.
There are flaws in the gameplay though, starting with the platforming itself. Your air control in Hell Yeah is absolute; there’s no air momentum in this game at all. This makes the jumping feel very blunt and direct… sort of like a platforming flash game you might find on Newgrounds. Additionally, since your character is ringed in a circular blade, it’s very difficult to tell what part of your character will land on a platform and what part will scrape off. It also commits a recurring sin of game development: if you die and go back to your last checkpoint, you’ll have to mash through any cutscenes or dialogue that have happened since all over again. These scenes are uniformly short, but it’s still an annoyance that shouldn’t occur. Hell Yeah is not the tightest or most satisfying platformer, but there’s so much crazy layered on top of it that it’s surprisingly easy to see past some of the more grating faults.
Hell Yeah is a fantastic and schizophrenic visual display. Similar to the gameplay, the visual style rotates so quickly that it finds a weird unity in it’s lack of theme. This is what struck me as so Earthworm Jim; every level is bizarre but expertly colored, vibrant, and filled with high-resolution assets. The enemies are so wildly creative they almost defy description. Most are hugely creative composites of several animals and monster bits. It reminds me of what you might find in a second grader’s notebook — doodles of ridiculous monsters, only brought to life with impressive talent and animated in HD. The visuals don’t quite hit the high mark set by Rayman: Origins, but it’s hard to remember that the 2D platformer is such a relatively dead genre when games that look like this are produced.
Hell Yeah’s soundtrack is just as mental as its visual design. Again similar to Earthworm Jim, each level has an accompanying track that comes from crazy diverse styles of music. The game opens with manic drum ‘n’ bass breakbeats but then switches to smarmy JPOP and even downtempo lounge music. The soundtrack does a fantastic job of making every level feel as unique as it looks, and it’s such a work of pure creativity that it defies comparison.
They really don’t make games like Hell Yeah anymore. It’s one of the most random and oddball games I’ve played. It’s one of those games where a bunch of wildly creative developers got together, had a bunch of fun, and made a game without ever asking “why?” It’s not the most mechanically solid platformer, but if you feel like games can’t surprise you anymore, you owe it to yourself to play this game.
8.5 / 10