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Sep 28 2012

Review of Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

[rating=3]

See those 3 stars right there? I mean them. This game is the epitome of a three star game, a flawed gem that despite having some real high points suffers from some almost game shattering lows. The idea of a metroidvania game that takes place in hell and looks like ’90s era MTV animation is one that I know a lot of you will jump at ,and rightfully so, but some consideration should be taken before laying down your cash. Whether this crazy stylized vision of hell is for you will depend entirely upon your own tolerances and preferences but at least I can let you know what tolerances and preferences you’ll need.

So this is ostensibly a metroidvania game but it feels much more akin to a pure platformer than anything else. The basic platforming is achieved with the help of a saw-blade jet pack which serves as your melee attack in addition to being a form of conveyance. While the idea of riding around in a giant saw blade is pretty cool it also makes the controls feel incredibly loose and slippery, something not ideal for a game that wants as much precision in its platforming as this one. While not a huge issue early on, this is a game that clearly prides itself on its old school style difficulty (and by that I mean it treats the player like less than shit) and screwing up a long platforming sequence because you hit a platform wrong and rolled of the side will do nothing to save your soon to be broken controller. The shooting also has some issues in that control-wise it feels like it asks for too much. You aim with the right stick and fire with R2 button which is fine but you often have to be moving to avoid enemy bullets so add the left stick  to the equation, now do it all fast as you can and be pinpoint accurate and god help you if you need to jump as well. It’s certainly not untenable but it feels like it could have been done better (why not have the right stick aim and fire?) and the reasoning behind it feels like a slavish devotion to evoking the difficulty of the old school.

See that is the tolerance you need to have; can you deal with it when a game is clearly just fucking with you? Hopefully so because the way this game does it is one of my least favorite retro gut punches, having checkpoints respawn you exactly how you left them. Have like 3 health left and there is a series of tricky platforms up ahead with enemies dotted throughout? Well too damn bad, enjoy failing that segment over and over until you manage to summon the skills to surpass it. I’m not saying they should be pampering you with full health and invincibility frames or something but the checkpoints are far enough apart that the demands it places on you to surmount even the most mundane of sections can be a bit much. The terribly tricky platforming mixed with an abundance of enemies to kill and enemy bullets to avoid can make just getting to the next health refill station a hair pulling nightmare.

Of course the thing that drives you through all this is the interesting and unique bosses which are the focus of the game’s story (someone put naughty pics on you on the net, 100 demons saw them, murder them all). Some are just bigger or trickier versions of the enemies you’ve been dealing with and you can fight them with good old lead and some are practically puzzles you need solve by manipulating the environment. No matter how you dispatch them though each boss fight ends with a mini game of which there are quite a few and they’re generally pretty fun, taking most after stuff like Warioware or WTF: Work Time Fun. With a 100 bosses to kill the obvious worry is that these would end up repeating a lot and while a few more mini games wouldn’t have hurt the 20 or so different mini games that can show up are enough to fight off the doldrums.

What will really sell this game to certain people though is the art and the overall style of the game. Taking place in hell it eschews traditional imagery and goes for more a peyote induced fever dream style, very much in the vein of the classic Ed Roth stuff that captured the ’90s. It’s a style that makes a lot of sense for the setting but I can see it not being to everybody’s taste as it is a rather intense and vulgar looking art style. That said a sense of vulgarity is certainly something this game is going for, though it never really goes for it as hard as it probably should. For every mini game that is a thinly veiled reference to fingering you see an instance of the word “Fuck” being censored. It’s clear this was done to keep a T rating but it just makes the vulgarity feel childish instead of funny.

So I’m torn with this game; the gameplay has many faults but despite the difficulty I had a lot of fun with it however the style despite being nostalgically crude in a way that I like just never goes far enough to really sell itself. It’s a weird proposition and one of the times where regardless of the score I’m giving it, I suggest everyone with any interest in the game try out the demo. That will let you know both whether the slip-slidy controls are to your tastes and if the game’s-to be absolutely honest, half assed-sense of humor and style is for you. So for a game that’s right down the middle but was slightly more pleasant than not, Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead rabbit gets a 3 out of 5 stars.

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