Review: Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

HellYeah

It’s probably fortuitous—albeit unintentionally so—that Hell Yeah! Wrath of Dead Rabbit, a platformer that features a skeletal bunny tearing up the monsters of Hell with a jetpack buzzsaw to recover a set of compromising photos, released at about the same time that Kate Middleton and Prince Harry were dealing with the same issue.

Well, minus the jetpack buzzsaw and monsters, anyway. Details, details.

If the setup doesn’t clue you in to the type of wild ride the kids at Arkedo Studio have set up here, the visuals will quickly close the deal. The 2D hallways of this version of Hell are a Skittles rainbow of pulsating weirdness, where creepy/cartoonish beasts bounce around cramped passageways and platform-laden open areas. Lava and electricity crackle, ghostly reapers hover and jewels glisten, trapped in pink-hued amber. If there’s an inch of space that hasn’t been packed with a gorgeous visual element, I couldn’t find it.

Such are the environments that Ash, our bunny-eared prince of Hell, has to navigate as part of his quest to kill 100 monsters, recover his photos and (maybe) his dignity. Luckily, he’s equipped with the aforementioned jetpack buzzsaw and plenty of guns, missile-launchers and flamethrowers.

When he’s rocking the jetpack, Ash can soar into the air with the press of the A button. It’s a skill that comes in handy, because the levels are packed with plenty of platforms and ramps he’ll have to float and master. Sometimes, juggling the controls becomes a nearly overwhelming acrobatics act, like when you’re trying to aim your weapon with the right stick, fire with the right trigger and maintain your momentum on a slanted platform by pushing the A button all at the same time. It takes some getting used to, but never submarines the proceedings.

Beyond the arresting and bizarre art style, Hell Yeah!’s biggest draw is its quirky/juvenile sense of humor. Ash is a testy little bastard, and the interplay between him and his octopus adviser is good for a laugh or two. After draining the health bar of each mid-to major monster you face, you’re kicked into a hysterical, Warioware-style minigame to finish the kill. Maybe you’ll mash the A button to pop a monster like an overripe pimple (complete with screen-splashing spray). Other minigame-triggered fatalities involve your enemies being run over multiple times by a gigantic 18-wheel truck or obliterated by a screen full of pixelated Space Invaders. Like Warioware, most of these minigames require a quick recognition-reflex response you’ll probably botch the first time you see it. That’s a drag, because the penalty for failure is being booted back to the last checkpoint to try to take down the boss all over again. Ah, hell no.

As Satan learned, ruling in Hell isn’t without its drawbacks. Health-restoring streams of blood—curated by a gigantic eyeball with legs and a top hat, no less—are few and far between and sometimes awfully far away from where you need them to be. Given that you respawn with the same amount of health you had when you died, it’s easy to see how this can become frustrating. (Enjoy surviving that boss monster battle again and again with a health meter hovering near zero.) After you’ve survived a zone or two, you’re given an island where you can put the monsters you’ve conquered to work for you, mining gold and creating upgrade objects. That’s nice, ‘cause the stores in Hell are kinda scarce, too.

In case Ash’s main adventure doesn’t give you quite enough hell, Arkedo already has a 50-level expansion pack available as DLC, for an additional $5. Like the main game, its’ very much worth the hellride.

BuyIt

Pros:
+ Bizarre and wonderful art style
+ Fatality minigames are hysterical
+ Juvenile humor straddles the line between stupid and funny

Cons:
– Bummer checkpoint/respawn system

Game Info:
Platform: Reviewed on Xbox Live Arcade, also available on PlayStation Network and Steam
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Arkedo Studio
Release Date: 9/25/2012
Genre: 2D Platformer
ESRB Rating: Mature
Players: 1
Source: Review code provided by publisher

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About the Author

Aaron R. Conklin has been writing about games and games culture for more than 15 years. A former contributor to Computer Games Magazine and Massive Magazine, his writing has appeared on IGN.com and in newspapers and alt-weeklies across the country. Conklin's an unapologetic Minnesota sports fan living in Madison, Wisconsin, home of the Midwest's most underrated gaming vibe.