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Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit (Xbox 360) artwork

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit (Xbox 360) review


"One moment, you'll "casually" fight a cybernetic, visor-wearing panda with your bazooka, and in another instance, you'll be shot out of numerous, fancy-pants cannons in an Egyptian casino, in an attempt to reach Zeus, finishing him off with a Jules Winnfield-esque Ash firing a giant bullet."



THE PRINCE OF DARKNESS.

RULER OF THE UNDERWORLD!

THE BADDEST MOFO YOU'LL EVER MEET!!

And he happens to be a rabbit skeleton with a cape. Prince Ash has a deep, dark secret he wants to keep hidden, too, but unbeknownst to him, someone took pictures during this most private of moments. Not a minute too soon, the images were posted on a website for all to see: him and his rubber ducky, taking a bath. Already at 100 views, the prince formulates the most genius of plans to put an end to this outrage... by killing 100 monsters! And off he goes, into the very depths of his dominion, igniting a wrath like no other in this vibrant and wicked, 2D Castletoid-style release. Sounds like quite the premise, don't it? I bet you've taken a gander at some images and a trailer, as well. A solid-looking platformer published by Sega in this day and age?? Surely, you jest.

That's okay, I went through the same motions the first time I encountered Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. It just seemed too good to be true. But since it's a Live Arcade title, a demo is available for download, and I gave it a go. The demonstration shows off the first zone, as the rabbit materializes in a random, fiery location in damnation, weaponless. So you jump on platforms, over pointy pits, and bounce on green cushions shaped like butt cheeks, all while avoiding one-eyed bugs in the air, with controls that feel solid and all too homely for this type of game. Suddenly, you run into a blue blob, Poy Poy, hiding between impassable rock formations, and he makes fun of the prince for being naked! Fast-forward a minute later, and Ash has acquired a weapon you'll be glued to for most of your adventure, a drivable wheel that acts both as a driller and a jetpack.

Time for revenge! With ease, you drill through the formation and into the Viking helmet-wearing blob, depleting his lifebar as blood spurts everywhere. Thinking you'd be done with the creature as the bar gets completely drained, an unexpected event plays out: a mini-game where you mash a button to squish the blob with a giant skeleton hand! The end result is red and blue spots being splattered on the screen. One monster down, 99 more to go.

I know what's likely going through your head. You're probably thinking, "So this is all there is to Hell Yeah!... sounds kinda fun, but also repetitive."

While the demo is a fair representation of what the game's main mechanics are like, it's also a bit misleading by making possible buyers believe this is as far as Hell Yeah! goes. Play beyond the demo's reach, however, and you'll find yourself spiraling into an absurd journey of one loony situation after another, calling for various solutions and mechanics to defuse with. One moment, you'll "casually" fight a cybernetic, visor-wearing panda with your bazooka, and in another instance, you'll be shot out of numerous, fancy-pants cannons in an Egyptian casino, in an attempt to reach Zeus, finishing him off with a Jules Winnfield-esque Ash firing a giant bullet. In one of the rarer scenarios, you'll be forced to leave your driller and weapons behind in one zone, relying on wall-jumping tactics and clever methods to defeat the area's monsters, one of which is to find a way to torch a sheep... princess.

What really help make the game absorbing to play is the overall art style and fluid animation, cutesy-drawn designs which goes hand in hand with the crude humor, pop and video game references. Whether it'd be going against a crazed card monster with his crotch area pixelated, roaming a ruined city surrounded by wavy plants and lively flames, or watching a silly death reel, one which involves activating a laser satellite in space with a shark missile, all to the tune of The Blue Danube Waltz, Hell Yeah! is a joy to experience because everything is so vividly creative and organic; you genuinely want to keep playing just to see what happens next, and trust me, many things happen. Wanna perform some BMX-style tricks in the air? It's there. Go toe to toe with furious chicks and penguins in your rabbit-shaped submarine? Whatever. Fly through space in an Asteroids-type parody, scheming a way to have a love-struck alien commit suicide? Sky's the limit.

This is most noticeable with the insane amount of mini-games and death cutscenes attached to each monster's defeat. Any other developer probably would have been content with a maximum of ten, but Arkedo Studio put tremendous effort and love into what they did here, pumping out around... maybe 30 (I honestly lost track) of these suckers. Mash two buttons at once to lift weights, then watch as a buff Ash kick a monster into a soccer/football net, its guts squeezing through the rope. Or partake of an "8-bit", first-person, JRPG battle complete with menus, ending with a summon of Leviathan. And in my favorite nod, be forced to answer a question about the best Sega-published character ever, with the four choices being Ristar, Shadow, Ash, and AiAi. Though, if you stumble at any of these mini-games, you'll lose a hefty chunk of your health. However, the only one I recall being frustrated with is the sniper game, since you only have sooooo little time to find the target in the scope.

Unfortunately, despite the highs you'll have with Hell Yeah!, the game pretty much runs out of steam right towards the end. Around your 70th monster kill, the mini-games and deaths go into full rerun mode, but thankfully, you only have a few more to go right at that point. I don't even think it's fair to call this a flaw, considering the effort they put into these... but it's a thing. Sensibly, the devs raise the difficulty on the ones being reused. Also, there's really no true build-up to the showdown with the final boss, even though there were implications early on. It's kinda like the team forgot they were at the end and were like, "Oops, here's the last boss." This is especially evident with the final zone, a museum, which can easily be swapped with most of the other late zones, having the same symptoms of Not-A-Last-Stage Syndrome.

Regardless of those issues, I was still pumped about Hell Yeah! after defeating the final foe, reminiscing about the fun times that were had. But then it hit me: in terms of replay value, the game is going to have a polarizing effect. You're either not going to mind watching all those deaths again, or you're going to be sick of not being able to pass the unskippable cutscenes. It's an extreme example, but the best comparison I can make is to Final Fantasy 8's long summons, the difference, of course, being that you won't have to deal with them every two seconds in battle. It's amazing how one small change, a tiny adjustment, could have rectified a problem for some. In Hell Yeah!'s case, the option to skip cutscenes. I like them, they're fun to watch, but even I think they somewhat lose their charm after the first playthrough.

I'll even go so far to say that, for some players, it's one of those games you need to "shelve" for an undetermined number of months, or even years, only returning when you're feeling nostalgia for it. There's a joke uttered within Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit about the devs hoping a sequel would be approved in the future. I truly hope that happens, because I'd hate to watch this concept become a one trick pony; it would be fantastic to see what a more finely-tuned Hell Yeah! would play like.

Rating: 7/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (October 20, 2012)

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