Hell Yeah! Wrath Of The Dead Rabbit Review [XBLA]

Rating: There are points where Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a clever, imaginative action platformer with personality...

Brandin Tyrrel

Contributor

Rating: ★★★☆☆

There are points where Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a clever, imaginative action platformer with personality and flourish. Between those highlights is a title trying so hard to be irreverent and edgy that it dances along an imaginary boundary between eccentric and inane. If you can overlook a transparent reach for cult status, Arkedo Studio’s quirky offering is a decidedly different entry in a genre that’s seen it all.

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit starts nonsensical and spirals out of control from there, but that’s okay because it never truly takes itself seriously, and neither should you. There’s a layer of goofiness lacquered onto the game that can be endearing in small doses, but is usually doled out too liberally for its own good. The humor isn’t just hit or miss, it’s night and day – a possible symptom of the inherent difficulties in translating humor across languages and cultures.

Gameplay is more reliable and consistently delivers admirable platforming action with enough twists on the conventional genre tropes to turn a few heads. Through the use of your wheel – a super-sized circular saw blade – you can hover for limited distances, drill through obstructions and dash through enemies a la Sonic. It’s a nifty tool that packs a ton of functionality into a single item and smartly reduces the need to swap between a jetpack, a drill and a chainsaw.

Though unlike other fictional videogame animals, Ash – the rabbit Prince of Hell – isn’t limited to speedy dash attacks. An arsenal of rifles, rocket launchers, holy water canons and flamethrowers all become available for purchase and upgrade during the course of your adventure. Unfortunately these weapons tack one too many functions onto an already burdened control scheme, causing the thrifty design to fall apart when you want to jump while trying to maintain your aim – which occurs frequently.

Occasionally enemies are allowed to fire at you from off-screen and through solid terrain, breaking the rules that Hell Yeah! enforces on you. These instances start out infrequent but gradually become the rule, rather than the exception, as you progress through each level. Granted, they’re manageable, but seem vindictive as they’re the only difficult aspects of the game once you’ve quickly familiarized yourself with the repeating mechanics – platform, shoot monster, mini-game, execute.

Traversing the many levels of Hell Yeah! is like riding out a stylishly animated fever-dream. The aesthetics are vivid and ironically beautiful considering they encompass the many layers of Hell, which are varied. You’ll tromp through the volcanic embers of stereotypically hellish locales and suddenly find yourself in completely bizarre stages that spew psychedelic colors with all the subtlety of a neon sign. There’s a reverse psychology at work that suggests the worst of Hell might not be the fiery chasms, but the excessively sweet, cute and cuddly.

That’s what’s infuriating about Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. There’s some genuinely witty and clever traits buried under a mountain of juvenile, eye-rollingly bad attempts at humor. One shamefully catchy stage tune constantly sings “you’re a fluffy bunny” ad nauseam. It’s poppy and obnoxious and when it worms its way into your mind you’ll realize Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is trolling you – it’s brilliant. Then a terrible, reoccurring, unfunny joke about the protagonist being naked is referenced immediately and all that good faith is dashed in an instant.

After a few hours spent spinning, soaring and blasting through Hell Yeah! it becomes clear what the real draw of the title is supposed to be: the extensive stable of imaginative monsters and the hyper-violent ways in which you execute them. Every one of these monsters is unique by name, description and obsessively detailed appearance, and it’s easy to see that the extensive bestiary was a labor of love and undoubtedly fun for the development team.

Of course the monsters, remarkable as they are, were created to be executed through dozens of cinematic “finishing moves” by emptying their health bars and then performing a quick event. These mini-games usually require no more than pressing a sequence of buttons in amusing scenarios, like performing a guitar riff in the style of Rock Band. You’ll find yourself launching off the top rope as a luchador, driving a semi-truck on a crowded highway or quickly scanning between targets through a rifle scope in order to find your victim.

Once a mini-game is successfully completed, an execution in the same theme unfolds in a gory scene of sensationalized violence. You’ll splatter a monster with that semi-truck, pile drive an opponent into a pulpy mash as the luchador or blow away an enemy in an ultra-cool nod to Pulp Fiction.

These executions are creative and insane in their use of pop culture randomness, though some clearly take it too far. For every pleasantly irreverent scene where a shark-shaped warhead rockets through space to the delightful tune of The Blue Danube waltz, there’s a desperately random depiction of a Tyrannosaurus wearing 3D glasses, devouring comically oversized, film noir, sentient, female human buttocks, wearing a flowery hat.

That’s really what Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit has to offer: respectably twisted platforming action that’s loaded with personality when it’s not sabotaging itself with wincingly bad dialogue and sophomoric gags. There’s fun to be had with this title, if you can salvage the laughs from its subtler moments, and suffer through its disingenuous slapstick beatings.

 

[easyreview title="Hell Yeah! Wrath Of The Dead Rabbit XBLA Scoring" cat1title="Gameplay" cat1detail="Platforming is respectable and the mini-games initially add variety but are too simple to be any more than novelty. Mechanics falter at times and some enemies don't play by the rules." cat1rating="3" cat2title="Graphics" cat2detail="Graphics are bright, vivid and detailed which is juxtaposed against the subject matter and violence. It can be difficult to distinguish between interactive and environmental objects when too much is happening at once." cat2rating="4" cat3title="Sound" cat3detail="Sound effects are plentiful and varied and the stage music is tailored to each setting though it rarely stands out." cat3rating="3.5" cat4title="Replay Value" cat4detail="Once the story is completed you can go back and wrap up some platforming challenges but that's about it." cat4rating="2" cat5title="Presentation" cat5detail="Hell Yeah! wrestles with striking the balance between crazy and annoying and unfortunately loses more often than it wins. Scattered moments of clever humor and and a shallow customization system help the experience along." cat5rating="2.5" cat6title="Overall" cat6detail="Hell Yeah! has some solid platforming with enough twists and attention to detail to keep it from getting stale before you finish the story. There are smart moments in this title, but they're dulled by it's commitment to being outrageous, at any cost." cat6rating="3"]

 

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is available now for download on Xbox Live Marketplace, Playstation Network and PC.