Before I jump into my review of Arkedo and SEGA’s brilliantly demented and gloriously fucked up Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, I want you to take a good long look at the above image and see what you can spot. The torrents of blood that make up your health meter? The fact that your Loot chest has eyes and teeth? The demonic two-faced being that your headphone-wearing puffy-haired main character is taking out with his rocket launcher?
The fact of the matter is, Hell Yeah! has enough craziness for 10 games; its eagerly demented presentation plays a major role in what makes this XBLA/PSN/PC download title so unique and enjoyable. It may not prove to be everyone’s cup of tea, but if this is your thing, then you’re in for a wildly fun and surprisingly nostalgic (if you’ve been a SEGA fan for a while) journey through the colorful and insane depths of Hell.
Ash, the prince of Hell, was not having such a great day; though not particularly phased by the passing of his father, he did make the major mistake of getting too…romantic with a rubber duckie while taking a bath. To his horror, a paparazzi caught him in the act, effectively making him the laughingstock of the Hellternet. Determined to recover the picture and to kill anyone who saw it, Ash quickly acquires a drill and some firepower with the help of his servant, Nestor, who happens to be a squid clothed in a top hat and a monocle. Yeah, it’s one of those games.
Ash’s journey takes the form of a 2D platformer, one where you progress from level to level in a linear fashion, though you do eventually gain the ability to teleport back to earlier levels. Doors are scattered throughout each stage that block your progress; above every door is a number letting you know the amount of mini-bosses you have to take out before they open for you, all of whom can be located using both your radar and a full level map available in the Pause menu. The system works well in that levels are large enough and have their various nooks and crannies for exploration, yet since you can only explore what sits in front of the locked doors until you open them, you can’t get too lost for the most part, which is a good thing.
Typically these mini-bosses are preceded by a dialogue exchange between them and Ash. Though there’s no voice acting, the writing’s so funny and self-aware on its own that I didn’t even for a second mind the text box-style conversations. Like the environments that surround them, the enemies are imaginatively drawn and far more varied (and crazy) than you’ll expect. The mini-games that you must participate in before you kill them are incredibly funny as well, all leading up to such stylishly gory and over the top kills that I’m amazed Hell Yeah! got away with a Teen rating. Truly awesome and gory stuff.
SEGA fans should find a lot to love here; with an atmosphere that does its best to pay homage to the SEGA Genesis era (both artistically and musically) not to mention the various references to SEGA franchises both past and present, Hell Yeah’s not only a love letter to classic gaming but to gaming culture in general. Even the tips given to you during the load times are epic in all their self-referential glory, and this carries into the gameplay as well for an all around entertaining experience.
All that said, Hell Yeah’s biggest stumbling block, and what has resulted in a lot of division among the critical community, is the platforming. Though a 2D platformer through and through, there’s not a ton of invention to the platforming here. It’s serviceable and gets the job done, but if you’re expecting a game that controls with the fluidity of something like Rayman Origins, then you’ll probably take issue with Hell Yeah’s loose controls, instant death spikes, and the sometimes poorly-placed checkpoints. Far more emphasis is placed on the game’s combat, with removing the required enemies being the key to progressing through each and every level. Your arsenal of weapons, as well as your HP gauge and countless character customization options, can be upgraded in the Shops scattered throughout. These upgrades plus the enemy variety keep Hell Yeah from growing repetitive, even though both the mini-bosses and regular bosses are all basically an exercise in avoiding their moves while gunning them down; not a ton of strategy there.
There are other little flaws as well. Load times can feel a bit long, especially for a digital title. Occasionally the game’s hints for dealing with certain mini-bosses (and the instructions for the resulting mini-games) are vague to a fault, and the developer’s choice to use QTEs that pop up unexpectedly was a frustrating decision, especially when the loss of one can result in your death if your HP is low enough.
But while Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit may not be a perfect game, it’s one that I fell in love with from the start. With gorgeous visuals, a funny and very self-aware presentation and writing, tons of enemies to defeat in 10 varied environments, not to mention a wealth of side content including missions to take on, and even an island where you can put your defeated monsters to work to acquire rewards in the main game….there’s a lot here to experience. Though the platforming itself may seem fairly uninspired and some frustration rears its ugly head at times, this is a game with the same energy and sense of style that I’ve always loved in my SEGA games, and without a doubt I recommend giving it a shot.
We can only hope that SEGA’s planned “digital focus” involves more games like this one.
•Incredible visuals, varied levels and monster design
•Funny dialogue, great SEGA references
•Plenty of weapons and character skins to choose from
•Lengthy campaign and side stuff to take on. Great value.
•Controls feel floaty
•Spikes that kill you in one hit aren’t fun
•Platforming aspects not the best; game’s more about the style
•Checkpoint placement occasionally an issue