Hell Yeah: Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a peculiar game. The subtitle informs potential buyers that it is the tale of an enraged bunny who embarks on a mission to quench his thirst for vengeance with the blood of his enemies. The art design is hand-drawn and cartoonish, combining whimsical cutesiness with gore and gross-out visuals for exaggerated violence and cruel comedy. All the while, the gameplay itself slaloms between platforming, action, and rapid-fire microgames to create a very strange and exciting experience.
Ash, the eponymous rabbit is the prince of Hell, and he’s been publicly humiliated by embarrassing photos of him cavorting with rubber duckies in a bathtub. The only rational thing to do is kill everyone who has seen, might have seen, or possesses one of the incriminating pictures.
To slake this thirst for comeuppance, he rampages through a 2-D sidescrolling version of Hell that requires him to jump, shoot and dig through enemies and obstacles. As with any platformer, Ash has a variety of movement skills, including jumps, double-jumps, and a nifty wall jump that lets him zoom up narrow passages if the Player holds down the jump button at the right moment.
He also has a unique vehicle that is sort of like a jetpack, a unicycle, and a huge circular saw blade all rolled into one. With this, he can extend his jumps, drill through barriers, and wield an arsenal of upgradable firepower.
The levels will occasionally take Ash out of this vehicle, and when on foot he can’t jump as high, or use his various guns. This keeps the gameplay varied and fresh, while also forcing players to find ways to kill bosses without just blasting away.
The game has 100 bosses (The denizens of Hell who’ve seen Ash’s embarrassing pictures). There are other, smaller enemies, but these generally just serve as cannon fodder on the way to bring down the bosses. Ash needs to find and kill a certain number of bosses in order to open Hell Doors that allow him to progress to new levels, and each area will have a handful of bosses that all require a different approach.
Every one of them is unique in design and behavior. They can be Greek gods who fly around throwing lightning bolts, squishy blobs of goo, or giant robots. Some of these bosses can be brought down with brute force, but others require solving a puzzle in the environment (Like moving a crate into the right position), and others follow the traditional boss fight notions of pattern recognition and locating weak points.
Once Ash defeats a boss, the Player must complete a quick microgame in order to perform a finishing move. These microgames are just like what’s seen in the Warioware series, and task the Player with quickly performing a simple action like hitting the right button at the precise moment, or hammering a button quickly.
If the player fails, Ash takes damage, and must repeat the end of the fight. If successful, the Player is rewarded with a flashy animated sequence of Ash killing the hell out of the poor boss monster. These finishing moves are fun and extravagant, often parodies of moves seen in other games. These get repeated some times, but there are still a lot of them and it keeps Hell Yeah interesting… or at least in small doses.
Hell Yeah does get a little repetitive. True, there are lots of unique bosses to fight, and Ash has a bunch of upgradable abilities, but most bosses are quickly dispatched, and many of Ash’s upgrades are simply more powerful versions of something he can already do.
The gorgeous art, irreverent humor and over-the-top gore wear out their welcome over time. It’s the sort of fun that appeals strongest to teen players, but grown-ups are likely to tire of too much of it at once.
The gameplay itself is competent, but not exceptional (Veering from a little too easy to a little too hard most of the time), and it’s easy to build up a resistance to Hell Yeah’s flash and charm after an hour or so of continuous play.
Fortunately, the game gives players an excuse to take breaks every so often. It has a minigame called The Island. Unlocked after about an hour, this let’s players put all of the bosses they’ve defeated to work on a resort island… FROM HELL! There, the little monsters can be assigned to toil away harvesting resources that provide bonuses like health and money to the main game. There’s isn’t much to it, but it does provide players with another funny and odd thing to do while taking a rest from Ash’s other adventures.
Hell Yeah: Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is available now for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, with a PC version arriving on October 3rd. Players that want some Ren & Stimpy style humor mixed in with Metroidvania gameplay will certainly want to pick this up.