It’s a hard life being a Rabbit. If the constant threat of Myxomatosis wasn’t bad enough, it’s having to avoid pesky hunters with speech impediments. But in Hell Yeah!: Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, Arkedo’s latest title for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade, it seems to be a life of unmitigated cartoon violence.
The player controls Ash who, as the newly appointed rabbit leader of Hell, decides to treat himself to a relaxing bath with his beloved rubber ducky. Unbeknown to him, he finds himself “papped” and the subsequent pictures are plastered all over the Hellternet. While only one hundred people have seen it, Ash looks to limit the damage by tracking them down and reclaiming the offending snaps.
Hell Yeah! is probably best described as a side scrolling platformer with a Metroidvania-style exploration motif, set in a land where just about every enemy encountered is a boss fight. That certainly sounds like a tough, frustrating experience but couldn’t be further from the truth. Ash, aided by his assistant Nestor (who sports a natty top hat and monocle combination; always the pinnacle in sartorial elegance), provides helpful hints and tips along the way, as Ash slices, dices and generally platforms his way through the different layers of rabbit hell.
The augments to Ash’s arsenal come in the form of assorted pistols, shotguns, grenade launchers and eventually a hand cannon that even Harry Callahan would be proud of. These help with crowd control as progression through the zones intensifies, and the hordes thrown at the player increase in size and scope. All weaponry can be upgraded at shops dotted around the zones and like everything else in Hell Yeah! are unmissable due to their gaudy nature. While there the player can also buy new costumes and skins for their spinning blades. After all, there’s nothing quite like riding a giant doughnut of death while sporting a jaunty fedora, or Frankenstein mask.
The look of Hell Yeah! is sumptuous, seemingly pulling from many different sources all at the same time. A dash of John Kricfalusi’s unique style, alongside a smattering of Castle Crashers visual punch is added to Arkedo’s style and even the levels reflect this, their locations teeming with eye-catching detail and humorous touches that compliment the frenetic action.
From vast industrial zones packed with fiendishly placed electrical traps, to the gaudy opulence of Casino with its blindingly clean surfaces and interactive slot machines, it’s all terrifically surreal but, most importantly, it works. Even when the player is bouncing on little green bottoms (yes, that’s correct, little green bums) and the accompanying fart noise goes from trump, to a squeak, to a parp, it doesn’t become tired because Arkedo know the value of comedic timing and quality. Sometimes even the smallest fart can be the funniest thing if done correctly.
The bosses encountered range from outright hostile, to genial, and everything in between. There’s nothing more disarming than having a gentle conversation with one, as Hell Yeah! Likes to mix things up in how the player both uncovers and approaches a battle. Once enough of a bosses health bar has been depleted a mini game eschews which sees the player having to hit the right combination of buttons to execute a finishing move. These range from sticking a finger in a bee hive while it’s distracted, or performing what looks suspiciously like a Spinning Bird Kick that Chun Li herself would be proud of. However it’s all in keeping with the overall tone of the game and it drives the player on, waiting to see what silliness awaits them.
All the monsters that are vanquished don’t disappear once defeated. They’re cast into what must approximate for another ring of hell, a place called The Island. This could have be ripped straight from H.G. Wells `The Island of Doctor Moreau`, except here they’re forced into doing manual labour in the service of Ash, which will in turn produce goods and items that can be used in the main game.
The micromanagement of this area extends to punishing miscreants or rewarding the hardest workers with some R’n'R on the beach area if they become overworked. The player will become fond of their charges and favourites will be picked due to each monster having two names. Mavis Carpenter also goes by the name Medusor, which we think is rather endearing. As is the nom de guerre adopted by Kermit Bravo, Eyefighter. But without doubt Bamb-bu aka Vince Bernosky is a classy moniker for a giant robot Panda that shoots lasers from their disco eyes. Yes, we actually typed that sentence.
It’s this sense of combined fun that makes Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit an off the cuff delight, packed with knowing nods, belly laughs and some razor sharp gameplay. It proves that, once again, small developers can flourish and make distinct and entertaining games.
Who knew Hell really could be so much fun?