Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is the equivalent of a screaming two year old, who with some aging and parental guidance could have become a solid platforming adult. It’s clear that Arkedo really loves their characters and the world they inhabit. But I don’t.
Taking the role of Ash, rabbit Prince of Hell, you’ve blown your lid. Some paparazzi scumbags have gone too far. Snapping photos of the prince having some one-on-one time with a leather clad plastic duck in the bath isn’t on. There’s only one solution: kill everyone who’s seen the photos. All 101 of them.
At first glance everything appears to be energetic and full of life. Animated neon colours spring out of every orifice, putrid greens running over luminous pinks. Jump on the platform, machine gun this floating thing, avoid that spike. Simple. To voyage through the immediate locales of Hell several gates must first be unlocked. Each has a number denoting the amount of swine that must be slain to advance.
Every beast is an individual, most with their own death sequences. This works within the colour scheme and attitude. Then the technicalities begin to contradict one another and it’s clear the team were too busy high-fiving each other over how wacky it is. If only they’d spent some of this creative thought and energy on how it plays.
The creatures are all stupid, walking left to right until you either open a trap, fire off a few rockets or buzz saw them. Once they’ve taken enough damage a WarioWare-esque mini-game flashes onto the screen. Pass and the beast gets blasted, goo and entrails splattering the screen. Fail and you take damage, the enemy regenerating health and the fight continuing.
The quick-play carnage worked in WarioWare as that was the sole focus. Here it can confuse, and, due to a failure causing damage, force a restart because it wasn’t apparent what was happening in those three seconds. Health can only be replenished in special blood showers and you’ll often be respawning with 15% or less energy over and over again. This makes failing quite the irritation.
A cardinal sin is then committed, this being Hell after all, of going through pre-fight dialogue over and over. As healing is restricted you can expect to re-read the same pointless dialogue many times.
This obsession with provoking the player continues throughout every inch of Hell. All I wanted was to run amok, leaping from platforms, firing off weaponry willy-nilly and feel like the Prince of Hell. Instead, Ash is pitiable and doesn’t handle well either.
The first weapon your octopus butler grants is a giant saw. This can be used to drill through specific walls, saw enemies apart and propel upwards. Working as a jetpack, it’s clumsier than jumping and the inherent issues are present. You’re never sure if you can make that platform above or how long it propels for. The saw also makes Ash move like a wheel, the loose mechanics causing more restarts no thanks to the many instant death traps.
Whilst Ash has a large energy bar that can be extended via store purchases the damage dealt varies from one thing to the next. Hit a saw and that’s okay. Lean against a stationary spike and it’s instant death. Get dripped on by green goo and it’s back to the checkpoint. Forcing constant restarts was a design choice. This is faux difficulty; an endeavour to conjure the illusion of skilful design and complexity. Soon patience is lost as you try to rush the same section for the eleventh time only to touch a spike you couldn’t see due to the zoomed in camera. This is – without exception – bloody irritating.
Each aspect is counterintuitive to the next. To take down the vast range of inhabitants there are machine guns, Gatling guns, shotguns, grenades, rocket launchers and more. Hell is another consumer of the arms industry. Firing is made uncomfortable due to the awkward controls. You aim via the right-stick and then the trigger fires. This same trigger acts as the buzzsaw attack so you can’t leap around sawing through dozens of fiends whilst firing off rockets and machine gun fire.
Having the direction of the right-stick fire would have made more sense. As would scrapping the notion of limited ammunition that regenerates. It goes against the whole ‘this is bonkers’ ideology. Keep it manic, keep it fast paced. Jumping and firing is a pain. Did I mention the armoury can’t fire off screen? Well, they can’t. So bosses and projectiles will rain down but you’ll have to get them onscreen to do any damage. Pointless.
It’s also not funny. That wouldn’t be a criticism if it wasn’t attempting to be. But it is. It’s really rather smug with itself. Using #meh, lol, or rolf isn’t amusing, nor a height of wit. It’s not even a middle ground of humour. Hell Yeah! utterly fails to understand that you can’t be ironic on purpose. Too self aware and in on its own gags, none of which made me laugh, every possible pixel or moment of a loading screen has an attempt to make a joke. It never gives up.
In Cute World there was a comedic moment by disguising myself as a flower to get the guard to unlock the door, and then blasting him point blank with a shotgun. It was amusing due to my personal input and not the incessant interruptions that litter any possibly genuine moments.
Where this childish energy does work is in the creature and landscape designs. There’s a vast amount of enemies and each location looks completely different. From the giant spider raving in Hell’s nightclub to a sleeping princess and her overprotective guardian, new creatures and locations are always around the next corner. The fatalities of the photo-viewing denizens are wild and completely over the top too.
As Ash edges closer towards victory TV teleports open and a scroll detailing a map of Hell is available. All previously visited areas are displayed and can be travelled to. However, this is a pseudo-hub as it directly informs you of which area must be teleported to next.
Then there’s also The Island. This slavery spot can be accessed outside of the main game. Here, the creatures you’ve ploughed through can be put to use to mine the island, essentially distributing slain enemies as resource points. Their unpaid labour provides new upgrades that can be purchased in-game via shops dotted around Hell.
Hell Yeah! has 101 ideas and each one clashes with the next. Scratch at the surface and there’s no substance underneath. It’s highly energetic in attitude and then does all it can to hamper and slow the player’s progress and enjoyment. All filler, no killer.