Review: Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit

Developer: Arkedo Studios - Publisher: Sega - Platforms: Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC - Release Date: September 25, 2012

Concept: Grind and shoot your way through Hell as a demon rabbit prince on a journey fueled by revenge and rubber ducks

Graphics: Everything looks as sharp as Ash's buzz-saw and each level as a distinct visual style. The eccentric character designs are reminiscent of adult cartoons like Ren & Stimpy

Sound: Forgettable overall, with the item shop's catchy hip-hop/dubstep track and the pop-y theme song of the "cute" world being the only highlights

Playability: Platforming isn't quite as tight as I'd like, but it's still solid as are the shooting controls. The wacky executions definitely steal the show.

Entertainment: Definitely one of the more original platformers out there and filled to the brim with personality and humor.

Replay Value: Moderately Low

Hell Ain't A Bad Place To Be

Prince Ash, rabbit-heir to the throne of Hell, is a feared ruler with a dark secret: an affection for rubber duckies. After photo evidence of his prissier side are leaked to the demonic public, the floppy-eared monarch begins a murderous quest to retrieve the stolen pictures, unveil the culprit responsible and restore his vile reputation in an adventure that's as entertaining as it is silly.

Hell Yeah!'s version of Hell consist of Metroid-esque levels that showcase a vivid color palette, crisp sprites and ooze personality. Each area has it's own identity, ranging from diabolical science labs, a dank prison, to the flashy casino-themed world required for any self-respected Sega platformer. My favorite destination was an overly cutesy, rainbow-filled zone complete with an equally chipper theme song that had me chuckling the entire way through. Levels aren't nearly as robust as Metroid or Castlevania but are still satisfying to explore and even better to look at.

Ash rides a giant buzz-saw used to drill through crystal that blockade sections of a level. Upgrading your ride allows you to break through the tougher crystals to access hidden areas but grinding through longer sections feels more tedious than fun. It's more annoying when you die, as the somewhat unforgiving checkpoints can send you back several sections, forcing you to re-grind through crystal walls over and over.

The buzz-saw also acts as a jet-pack for propulsion-based platforming that, while too floaty at times, feels pretty good. Grinding enemies into bloody gobs is one way to eliminate them, but your main attacks lie with an arsenal of firearms that are largely just variations of rocket launchers, machine guns and grenade launchers. Shooting feels solid and blowing everything to smithereens is a blast but the gameplay doesn't encourage much experimentation with weapons as enemies have equal vulnerability to anything you throw at them. Additionally, every gun feels the same with new weapons merely being improved versions of what you already had and there are no truly unique firearms. Hell Yeah! also dips it's bony feet into the lava pools other gameplay styles, like submarine exploration and an enjoyable twin-stick space shooter segment, as well.

Ash deals the final blow to enemies with what may be the most outrageous and random executions ever in a game. One finisher tasks players with stealing honey from a bee without being seen, another plays out like an old-school point and click adventure game, and others incorporate references to classic games like Mortal Kombat and movies such as Pulp Fiction. My personal favorite involved launching a shark into space in order to trigger a satellite cannon to vaporize my foe. They're funny, weird as hell (see what I did there?), and there are a ton of them, each crazier than the last. The only execution I wasn't a fan of was a multiple-choice quiz challenge. Since failing an execution cost a chunk of life, failing due to a lack of knowledge instead of skill feels cheap.

Boss fights consist of both small, quick affairs and huge confrontations. Outside of shooting them into oblivion, several bosses require some refreshing out-of-the-box thinking to conquer. Each boss is added to a database upon defeat that includes humorous blurbs about their personalities and histories, a feature I genuinely looked forward to with every boss encounter. The final boss, however, is a pretty big letdown, as it's a total breeze to take down.

The most surprising feature of Hell Yeah! is the inclusion of a lighter-than-light city management simulator called The Island. Defeated bosses are sent to The Island where they're put to work at several areas that grant health and cash bonuses as well as other prizes like new hats for Ash and different buzz-saw skins. Over time, some inmates grow depressed or upset and have to be relocated to a sunny beach or prison, respectively, to rehabilitate. While it's a system that could have easily been excluded with no adverse effects to the rest of game, it works fine and is a decent way to earn extra goodies. You'll just have to constantly remind yourself that The Island feature exists, as it can only be accessed via the title screen and not in-game, for some reason.

Overall, I enjoyed what Hell Yeah! brought to the platforming table. The jetpack/saw platforming and gunplay is an intriguing mix and in-your-face humor is more hit than miss. Prince Ash is one of the cooler platformer mascots to come along in a while and I hope his reign as the lord of Hell hasn't ended before it can truly begin.

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