Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit Review
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On 10/12/2012 at 11:48 PM by Julian Titus
The road to hell is paved with beautiful 2D sprites.
For anyone who is looking for a gorgeous new platform game and appreciates classic game references.
As someone who cut his teeth on Super Mario Bros., Mega Man, and Sonic the Hedgehog, I have a fondness for the 8- and 16-bit sprite art classic style, but I also want to see games that evolve the 2D platformer and bring it into the 21st century. I often ask myself how things would be if the games industry never moved on to polygons but instead kept refining their sprites for 25 years. What would that game look like? Thanks to Arkedo and their new game Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit I have my answer, and that answer would be “pretty damn sweet.”
Ash is the young lord of hell. He’s also a skeletal rabbit. Even though Ash is all about blood and pain and death, he has one weakness—a love for rubber duckies. When demonic paparazzi snap a picture of Ash taking a bath with his favorite ducky the denizens of hell begin to lose their fear of their lord. Refusing to let this stand, Ash sets out to slay the 100 monsters that passed his photos around hell. Chaos ensues as Ash employs guns, blades, and even a giant t-rex to get his revenge.
I’m pretty easily swayed by pretty graphics, and I’ve always been a fan of 2D games (which have obviously become hard to come by with the advent of polygonal games and the HD era). Sure, I need great mechanics and substance to completely enjoy a game, but I’ll admit that I can be a bit shallow sometimes when some great eye candy comes my way. Hell Yeah! fits that description to the “T” with huge, detailed character sprites, colorful backgrounds, and a distinctive art style.
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a 2D game that looks this good. If Arc System Works evolved the 2D fighting game with Guilty Gear then Arkedo has done the same for the 2D platformer. Every screen is packed with vibrant color, infusing the areas of hell with a cute and fuzzy aesthetic. Hell Yeah! dazzles the eyes to the point of near sensory overload, and yet it’s not so flashy that it’s impossible to see what’s going on. Ash animates fluidly, and the sprites are all very smooth, giving the sense of a cartoon to the proceedings. This is amplified by character designs that blend elements of SpongeBob Squarepants, Adventure Time!, and Nippon Ichi’s Disgaea series.
Hell Yeah! is a supermodel strutting down the runway when it comes to graphics and presentation, but it slips up a bit in the gameplay department. Ash rides around in a rotating saw that sees triple duty as a weapon, drill, and jetpack. Arkedo seemed to be very inspired by Sonic the Hedgehog, as Ash can get up to a good speed and it’s easy for him to get away from the controls. Precision jumping is rarely needed, but when it is, things can get frustrating with the way Ash tends to slip and slide around the levels.
Aiming his weapons is done with the right analog stick, which I find annoying when it comes to shooting while jumping and moving. Things get even more dicey thanks to a camera that’s zoomed just a little too close to the action, making certain jumps a leap of faith unless you remember to use the zoom out button.
Thankfully, checkpoints are in ample supply, and even though I died often in some sections it rarely felt like a setback. Your progress is automatically saved as soon as you kill one of the target monsters, so even if you die a second later you don’t need to fight that baddie again. Just be warned that this can sometimes lead to some tough situations since your health is saved along with your progress and healing stations get to be few and far between in later levels.
Even with these sticking points, Hell Yeah! is a blast to play, in large part due to the sheer amount of variety to the levels. Each zone sports a distinctive design and theme, harkening back to platform games of yesteryear. As Ash makes his way in search of his lost pictures he’ll end up in traditional running and jumping levels, in twin stick shooter levels in outer space, bust out sick tricks in a motocross inspired level, and encounter the most terrifying level of hell—a mega happy place where everything is smiles and a woman sings about what a cute bunny Ash is.
These levels borrow from older games heavily, but it never comes across as cheap or pandering but rather a loving homage to platform game design. You’ll find obvious inspiration from Sonic of course, but Arkedo seems to be mining some more obscure titles as well; parts of the game reminded me of B.O.B., Dynamite Headdy, and even Plok.
Hunting down and slaying the target monsters initiates a mini game to land the finishing blow. These games feel like they were plucked right out of a Warioware game, and even though you’ll see some of the finishing moves repeat, each one of them is immensely satisfying. The target monsters end up being far more interesting to take down than the few boss encounters, which boil down to simply shooting and avoiding damage.You would be forgiven for thinking that all of these disparate elements make Hell Yeah! feel disjointed, but the game as a whole flows together well from zone to zone.
I often wondered what a true HD game with hand-drawn sprites would look like, and Hell Yeah! has answered that question for me. It’s a thing of beauty, charm, and imagination, and as much as I enjoy the bleeding edge polygonal graphics we have today, part of me would love to see more games as gorgeous as this. Nintendo, are you listening?