Preview

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit Preview (PC)

I saw two games at SEGA’s press event last Thursday. One of those was Aliens: Colonial Marines, which has been riding high on my most wanted list since it was announced. The other was a platformer I’d barely heard of featuring an undead rabbit skeleton that drove a giant buzzsaw. It looked quite weird, maybe even quite fun, but Aliens was clearly the main event for me before I saw either. By the end of the session though, my tune was certainly changed. I’ll get to that.

The demo began at the very start of the game, complete with opening cutscene. What followed was one of the weirdest stories (and demos) I’d ever seen, and instantly I was intrigued. The bunny skeleton that is the main character is Ash, the rich and powerful lord of Hell, and his world has been rocked by a scandal that could end his superiority – there’s a photo on the internet that shows that Ash prefers the intimate company of ducks. Yes, ducks.

Please don’t make me explain what’s going on

Outraged, Ash plots to keep his secret by hunting down and killing all hundred monsters that viewed the page. And thus the game begins with an objective, no matter how bizarre. Of course there’s not just 100 enemies in the game, but there are 100 “special” monsters who must be filled with lead and then finished off in a special way. More on that in a moment.

As our demo starts Ash is dropped into a standard platformer and I start to get worried. There’s spikes to avoid landing on, floating shiny skulls to collect for no apparent reason, and while the dialogue is pretty amusing (particularly with Ash’s hobo octopus manservant, and yes I did just type that) there doesn’t appear to be much here we haven’t seen before beyond the skeleton lagomorph thing.

Then, bare minutes in the game, we’re given Ash’s signature weapon and primary mode of transport – a giant buzz-saw motorbike. And suddenly we’ve gone from “pedestrian” to “insane fun” in one shiny puff. The bike-saw tore through enemies and scenery with ease. You can jump in it, bounce off walls, smash through spikes, and the best part beyond being incredibly cool? You’re not invincible.

You get a taste of ultimate power for one level, then the difficulty adapts. Enemies hide behind shields, hover out of reach, use electricity to attack, or require guns to hit. Aha, guns, that’s something I recognise. Killing enemies and collecting the seemingly-useless skulls nets you cash which you can spend in the stores you find each level. Here Ash has access to a wide array of upgrades, weapons, and customisation options. You can’t be lord of Hell without a rocket launcher and a cute hat, after all.

The minigames that finish off the bosses are nuts and incredibly bloody. Yay


Armed with a ranged assault rifle we skidded our buzz-bike back to the monster (one of the special scandal-viewing hundred) protected by an electricity shield. A problem for a direct attack – not for a gun. We whittled his health down while avoiding his attacks, but on the edge of death something interesting happened. No, not a QTE… well, maybe it was a quick-time event… in the most literal sense. A quick-time game might be more accurate.

The way you finish off the special monsters in Hell Yeah! is one of the most fun and unique parts of the game, and certain to be the most talked-about come reviews time. Anyone who’s played Nintendo’s WarioWare series will recognise them instantly, but for everyone else – as the monster nears death a very short minigame pops up. Very quickly you have to read the very brief instruction (e.g. ‘Shoot!’), assess what the game wants you to do, and then do it in time. If you’re successful, the game’s over and your enemy will die, both in a way connected to the minigame and very messily. For example, firing an arrow to hit a target in the minigame is followed by a thousand arrows impaling the monster and splattering gore and meat across the screen. Hell Yeah! is not afraid to spill a little blood, or the odd gallon.

As we ploughed through the levels cutting, shooting, and minigaming the minions of Hell I tried to figure out what game Hell Yeah! reminded me of. I couldn’t. Not even a group of them. In terms of fun, platforming, clever design and utter batshit-insanity, Rayman Origins is probably the closest. But even that was “just” a superb platformer, whereas this has a giant buzzsaw to ride in and WarioWare boss battle minigames. There’s elements from other games of course, but none that come near to what Hell Yeah! is actually like.

Then we got to the first proper boss, and I was stunned in a way no crazy platformer has managed since the “epic” battle against Bob the Goldfish in Earthworm Jim. It was a giant, hideous floating demon… who Ash has a polite conversation with. He really is the loveliest slavering murderous boss monster I’ve ever had the pleasure to chat with, and both Ash and the boss were very distraught that they had to try and kill each other. Oh well.

Yep

After the boss was downed in another blood-splattering minigame finisher – a different one incidentally, all the monsters had their own unique quick-games – our demo was up and my interest was piqued. What was my overall impression then of Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit? I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say it’s gone from a game I knew nothing about to one of my most wanted. It definitely looks like it’ll be 2012’s Rayman Origins, which is extraordinarily high praise indeed. If developer Arkedo can keep up the imaginative level design and continue to invent weirder and wilder challenges for Ash and his buzzsaw bike then I’ll be calling it a Must Buy for sure.

For anyone after a crazy cute-meets-gory platformer with a dead rabbit protagonist riding a giant sawblade through the fires of Hell, you’ll want to keep an eye on this game. Also please let me know what you’ve been smoking and where I can get some too. Most Anticipated Feature/Element – Seeing what further nutty WarioWare-style minigames Arkedo come up with for further monsters.

Most Anticipated Feature: Seeing what further nutty WarioWare-style minigames Arkedo come up with for further monsters.

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