REVIEW: Side-scrolling platform games may be the most abstract form of video game art.
We've had a mutant hedgehog chasing a mad scientist, a deranged miner clearing levels by avoiding floating telephones, and an egg-shaped Yolkfolk dealing to the nefarious plans of an evil wizard called Zaks.
That the most successful concept in the genre features an Italian plumber avoiding barrels thrown by a large, predatory ape barely raised an eyebrow in 1981, so in 2012 it's understandable that a dead rabbit could be the main protagonist in the quest to eradicate one hundred monsters from hell using a jetpack gun so as to seek revenge for the leak of compromising photos to the Internet.
Which is really the first problem with Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. It may be, rather unashamedly, a meeting of Itchy & Scratchy and the cast from Grim Fandango on an acid trip. It's deliberately bright, hectic, violent and extremely unsuitable for anyone prone to seizures, but none of this is remotely edgy in a genre that can count upon its subscribers for more ridiculous concepts, and certainly much tighter gameplay.
Ash, the aforementioned deceased rabbit, is also known as the prince of hell. Hell - as imagined by developers Arkedo Studio - consists of colourful caves populated by marauding creatures and glib bosses essentially going about their daily grind without any thought to the impending doom heading their way. Hunting down these weary denizens consists of little more than spotting their profile on a radar screen and heading in their general direction, destroying whatever happens to block the path.
By jumping and double-jumping from ledge to ledge, as well as zooming along booster paths and falling down long holes, more of the expansive underworld is uncovered. Aiding in this is Ash's drill ability, allowing our hero to tunnel through various walls to uncover new paths and gain additional coins, which can be later spent in one of the many stores dotted around each level.
Exploration isn't the only way to increase funds however - in a nice twist, previously slain boss creatures can be put to task on Ash's personal island, toiling away performing mundane tasks in order to boost coffers. In-game coin can be spent on various weapon and health upgrades, as well as livery improvements, some of which are necessary to defeat later bosses but mostly exist as a sideshow between combat waves.
Combat that raises the second major point of contention for any platform fan looking to get their retro on. The overall flow of the game is definitely angled towards players who wish to move at speed, with most of the creatures and loot respectively slaughtered and vacuumed faster than is frequently possible to register. This in itself isn't a bad thing at all, however it does highlight just how annoying it is to frequently jump and slide a little too far towards instant death traps dotted around the levels.
The fact that Ash's inertia will frequently be the cause of his demise can heighten frustration, with seemingly easy jumps ruined by a few pixels of unintentional slide added to catch players unawares.
Despite this, Arkedo has provided an incentive to finish the mission brief by adding basic Quick Time Events as each boss is killed. Most involve basic mashing of the space bar to trigger, although each can vary wildly. One might require a quick reaction to beat a whack-a-mole puzzle, whereas another may ask questions in a quiz-style format. As it's impossible to know which is which beforehand - and each boss can't be killed until each QTE is successfully passed - some cheap deaths will be experienced until the correct outcome is committed to memory.
In any case, flying through the gaudy terrain in search of each boss provides an enjoyable enough distraction for a few hours, particularly if the fourth-wall breaking dialogue and cheesy set pieces can be navigated around. Hell Yeah! isn't a bad game, it's just that what it professes to add to the genre isn't nearly as groundbreaking or edgy as the presentation would suggest.
More attention to actual gameplay would have elevated Hell Yeah! beyond a mere distraction, and as such it's difficult to see it as a break-out success, and even harder to recommend to platform fanatics looking for something new.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit
From: Arkedo Studio
For: PC, Xbox Live, PlayStation Network
Ups: Lots of attention to artwork, animation and audio, plus it's pretty cheap.
Downs: Tricky controls, cheesy dialogue, repetitive.