SeanNOLA’s Take: Hey Sean, we got Hell Yeah in for review. I remembered you were interested at E3 – do you want to review it?” DEagle’s statement is entirely true. I was in fact very interested in Hell Yeah when we saw it back in June. It was very difficult to get hands-on time with it, but I made a point to stop and watch the footage at SEGA’s booth any chance I got. I was entranced by the art-style and the idea of playing as the GameStop bunny, as his foreseeably corrupted future self, seemed very novel at the time. However, had I gotten to touch a controller back at the convention center, that conversation might have gone something like this:
“Hey Sean, we got Hell Yeah in for review….I’m so sorry.” At first glance, Hell Yeah seems to be overflowing with charm. You take control of the bunny demon-prince of Hell, on a quest to destroy all 101 monsters that saw a scandalous picture of our hero on the internet. The art is very colorful and edgy, and the humor is very similar to a NIS title, which is great if you’re into that sort of thing. Once the game proper starts up, you’re greeted with a very pretty 2D platformer. The aggressively colorful art-style and quirky soundtrack is carried over from the cutscenes into the levels and characters, and definitely give the game a unique look.
If looking at the game is all you need to entertain yourself, then Hell Yeah has you covered. Unfortunately, nothing else about the game is entertaining. The controls are mushy and floaty, which leads them to feel more imprecise than they actually are. Although I never found myself missing a ledge, I didn’t feel very connected to any of the moves I was making on screen. Everything seemed to be delayed by a fraction of a second. Combat is dull, consisting on jamming your trigger to start the saw, or firing one of your guns when an enemy is made out of electricity or fire or some other hazardous material. Most enemies just stand by and let you wail on them, but occasionally you are met with a monster that mindlessly fires in your general direction. Each of the 100 main monsters is dispatched with a mini-game unique to that particular enemy. Each minigame is essentially a quicktime event that leads to your bunny dispatching the foe in some thematic way, such as calling on a fleet of cyborg bees or launching a barrage of laser carrots. Again, these are fun to look at, but not terribly engaging for the player.
Your reward for taking out each monster is a brief paragraph bio of who they were before they were sent to Hell, and an addition to your roster in The Island. The Island is a home for battered monsters where you can task your newfound slaves with farming for money and items. Although this is a nice break from the monotony of Hell Yeah’s core gameplay, PS3 users may want to be wary, as The Island frequently caused my system to lock up.
Although the artwork in Hell Yeah is far and away the game’s selling point, the animations don’t always do the sprites justice. Most of the monsters seem paper-thin and lifeless, and many of the effects seem overly tweened. The levels themselves are not particularly thrilling either, and the hyper-detailed environments tend to muddy the difference in foreground and background. The only thing that is well animated is the main character, but even he is obscured most of the time by a giant gun-shaped piece of paper. The stitched-together animations are very reminiscent of a flash game from Newgrounds, not a console platformer from a major publisher.
If Hell Yeah were a cartoon instead of a game, there is a good chance that I’d enjoy it. The characters are fun and quirky the premise is unique. As an interactive entertainment, it falls squarely into the style-over-substance category. The art is fun to look at, and the soundtrack is nice, but it just isn’t fun to play. I’m not sure when SEGA started mandating a gummy feel to their side-scrolling platformers, but between this and Sonic 4, I’m inclined to think delayed reactions are a corporate policy.
DesertEagle’s Take: Testing the boundaries of teen-rated fare, Hell Yeah!’s plotline focuses on Ash- a royal rabbit captured in a state of undress by the underworld’s roving paparazzi. Naturally, the pictures are leaked online and invoke an imperial embarrassment, forcing the humiliated hare to hunt down all 100 viewers in an effort to effectively erase any evidence of the entire incident. Beyond serendipitously mirroring the scandal which recently tarnished Buckingham Palace, Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is capable of cultivating a few chuckles, so long as players don’t possess the sophisticated wit of my colleague. Regretfully, these bits of lascivious levity are often as odds with Hell Yeah!’s action, interrupting the pace of gameplay to deliver text-based dialog sequences.
Ideally, the game would have avoided its written repartee and sporadic spurts of Sim-ish conversation to deliver actual audio conversations amidst Ash’s exploits. For a title which aims to provide an excess of sensory stimulus, the exchange of rib-tickling insults during firefights would have been welcome. For the first third of the game, Hell Yeah!’s frantic momentum is consistently interrupted by obligatory text-based banter, prohibiting players from becoming immersed in the title’s twitchy action. Similarly, screen-filling exhibitions of visual spectacle which reward the defeat of a monster, are undeniably entertaining, but are often longer that the preceding skirmish.
Yet once Hell Yeah! lays off the exposition, it becomes apparent that the game’s mechanics also deter gamers from becoming fully engaged. Lacking any consistent signifiers to indicate menace, the game forces players to use trial and error and discover environmental dangers. Assuming that the Prince of Hell would be at least partially immune to the flaming jets which hoist a platform proves to be injurious. While prickly foes can be effortlessly surmounted with a whirling weapon, other spikes are fatal to the touch.
Ash has access to an ever-growing, upgradable arsenal, arming the player the Gatling guns, rocket launchers, and flamethrowers, but woefully, the game’s collision detection can be spotty. Although enemy fire frequently glides through environmental objects, the player isn’t endowed with the same ability. As such, gamers will constantly have to readjust the protagonist so his payload isn’t absorbed on the edge of a platform. Even though enemies which linger off-screen can’t be injured and foes have a tendency to quickly respawn, slaughtering swarms of foes is mildly gratifying, thanks to a targeting system which utilizes the right thumbstick. Yet, as Sean mentioned, jumping can often feel imprecise with control being especially unruly when the rabbit touches a foe. Often, this sends Ash careening around the screen like a pinball between two bumpers- taking damage with each bounce. Even, wall jumping- a platforming tenet, isn’t handled with the finesse gamers have come to expect.
Despite these setbacks, Wrath of the Dead Rabbit occasionally shows signs of promise. Defeated monsters are sent to The Island, where players can assign them to perform certain tasks- from acquiring currency to unlocking additional perks. It’s an interesting concept that ultimately undermined by its execution- load times to visit the Island are long while cursor control to examine monster bios is unnecessarily fussy. Still, the idea of a Chao Garden-like component to complement gameplay is an inspired concept.
Sean’s summation that Hell Yeah!’s visuals are the game main appeal is indisputable. For some, Arkedo Studio’s compositions will be lavish enough to overlook many of the title’s shortcomings. Despite having a solid 60 FPS delivery, the game produces a perpetual plethora of sprites beset on vibrant colored parallax backdrops. Clearly, the game’s highpoints are the QTEs and resulting cinematics which must occupy a majority of the game’s 2.65 GB file size. Sure, all hundred monsters don’t have unique mini-games or death animations, but some of the sequences are remarkably impressive. From oversized, cutesy characters which are battered by hundreds of tiny tormentors to bits that erupt into dazzling showers of comical gore, the game is a graphical feast.
Although supermodel looks and an unabashedly juvenile sense of humor might seem to indicate the perfect weekend romp, even a short encounter with Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit will divulge the game’s deficiencies. With lengthy load times, imprecise controls, and some questionable design choices, even the biggest graphical tarts may walk away broken hearted.