You may have never heard of Arkedo Studio, but they are the team behind some amazing, quirky, and fun games that you never played. The studio cut their teeth with two overlooked gems on the Nintendo DS, Nervous Brickdown and Big Bang Mini, before releasing a series of three games, aptly named Arkedo Series 1, 2, and 3, as Xbox Live Indie Games, which will be released on PSN on October 16th. Mixed in between all of that Arkedo went to work on their first, full-fledged downloadable game for Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network, Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, and went ahead and got it published by Sega. Seemingly different from anything that the company has worked on in the past, Hell Yeah! blends platforming, exploration, a whole lot of weapons, and one dead rabbit in the hopes of creating another quirky notch in Arkedo’s growing belt.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit follows around Ash, a dead rabbit who happens to be the prince of Hell. After a series of incriminating photos of Ash are leaked (he’s a really big fan of rubber duckies), our deceased rabbit friend goes on a hunt to reclaim them, while seeking revenge on whomever is responsible, and really, anyone that has even seen them. Ash sets off on a quasi-Metroidvania style journey to some of the most remote recesses of Hell to clear his “good” name once and for all.
As a small, skeleton of a bunny, Ash may not be the most intimidating figure, especially when going toe-to-toe with some of Hell’s most feared demons, but this little rabbit comes prepared. In addition to a growing arsenal of weapons (from a revolver to a bazooka) that Ash collects or purchases throughout the game, he spends most his time riding around inside of a circular saw. The blade, and its accompanying attacks, makes Hell Yeah! feel like a modern-day Sonic the Hedgehog (making it ironic that the game is published by Sega) – it’s what Sonic would be if he were conceived in the 2010s, instead of the 1990s. Throughout the game Ash spends most of his time hunting down 100 different boss-level monsters to do them in.
Slicing and dicing aren’t the only ways that Ash will be sending Hell’s spawns to meet their maker (again), the bosses get their own special deaths. After depleting each enemy’s life, Ash gets the chance to finish them off courtesy of a WarioWare-style micro challenge. As soon you fire that last shot, the screen switches over to the mini game, and you have a finite amount of time to solve it. If you successfully complete the challenge, then you defeat the monster, and if you don’t complete the challenge your life bar takes a hit. It’s actually a really great way to break of the gameplay – that is, until the challenges start repeating each other. Then the novelty just wears off really quickly.
Outside of the standard game, Hell Yeah! attempts to extend the experience by offering players a mini life-sim to help make the game a bit more engaging. Each monster on Ash’s list gets banished to The Island once they are killed, where they must serve their master, doing whatever it is Ash wants them to do. There are various stations on the Island, and you have to manage the happiness of the monsters by monitoring which location they are at, and for how long. If you can keep the monsters happy they will produce bonus items for Ash to use in the story mode. It’s a nice little distraction from the main game, but the biggest drawback of The Island is that you can’t actually access it from the main game. It’s only selectable from the main menu, meaning it’s actually created as entirely separate experience, which makes it very easy to overlook.
There’s one other serious flaw that the game suffers from – the controls. For what seems like a simple concept, wielding weapons while riding a saw blade, Hell Yeah! makes use of a ton of buttons in a relatively awkward manner. Everything from targeting to dashing feels unintuitive, making it hard to really enjoy the game. Boss battles become two different kinds of fights – one on screen, and one with the controller in your hands.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is different, but it’s not so “different” that separates itself from the pack as a unique and original gaming experience. Hell Yeah! is like that kid in high school that wears the trendy clothes just so that they aren’t wearing the same thing as everyone else in their Chemistry class. Overall, there isn’t really anything fundamentally wrong with that guy or girl, in fact you may like them as a person, but there’s just something about them that doesn’t seem to fit. That’s what Hell Yeah! is – there isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with it, but it just feels like it’s trying to stand out for all the wrong reasons. Outside of the controls, there isn’t really anything wrong with the gameplay and it ends up being mostly entertaining. However, after the monster finishers cycle through, and repetition starts to set in, you feel like you could be playing the first level or the last, and it doesn’t really matter. Hell Yeah! accomplishes its task of being quirky, but at what cost? This time around it seems that Arkedo left out a bit of the fun that they usually inject into their other creations leaving Hell Yeah! to have some highs, but ultimately end up falling a bit flat.