Despite being promoted by one of the biggest names ever seen in the videogames industry (despite being a far less imposing force than the company once was), Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit hasn’t received much attention in the run-up to its launch as a brand new digital intellectual property (IP). SEGA clearly has confidence in the product, as can been learned through the simple medium of a return to the classic announcement of their involvement that every thirty-something gamer worth their salt will know and love. That the videogame is clearly designed to appeal to this audience is clearly more than a coincidence.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is full to the brim of self-referential humour and knowing nods to respective corners and eras of the videogames industry. As is increasingly becoming the case – and welcomingly so – this is a videogame born of a love for the hobby, and delivered directly to those with an equal passion. That’s not to say that if you weren’t born and raised on the Master System you won’t enjoy Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, but just as those who watch Team America without having previously invested many hours into South Park will find themselves missing many vital ingredients, so to does Arkedo Studios’ latest provide an uncompromising sense of audience acknowledgement.
Playing as Ash, a dead rabbit who just happens to be the prince of hell, you find yourself quickly turning to your vengeful side after a paparazzi photographer reveals your secret love for rubber ducks to the whole underworld. Your mission is to seek him out and avenge your hellish reputation, but of course it’s never that simple (and not least because he’s hidden in another castle). Along the way, the player is tasked with taking down one hundred monsters of various shapes and sizes.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit follows many of the traditional rules laid out for 2D platform titles, but in the same fashion as the latter years of the 16-bit era, adds to them with a number of unique new ideas. This isn’t Rocket Knight or A Boy and His Blob, videogames trying to re-establish their age-old franchises as pioneers in a new era; Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a new 2D platform videogame with some genuinely new ideas. To begin with, the player is granted a wheel to sit within, which increases your speed, allows you to drill through some of the wall obstacles you face and attack enemies. Before the first level is up, this is complemented by a ranged weapon. From this point on, Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is about exploring levels, hunting the specific monsters required to open doorways to advance and learning new abilities.
As the core structure of the videogame is dependant on the locating and exterminating of these one hundred monsters it would be a poor show if Arkedo Studios’ hadn’t made something special out of each one. Not only is it very obvious which of the enemies in the levels count towards this tally, but also each and every one has a unique death animation. Upon reducing the monster’s health bar (or solving the puzzle to defeat it) the player will be engaged in a very brief Warioware-esque mini-game to confirm the kill. It’s a well thought-out mechanic that is constantly rewarding the player, and inviting them to find out just how Ash will deal that killer blow to the next monster.
Of course, with it’s adult outlook and subject matter, Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit wouldn’t be the same experience if it wasn’t for the over-the-top violence and gore that separates it from the mould. Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit’s art team have gone overboard with the blood, guts and meat chunks that are all part-and-parcel of your evil endeavours, but their delivered in such a way that you simply can’t take it seriously; this is a not a videogame that’s depicting anything that can even closely resemble real-world violence. The colourful scenery and charming characters belie the chaos and destruction that the player is tasked with causing throughout the videogame: Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is clearly blessed with a great deal of imagination and a cohesive effort from art and story teams, creating a genuinely comedic environment for all the slapstick cartoon mayhem.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is an entertaining modern 2D platform videogame which isn’t afraid to be a little adventurous. The Metroid inspired level design works beautifully for the monster hunting remit (albeit on a significantly smaller scale) and the opportunities afforded to the player to experience the videogame at their own pace simply cannot be ignored. Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is an experience designed to be savoured, it’s effortlessly charming and boldly defiant, just as all of SEGA’s products used to be. For a publisher famously struggling to determine what their name stands for in the modern industry, Electronic Theatre would whole heartedly suggest that Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is the best jumping-off point you’re likely to get.