Another great review from Nathan, who dug Hell Yeah! despite (or even because of) its faults.
Arkedo Studios is an interesting little developer. Based out of Paris, they’ve so far toiled in relative obscurity on DS puzzle games and Xbox Live Indies (notorious for going under the public radar), yet put out work that, at least visually, holds their own against bigger budget downloadables. With the quality of their titles like Swap!, Pixel! or Big Bang Mini, it’s curious that they haven’t attempted the white whale of iOS games where they most likely would be welcomed with open arms and would rake in the 99 cents.
Then they drop Hell Yeah!, and I totally understand why.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is an action platformer starring the prince of Hell (Ash), a sassy bunny skeleton who seems to have been embroiled in a tabloid scandal via pictures of him being taken in an uncompromising position, and he descends into the various wacky layers of the nether-realm to reclaim both the pics and his tarnished rep as the lord of his domain.
It starts off weird and silly and somehow gets crazier the further into the adventure. The gameplay consists of floaty platforming segments where you pilot Ash’s buzzsaw wheel he rides, which is both a speedy source of transportation but also vital in killing a large swath of enemies in the game. In addition to the saw melee, there are a plethora of guns/ranged weapons to unlock which are what you’ll be using most of the time. The level objectives revolve around eliminating a set number of special enemies in a stage, which each require a slightly different tactic to put down in order to proceed. Each of these special enemies require a finishing move to be pulled off, in the form of a large variety of minigames. Once these bizarre microgames are performed, you’re greeted with a character bio that details the monsters former life as a morally questionable human and how they got banished to the fires of Hell. The flow of the game ends up being a little bit MetroidVania, a little bit WarioWare, with little space shooter interludes. Combat becomes mostly a non-event with bouts of frustration due to how floaty the buzsaw controls are, but checkpoints are frequent with unlimited lives so there is zero cost to making mistakes.
While I can’t say that a particular element of the gameplay grabbed me (in some cases, became outright infuriating), the real shining aspect of the game is the art direction, variety of sights to see (also minigames to play), and the general personality/sense of humor that Arkedo brings to the table. It is incredibly juvenile and crass, revels in goofy hyperviolence, is littered with subtle video game references (mainly Sega riffs but some others as well) as well as pop culture satire that is distinctly European. Also because it is a French language game originally, loses a bit of what I assume is wit in translation that it may put some people off.
I however, found it incredibly charming because it is so unapologetic about what it is, and brings a lot of life and energy to the plate that I kept chugging along to see what they had to show me next (which was constant). The soundtrack is a wonderful variety of musical influences, and the moment you get to the incredibly saccharine world of cutesy 8-bit barf where a French woman croons to you about how cute you are, it’s hard not to be won over by their charisma. They put a ton of love into what is ultimately a throw-away downloadable platformer, and I for one appreciate the effort, even if they didn’t really stick the landing with the humor or the gameplay.
Not since Earthworm Jim have I seen a game so aggressively quirky and weird for the sake of being weird, which makes me glad that digital distribution platforms make it possible in a day and age where it’s rare for a game to have such palpable personality because we have to sell everything to everyone.