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That’s no ordinary rabbit…

When I think back to all the hours I spent exploring cavernous environments in search of random collectibles, thumping a sea of unsuspecting bad guys on the head for no good reason, I tend to get a bit bummed at the way modern gaming has left the old-school action game behind. And sure, a few titles like Super Meat Boy and Shadow Complex have done their damnedest to school starving students on the glory days of 2D gaming, but if you really want to know what all the grandpa gamers out there are going on about, you’d have to do some serious WiiWare-downloading, eBay-trolling homework.

That is, of course, until Arkedo’s Hell Yeah! reared it’s fluffy, hate-filled head on PSN and XBLA earlier this week. An unapologetically difficult, laugh-laden throwback to the Metroidvania games of old, Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is not your everyday experience. Centered around the vengeful tale of an arrogant, angry rabbit named Ash—who also happens to be the prince of hell—and his quest to gain revenge on various monsters for “liking” an embarrassing photo of his royal highness in the tub with a rubber ducky, you have to go in expecting a certain bit of ridiculousness.

The game is built around this humor, and while some may find it a bit much, it’s clear the team at Arkedo doesn’t really give a f***, packing the game with constant chuckles from the dialog to the death sequences, leveraging running jokes, amazing animation and mini-game driven finishing moves that will threaten to unhinge your eyeballs at every monster mashing in the vein of a cracked-out Ren and Stimpy episoode. It doesn’t always work, but for the most part, the game’s vibe is consistent and complementary to the distinct style Arkedo has developed.

Core gameplay is a mix of platforming, shooting, puzzle solving, and a series of button-mashing mini-games, and while it errs on the side of outright annoyance on occasion due to some ambiguously integrated objectives and a floaty jump mechanic, determined gamers will get past the adjustment period, finding that there’s a definite addictive quality to romping through the 100 unfortunate fans of your bathtub expose.

The game’s level design is simultaneously impressive and underwhelming, as things look great, and each new area is palette-driven pimp slap to your brain, but the paths themselves are carefully guided, falling just short of the open sense of exploration the genre typically offers. I wasn’t that let down by this, though, thanks largely to the aforementioned humor and variety displayed here, but just don’t go in expecting the next Symphony of the Night.

And while I’d have bounced and blasted my way through Wrath of the Dead Rabbit for the simple pleasure of taking in the amazing artwork packed into this irreverent adventure, there’s also a host of weapons, upgrades and vanity items to earn throughout play, offering lots to see and do for all the OCD gamers out there. If that’s not enough, Arkedo included a side-game involving the monsters you’ve off’d, but it largely comes off as a muddled after-thought, making me rather glad it was an option method for gaining more loot.

But despite this one notable misstep, Hell Yeah! has a pretty good sense of what it’s all about. As a simple action platformer with unstoppable style and tons of self-deprecating humor, it’s unlike anything else out there at the moment, and a worthwhile adventure for folks who cut their teeth on the ball-busting games of eras gone by. Plus, hey, you get to blow up monsters with alien rainbow cannons from space. That’s gotta count for something, right?

SUMMARY: Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit sits somewhere between a hardcore classic and a shameless parody, and luckily, I happen to be a fan of both. It’s not perfect, but like Vincent Vega once said, “personality goes a long way.”

  • THE GOOD:  What’s not to love about arrogant, angry rabbits on a rampage?
  • THE BAD: Eventually, even bunnies get tired of splattering guts on the screen…
  • THE UGLY: Hell Yeah’s incredible cast of characters, of course.

SCORE: 8.0

Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is available on Xbox 360 (XBLA), PlayStation 3 (PSN), and PC. Primary version reviewed was on Xbox 360.