Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is the Ryan Lochte of videogames. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to toss it into an Olympic-sized swimming pool (I couldn’t anyway - it’s a downloadable title). What I mean is that despite Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit’s (for the rest of this review, I will simply call it “Wrath of the Dead Rabbit”) obvious videogame chops, it’s so aggressively unpleasant to be around that you just want to do something else - anything else - just so your sanity and good nature remain intact.
Now, I understand it would be downright un-American to say that I don’t like gold medal swimmer, and heir-apparent to Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, I’m just saying that if I ever have to see his face or listen to him try and speak in coherent sentences again, I’ll cut myself with a spoon. I respect his athletic prowess as long as said prowess stays way the hell over there. Similarly, I would be a bad gamer if I said I didn’t like Wrath of the Dead Rabbit. Fundamentally, it is a good game full of impressive visuals and creative gameplay ideas, and I respect its obvious videogame chops as long as someone else is playing it, ideally in another time zone from me.
Unfortunately, since I’m sure exactly zero readers of this review are reading it to see me work through my issues in digital print; I guess I have to actually talk about the game’s nuts and bolts at some point.
Let’s do that now.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit (I swear that’s the last time I’m calling it that) casts you in the role of…well…um….I’m not exactly sure because the story is unmemorable and utterly inconsequential. It makes Super Mario Bros. look like The Wire. That’s not an insult in as much as an excuse for another silly comparison. Anyway, the game casts you in the role of a dead rabbit who is the prince of hell, I think. As the prince of hell, our protagonist is beset by paparazzi who snap unforgiving photos of him. What follows is a tale of a princely dead rabbit desperately trying to recover incriminating photos of himself. To do so, he has to murder a million monsters. Since it’s hell, all these monsters used to be people - bad people. There is a chuckle to be had by reading the bio of each monster you kill, but the sheer number causes a case of diminishing returns to set in. Each monster’s form is crazy, from rock golems to anthropomorphic playing cards and everything in-between. Each has a different method of attack, and one of several different ways to be dispatched. These boss and sub-boss monsters make up, along with extensive exploration and collection, the vast bulk of the game.
When facing regular enemies, you’ll use any number of weapons to kill them, from pistols to bazookas. The number of unlockable weapons is actually fairly expansive. Some weapons and their upgrades have to be purchased, however, (you can also purchase headgear, body skins, and drill wheel skins - more on “drill wheel” in a moment) at the stores you find scattered across the game. Some you get thanks to story machinations and others need to be bought with the loot you collect (rabbit head-shaped coins and gemstones). Yes, you have to collect items because Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a platformer at heart. It’s a bit of a non-traditional platformer because simple jumping is far too lame for Wrath of the Dead Rabbit.
The majority of the gameplay is spent inside a bladed wheel that you use to drill through stuff that often blocks your path (You’ll spend some time outside of it as well. In those instances traditional platforming takes over); this drill wheel can also hover for short distances and pull off a number of other advanced moves. Also as the game progresses, the stuff you need to drill through gets tougher but your drill wheel gets upgraded to deal with it. That means whole sections of a given level might be inaccessible when you first encounter it. The specter of backtracking does indeed rear its ugly head, but eventually you’re given the ability to teleport which simplifies matters greatly. The game’s map, on the other hand, doesn’t, unfortunately. Despite many loading screens trying to convince you otherwise, the in-game map is pretty awful. It’s full of obscured areas, vague symbols, and only the most basic representation of your current level’s architecture. All it can really tell you is in what direction you need to go in, but leaves you to figure out the details yourself.
At least the game’s platforming is entertaining. Nothing you see is exactly original, but much of it is handled in creative ways - like spike traps that fill entire stepped tunnels and have no obvious method to traverse safely, rabbit-cannons, and submersible sections. Another interesting idea the game toys with is enemy cannons that you’ll have to let lock on to you before dodging the explosion often as a way to demolish obstacles or kill bosses. You’ll also come across some monsters that you can’t kill with firepower. They’ll need to be taken out via platforming and the methods are not always obvious, and are almost never explained. Sometimes you’ll even kill a monster without even meaning to.
It sounds worse than it actually is, however, because the real reason the game gives you monsters to kill is also the game’s best and most creative idea, while also being its most aggressively annoying one. Whenever you whittle a monster’s heath to zero, one of several randomized, and utterly ridiculous, mini-games pops up. Passing the mini-game will completely dispatch the monster in a similar utterly ridiculous manner, and said death is accompanied by hundreds of gallons of blood and gore. I don’t want to tell you more than that. Part of the fun (when they are fun) is the surprise. I will say that they’d all be more fun if, when encountering a brand new one, you were given another beat or two to solve it before failure. They can be vastly different from one another so what you need to do is not always easily recognizable.
The only other remarkable aspect of the gameplay is the island that you send all the monster you defeat to. This island, accessible from the main menu, works a bit like a strategy game in that you can assign each monster to one of four tasks, and each offers its own specific reward. The more monsters you assign to a job, the more corresponding rewards you get. Monsters don’t just work there, however. Sometimes they get depressed and need a vacation. Luckily there is a beach you can send them to so they can decompress from the stress of being enslaved by a dead rabbit. Other monsters will commit crimes. In that case, they go to jail for “rehabilitation” which is just a nice way of saying that beatings and torture are the order of the day.
So all that pretty much sums up the gameplay which is only part of any given game. Graphically, Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is striking to look at. It’s bright and bold and full of interesting visuals from the levels to the enemies themselves. Unfortunately, that striking look may be at a cost. I had fairly significant stability problems. I had to deal with several crashes and, at times, near constant freezing that would last for a fraction of a second without becoming a full-blown crash. Uninstalling and reinstalling the game to my PS3 helped some, but only made the game playable versus the train wreck it was before. It’s my understanding that this is not a common issue - at least among other reviewers - so I’d say that for most of you it won’t be an issue (but it might be). Either way, it doesn’t really influence the score I give Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, but I feel it would be irresponsible of me not to mention it.
Oh, and last but not least, the game has a soundtrack. Whether it was good or bad, I can’t tell you because it left no impression on me. I guess if you’re of the opinion that a game’s soundtrack should be like an NFL referee - I.E. the less you know that they’re there, the better - Wrath of the Dead Rabbit will have a great soundtrack. If not, you’ll simply forget it exists.
Much like I’ll be happy to forget Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit exists five minutes after I submit this review for editing.
If I can return to my original Ryan Lochte analogy for a moment, I would just like to reiterate that Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a good game, some might even say a great one, and that obviously a lot of care went into making it; but just like Ryan Lochte, the less I have to see and hear of it, the better.