Once upon a time, the opportunity to play it was passed over in favor of speaking at length to the man behind it. A tough decision for sure, but one for which there are no regrets. But this is E3, with all its glitz and gaudiness, its bass and babes, its bombshells and busts — both on the babes and on the press conference stages. This is the show, and Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit might just be the game coming to Xbox Live Arcade. Abstaining from experiencing firsthand at The Big Show, one of the most promising upcoming games for XBLA, simply wouldn’t do. Even waiting just a wink longer until XBLA Fans’ scheduled time with the game later in the week arrived just wouldn’t do.
At first glance, Wrath of the Dead Rabbit looks like everything that was great about those sublime ‘tude-filled, blast-processed platformers that graced Sega’s Genesis. Pick up the controller, and you’ll discover that the game is that and more, so much more. The title’s intensity meter starts at 11 in the opening level and only cranks up from there. When a player-character’s preferred mode of conveyance is a circular saw with a rocket launcher mounted to it, vivid acts of violence are to be expected. Although studio co-founder Camille Guermonprez previously confirmed that there will be a number of other vehicles in the game, the wheel took center stage at E3, just as it had at PAX East.
As was soon discovered after picking up the controller, the titular rabbit Ash will be able to choose from more weapons than just the rocket launcher. His undead octopus buddy made an appearance and graciously offered a gift to Hell’s prince: a machine gun. Ash, as is perhaps befitting of his regal heritage, is easily bored, though. Nestor explained that it’s easy to swap between weapons and a number of empty slots for future tools of destruction were spotted. Rockets are fun and all, but the machine gun came in far more handy when it came to dispensing of everything in Ash’s path during the demo.
The slice of gameplay on display at Sega’s booth took place in a new level, one with a metallic theme to it and full of some rather angry mechanical monstrosities. Not the least of which was a 20-foot tall dancing robot bear that shot lasers out of what looked like Cyclops from X-men’s visor. It was easily the most amusing video-game adversary faced during a day filled with hands-on time with some of the biggest games of 2011’s second half, and it elicited a wide smile and several amused comments from onlookers. Getting nailed by just one of the laser blasts put Ash down for the count and brought about a subsequent respawn inside a coffin at a forgiving checkpoint.
Not knowing how easy it is for this dancing fool of a bear to kill the first son of Hell can cause some problems, then. Playing patiently and taking potshots from afar followed by moving in to inflict heavier damage when he dances the other way allows the player to make quick work of him, though, leading to a QTE minigame. The gaming public has soured on QTEs in recent years thanks to their oversaturation, but these ones are blessedly short and incredibly rewarding. Hitting four buttons in the proper sequence brought about a quick sequence in which Ash — sans circular saw — performed some unnecessarily complicated finishing maneuvers that were a blast to watch.
All of the minibosses in the game have had similar ingredients mixed into their batter by the deft hands of the Arkedo chefs that created these savory dishes. After the bear, came a delectable encounter with rocket-launching robot that ended by fingering its honey pot, so to speak. The challenge is to hold down a button to cause a finger to extend forth into the hole in a bee’s hive and steal honey away before the queen turns back around and spots the offending finger. It’s silly and wonderful, and the game is said to be filled with many other minigames of its ilk.
Aside from the crazy battles, platforming and world exploration are also major components of Hell Yeah!. The next stretch of the game involved carefully grinding through an iced-over area of the map that was liberally populated by mines of absurd proportions. Grind the saw in the wrong direction or just a tad to hard, and it’s game over. Speaking of which, the time to play the game was over shortly thereafter. For now, it’s back to impatiently waiting for a bear to ask for the privilege to dance later this year. Please keep the wait to a minimum, you dancing fool.