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Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit hands-on preview

Sega has something special on its hands in Arkedo Studio’s Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, a Metroidvania-style platformer starring a foul-tempered bunny rabbit skeleton who also happens to be the Prince of Hell. His name is Ash — you heard that right, Evil Dead fans; this game is rife with nods to geek pop culture — and he’s landed himself in some trouble. It seems that Ash has a rather… special relationship with his rubber ducky, and when a video of him performing unspeakable acts on the toy in the tub hits the Internet, it’s viewed by 100 demons before it can be pulled. And so we have 100 demons that clearly must be destroyed before they can spread word of Ash’s bizarre personal life.

I’m not making any of this up. That’s the story Arkedo put together, and it serves as a platform for Ash to run amok around Hell as he uses a variety of tools to collect treasure and beat up a bunch of snot-nosed demon punks. You start out as a defenseless Prince of Hell, but it’s not long before you wrap your bony paws around a jetpack. Because those are so useful in Hell. This one takes the form of a spinning sawblade that whirls around Ash when he’s in motion, so it actually is rather useful in the underworld. Like a proper Metroidvania game, you’ll quickly spot inaccessible areas as you can explore, and locations that you’ll return to later on after you’ve earned the necessary gear.

The controls feel a little bit floaty in their current state, but they’re more in the realm of “you need to get used to it” than “the game feels broken.” As you wheel your way around Hell you encounter a variety of enemies and obstacles, many of which can be chewed to bits by your jetpack/buzzsaw. I encountered maybe four or five of the hundred doomed demons during the introductory section of the game, and those take a little bit more effort. Once you’ve offed a marked demon, sometimes only after obtaining certain tools — one, for example, required me to buy a rocket launcher from the nearby store — you have to complete a quick, simple minigame. The particulars of the minigame change with each demon, but the ones I saw involved either button-mashing or timed button presses. If you read that and immediately think of Nintendo’s WarioWare games, you’re really not too far off.

I also had an opportunity to face off against the first area’s boss demon, complete with its own, screen-spanning health and variety of attack patterns. It played out as a fairly standard three-stage boss fight, with each stage introducing new wrinkles on the previously established attack patterns. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Hell Yeah! doesn’t do anything that is particularly surprising or forward-thinking… it’s simply a charming (in its own deranged way) platformer that stands out mostly for its cartoony art style and sharp-edged, low-brow wit. That’s great news, because the art and writing seem to both pair very, very well with the gameplay. Further, I think most of us can agree that more Metroidvania-style games are always a good thing.

So let’s recap: here we have a game starring a rubber duck-loving dead rabbit, who happens to be the Prince of Hell and who gets around using a buzzsaw-powered jetpack. You want to play this. And you’ll be able to soon. Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit doesn’t have a set release date yet, but it will be coming sometime before the end of 2012, probably during the fall months.

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