Arkedo Studio made a name for itself with a series of games released on the Xbox Live Indie Game channel. Since the studio is best known for its platformers, it is only natural that Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit would be an extension of this solid independent foundation.
Many of my favorite games from this generation are available exclusively via download, but the past year or so has seemed less appealing, with bigger-budget releases that weren't able to live up to their ambitious goals. Out-there games like Hell Yeah!, on the other hand, remind me why I love digital distribution.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit (Xbox Live Arcade [Previewed], PlayStation Network, PC)
As an undead rabbit who also happens to be the prince of hell, Ash has decided to take his frustration out on the helpless and not-so-helpless inhabitants of his fiery realm. Simply killing off the diverse, heavily populated monster horde isn't enough -- he's got to look good doing it.
This is made easy for you, the player, thanks to Ash's jetpack which can saw right through enemies and certain types of walls. In the game build I played, I had to navigate through a large, somewhat non-linear environment to track down specific demons using my radar. Upon finding and nearly killing one, a seconds-long mini-game would initiate, usually requiring me to mash on the controller.
While having to go through a mini-game to fully defeat significant enemies sounds unpleasant, in practice, it wasn't so bad. There are supposed to be 30 different games in total, and the payoff -- an over-the-top kill sequence -- is surprisingly worth it thanks largely to the wonderful art direction.
The art style, particularly when it comes to the vibrant, hellish environments, looks like a high-def take on the packed level designs of Sega Genesis platformers. There's an almost overwhelming amount of detail crammed into the foreground, but in motion, it totally works.
Arkedo says there are ten "game worlds" in all, and while we didn't get to see enough of Hell Yeah! to comprehend how much content that will truly be, know that collectibles and secret areas were scattered around. Some were clearly blocked off by barricades that required equipment I didn't yet possess. If you like what this implies, I concur.
Currency dropped by slain enemies would be useless without something to spend it on, which is why there are item shops. Beyond better weapons and upgrades, this is where you'll be able to buy new outfits for Ash. I purchased a hat worthy of Terry Bogard and never looked back.
Player movement is a little on the loose side for an action-adventure platformer, though I didn't encounter any particularly punishing obstacles to maneuver past. This was the beginning of the game, after all, so it makes sense. Even if precision jumping does eventually delve into frustrating territory, there are safe spots that can recharge your lost health.
The demonstration ended with -- what else? -- a boss fight. It wasn't anything too fancy and basically required some careful dodges and a crapload of missiles, but the boss' character design was excellent. I'm really curious to see where future encounters go in terms of challenge.
As a fan of Arkedo, it's fantastic to see the team get the opportunity to work on a larger project -- one that a wider audience will get to play. Hell Yeah! is quickly on its way to being the studio's best work yet and the thought of having to wait until this summer to play more is bumming me out.