Sonic the Hedgehog often soaks up all the attention for Sega, but once upon a time their roster was filled with bizarre and colorful platform heroes like Vectorman, Toejam and Earl, and Earthworm Jim. Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a cartoonishly gory throwback to such glory days, a light Metroidvania-like title in which Ash, the skeletal bunny prince of hell, sets out to kill the 100 monsters who’ve been talking trash about him. The variety of these mini-bosses (and the ways in which they die: stung to death by hornets, sliced apart by a soccer net, blown up by a shark-missile) suggests variety and vibrancy for the genre, but the uneven (and often unclear) challenges make the actual gameplay more tedious than anything else. It’s gloriously hand-drawn, a la Metal Slug, but pretty rough around the edges.
For instance: The game allows you to purchase a wide variety of weapons (machine guns, rockets, pistols, grenade launchers, flamethrowers), but there’s very little difference between them, particularly in the late game. Though the 10 zones all look different, the mechanics are almost entirely the same, with the final Museum level mimicking the teleports from the earlier Casino level, and the ship from Space being controlled identically to the submarine and helicopter from the Jail and Happy Cute zones. Along these lines, few mini-bosses—or even bosses—require any real strategy: You just stand slightly out of reach and unload. (The ridiculous WarioWare-like mini-games used to finish these guys are often more complicated and varied than the fights themselves.)
There’s a good game somewhere in here. Ash’s primary means of transport is a spinning, jet-pack-fueled wheel (covered in blades) that pokes fun at Sonic—and the self-referential dialogue, evocative of the Disgaea series, does this too (Ash asks at one point, “What, do I look like I’m collecting seven emeralds?”). Each upgrade allows the wheel to drill through harder materials, which allows you to backtrack and kill the once-out-of-reach monsters whose souls you’ll need in order to progress through locked “hell doors.” (Teleporters help you get around more quickly too.) And yet, these same doors force you down a fixed, too-linear path; neat mechanics like the gravity-reversing magnets in the Ruins or the control-reversing hippies in the Psychedelic zone are one-shot deals that severely limit the complexity of the level design.
It’s as if nobody really thought about the big picture—that is, how everything would work together. Most telling of all is an entirely separate feature that unlocks an hour or two into the eight-hour game: “The Island,” accessed only by quitting out to the main menu, allows you to put your captured monsters to work, Tamagotchi-style, in order to gain new in-game items. It’s a meaningless chore (I beat the game so quickly that I hadn’t yet earned a single thing) that suggests the developers weren’t quite sure what sort of audience would be playing their game. There’s also an online leaderboard, but it’s unclear exactly what it correlates to (the total amount of money earned?). This isn’t to say that Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit itself is meaningless, or a chore (the jokes can be clever, and some of the kills can be rather satisfying), but the total package isn’t nearly as exciting as the title’s exclamation point would have you believe.