(content warning: cartoony violence and blood within. there’s also an aside about a game designer’s transphobia, but not in the game itself.)
Ever had a moment where you’re scrolling through your library on Steam or some other digital storefront and spotted a game in your library that you have no memory of acquiring? Something that made you wonder “when the hell did I buy this?,” causing you to frantically search Humble Bundle and the 3-4 other discount key storefronts you have accounts on just to have the record of when you purchased that game? Well, the game I’m writing about this time was like that for me, a game that somehow was in my Steam library for literally years. I was confused on how it got there. Maybe I bought it from hell or something.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a… rather bizarre action-adventure/metroidvania (ugh) game that was in my Steam library for a long time. Released in 2012 for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and Steam, it’s an unusual choice of game in my library mostly because of the game’s publisher: Sega.
You know Sega, right? The company that puts out okay-to-great Sonic the Hedgehog games, the amazing Yakuza/Like a Dragon games, and occasionally dabbles in their back catalog once in a blue moon, right? In addition to its main headquarters in Tokyo, Japan and the oft memed USA branch, there’s another important division, an unsung hero of the company: Sega Europe, publishers of iconic PC gaming franchises like Total War, Company of Heroes, Endless Space and Football Manager. They dabble in other games as well, but Sega Europe’s is the reason Hell Yeah! was published by them and not like, 505 Games or something.
Hell Yeah! was offered as one of the free gift packages in “Make War Not Love,” a promotion Sega Europe was doing with its iconic strategy game franchises where playing either of those games – Company of Heroes 2, Total War: Attila and Warhammer: Dawn of War II – would result in unlocking content for those respective games. Hell Yeah! was packed in alongside other Sega games like Viking: Battle for Asgard, Renegade Ops and some of the games in the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive Classics Collection. All of these were offerings for the third “Make War Not Love” event, which happened in February 2016, just in time for Valentine’s Day.
But let’s talk about Hell Yeah! itself. Developed by Arkedo Studio, a games studio based in Paris, France, was mostly known for relatively forgotten platformers in their “Arkedo Series” of games. Said games had fairly unremarkable titles like Jump!, SWAP!, and Pixel!. Hell Yeah! would be their last major game released while the studio was still active. Eventually one more game would be released not long after the studio shut down: Poöf vs the Cursed Kitty, released one year later and published by Neko Entertainment. Surprisingly this game doesn’t end with an exclamation point in its title.
In Hell Yeah!, you play as Ash, a bunny rabbit who reigns supreme over the realms of hell. Through negligence on his part, pictures of him are taken by paparazzi and spread around the shores of hell, causing it to damage his reputation. With help from his servant Nestor, Ash opts to seek revenge by finding the culprit who leaked those photos in the first place, which requires defeating 100 monsters around the world.
Ash has a fairly modest arsenal to start. Not long after the beginning, Ash acquires a super-sawing jetpack that allows Ash to drill through certain materials and fly to certain areas. In addition, Ash can acquire a slew of weapons: Slow-firing missiles that can blast through rock and destroy enemies with ease. Eventually after the tutorial area, Nestor gifts Ash with a second weapon: A machine gun, one that looks similar to the famous M41A Pulse Rifle from the Aliens films.
To shoot, you hold RT on the gamepad and move the right stick around to aim. Switching weapons can be done with the D-pad, which gives more direct access; or RB, which cycles through all your owned weapons. The latter of which is a pain if you wanna use a specific weapon, but the D-pad method is cumbersome to do while in the midst of combat.
Since I have to shoot a weapon in a somewhat clunky way, it makes it difficult to move and shoot at the same time, especially if some monsters are constantly moving and firing projectiles that are difficult to dodge in time.
With money found in the wild, Ash can buy new weapons that do more damage, like a bazooka that shoots slower but does more damage, a shotgun with wider spread, that sort of stuff. Each weapon has an ammo meter that drains when used but refills automatically when not firing.
As he roams around the world, he can attack enemies with his jetpack and his weapons, and once their health is down, a random minigame begins as a finishing move. Most are simple button-mashing affairs, others require precise timing or tapping buttons in rhythm. Completing it will cause Ash to do a flashy finishing move on the monster. Failure causes the monster to regain some health and Ash to take damage.
Since this was released during the tail end of the Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 era, that means these are quick-time events, and a lot of times they’d give you little to no time to react, or in some cases I’d be in the middle of attacking them, given a quick-time event, and then instantly fail the finishing move because I couldn’t tell I was close to finishing him off.
Worse off, since these finishing animations take a few seconds and repeat fairly often, get ready to watch the same animations of Ash doing fancy moves to fling the monster up into the sky before slamming them down, or the same animation of the monster being destroyed by a truck, a T-Rex, or even a gigantic microwave. Honestly, they should’ve made shorter versions of these once you seen them before, or give the option to skip them, because otherwise these slow down the pace of an otherwise action-packed game.
Eliminating enough monsters will activate doors needed to make progress, and will later unlock boss fights and unlock abilities. That’s where the metroidvania (ugh) trappings show up: Some areas are locked away until you have a weapon or ability that makes them accessible, and once you get 2/3rds of the way through the game you’ll need to fast travel at teleport places and revisit previous inaccessible areas.
Oh yeah, those monsters have a purpose after destroying them: A section called The Island can have the monsters assigned to certain sections to upgrade health, money, or items. Sadly this is cordoned off to a separate area that requires you to quit the game and head to the main menu to access, and I only got one fancy cosmetic item out of this in my entire playthrough. I couldn’t tell if they even did anything to improve Ash in any way, it really feels like this has little purpose in the final game.
Throughout the campaign, you’ll see conversations between Ash, Nestor and the various monsters Ash meets, usually with fairly goofy dialogue. Hell Yeah! was co-written by Arkedo studio head Camille Guermonprez, and former games journalist-turned-blogger Rev. Stuart Campbell.
Normally I wouldn’t really mention this sort of stuff for this article, but when doing research for this post, I found out that Stuart Campbell, a former editor for Amiga Power magazine, follows noted TV writer turned transphobic moron Graham Linehan, and Campbell himself spews fairly transphobic comments on his Twitter. While there isn’t anything particularly offensive in the game’s writing — it’s mostly bland and tries to be crude for crude’s sake — finding out that one of the co-writers of this game is kind of a bellend does sour my interest in this game a little.
Hell Yeah! has an interesting premise and decent gameplay, but it does have a few problems. Ash can die fairly easily by either being constantly hit with no invincibility frames or accidentally falling on deadly spikes. Enemies don’t really drop healing items or anything, and while Ash can heal at blood fountains ran by Ms. Fountaine, these are few and far between, which often require some backtracking or brute-forcing through areas with 12 health, knowing one hit will lead to certain death. I can see where they were going with the metroidvania influences, but even those games gave you healing items from random foes.
Once I finished the game, I didn’t have much incentive to go back. There were missions that I could play that involved racing or doing challenges, but the cash rewards were pitiful and completing all of them just unlocked a cosmetic goodie, giving me little reason to play them, since I already finished. There even was DLC released called “The Virtual Rabbit Missions” that expands upon this mission concept with some challenging levels ala Metal Gear Solid: VR Missions, but it’s not something I’m really interested in playing through.
When I started looking up info on Hell Yeah, I was genuinely surprised this was a Sega game at first. Outside of a DLC pack that unlocked masks and wheels based on iconic Sega franchises like Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi, I could barely tell that this was something Sega would publish. Hell, Arkedo seems to give more love to its own classic games here than Sega’s, which is mostly sly references to those franchises without directly mentioning them. It’s not really bad per se, but it just seems like an odd fit for the studio that publishes stuff like Total War and Sonic the Hedgehog.
Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is a perfectly fine game. It doesn’t reinvent the genres it’s inspired from, but is at least fun for a few hours. As the British games press would say, it’s a perfectly fine 5/10 game. I’d say it’s at least worth a look, if you can get past the cartoony gore and occasionally off-putting humor, at least. It kinda hearkens back to those late 2000s-early 2010s era of Xbox Live Arcade, where big publishers would release smaller projects by smaller developers. While that’s still technically a thing, it definitely doesn’t happen with the frequency as it did then.
It’s on Steam if you want to play it for yourself. It’s definitely not worth $15, it’s very much a “get it on a sale” game. Knowing Sega Europe, maybe they’ll put it as an offering in “Make War Not Love 6” or something. That is, if they still do anything like that these days.
Now this has me wondering what other free games I have in my Steam library that I have no memory of getting. This is usually why I ignore most “hey this game is free” announcements unless they’re fairly notable games like on the Epic Games Store or something I actually want. I got enough of a backlog, thank you, I don’t need to add more to it.
This was available to folks on Patreon a few days early. If you wanna do the same, don’t stress yourself out on annoying button mashing quick-time events, just go to my Patreon here. Just $1 will get you in!