“We’re going to kill monsters. There will be blood. We’re going to torture them.” That was the mantra behind Arkedo Studios’ Hell Yeah!, a game that would look right at home on Nickelodeon if the network turned a blind eye to the game’s ocean of blood.
Hell Yeah! isn’t a high concept, pretentious game looking to change how the world feels about games or life. Studio Head Camille Guermonprez said the bloodbath was designed around one simple question: “How fun can it be to kill a monster?” The developer is quite candid about the inspirations for his Metroidvania adventure. “We wanted to make a video game. The stuff that made us want to make games.”
Hell Yeah! is set in a cheerfully demented version of hell where Ash, the prince of the underworld who also happens to be a skeletal demon rabbit, has gone on a monster-killing rampage because the tabloids have posted risqué pictures of him. It’s an escapist fantasy born out of months of tedious contract work where Arkedo had limited freedom. It was a stifling environment for a studio designed around being creative and taking risks. “The project was based out of frustration,” Guermonprez said, recalling the doldrums of the contract days. “We’re happy to have been frustrated. It was worth it.”
All of that pent up frustration has exploded in the form of the bloodthirsty demon’s fury. The result is a game packed with colorful, lively characters that belie the gruesome violence at the heart of Hell Yeah! “We wanted each monster unique and completely silly.” From what I saw during my brief time with the game, it looks as if Arkedo has succeeded. After a few minutes of exploring the fiery first level, I encountered Nestor, a purple octopus with a top hat and monocle. The cephalopod introduced me to what Guermonprez dubbed “the wheel,” a circular saw blade that revolves around Ash and shreds through enemies and certain barriers. It also doubles as a rocket pack that allowed me to boost up tall shafts very quickly. If anything, Ash moves a hair too briskly. His momentum also can cause him to slip off platforms when falling, an issue that Guermonprez said the team was addressing.
Once I located my prey, I held down the right trigger to chew through its defenses, which then prompted a simple mini-game where I had to mash the A button quickly. Each monster has its own mini-game that will result in Ash performing an outlandish finishing move such as pulling out a laser gun and blasting it with a giant beam of energy, or using a bow and arrow to shoot it with an impossibly dense hailstorm of arrows. “We’re not taking ourselves too seriously. The only thing we want is for people to have fun.” I kind of got that message somewhere between the flying eyeballs and monsters exploding into pieces of steak.
Many of those antics are the work of Aurélien Regard, the game’s art designer. Guermonprez spoke about the man who controlled the creative direction of the game with an obvious respect. “It’s not a democracy,” Guermonprez said. He compared the design process to mixing together colors. “If too many people add colors, you get brown.”
Once I killed two or three monsters, a gate unlocked that allowed me to progress to the next area containing a shop. The robo-rabbit shopkeeper had missiles that I needed to kill a flying electrical brain, as well as plenty of cosmetic upgrades for the wheel. I hoped the monsters would be more intimidated if I donned an American flag motorcycle helmet and a deadly donut wheel.
Being a Metroidvania game, there are plenty of branching pathways and hidden areas. The wheel was able to break through the pink crystalline substance that impeded some areas, but there were others that were inaccessible. Guermonprez confirmed that Ash would have to return to areas once he’d acquired upgrades in order to collect items and murder some of the game’s monsters. While the radar did a reasonable job of directing me toward my next victim, it did freak out a bit at the very end and direct me toward an area that I wasn’t able to reach. Guermonprez said they were aware of the issue and it was already fixed in an updated version.
A few minor, correctable issues aside, Hell Yeah! is shaping up to be a hell of a lot of fun. We’ll find out for sure when it hits XBLA, PSN and Steam this summer.