It's a Madworld
Remember Clover Studios? You know, the studio that made some of the most fun games of the last generation, such as Viewtiful Joe, Okami, and God Hand. Yeah, well, if you were wondering what happened after the studio had closed, the brilliant minds that made that developer studio has reformed as Platinum Games, and has delivered their first Wii game, Madworld, and it aims to please, and shock. Literally.
Humourus, vulgar, and a surprisingly deep storyline propel this game to a must have status, especially as a game from a third party developer.
MadWorld has only four colors in its palette: Black, White, Red, and Yellow (plus an extra color when you play through one of the later levels). With the black and white colors, the art style makes it look like a living comic book, especially in the cutscenes where comic book panels are used. To add to the comic book style, word sound effects are added to the action, such as "BLAM!" or "KRAASH!!" in yellow coloring. The game can only go up to 480i however, but it's not much of a problem when you realize it looks good either way. Very smooth, but a few slowdowns occur later in the game.
The style also varies for the different levels and characters. The first area is a run-down, gang-filled alley way, much like the settings of the old arcade beat-em-ups, with enemies looking like a freak circus trying to imitate the punk style of the 80s. Asia Town is a cultural (and inaccurate) amusement park with Ninjas and Geishas. You'll even go into a zombie-filled castle and a parody of Area 51. It all works well with the black and white style, and is very easy to see everything.
Beat-em-ups aren't really known for their storylines, but this one impresses. If you aren't familiar with story writers in video games, the plot to Madworld is written by Yasumi Matsuno, who wrote the plotline to Final Fantasy XII.
On Jefferson Island, the citizens of Varrigan City are trapped after terrorists known as "The Organizers" cut off all traffic access to the island along with a whole black out on information, essentially isolating the island's residents. The Organizers have arranged for the citizens to compete in a kill-or-be-killed game show called Death Watch. Why are people killing others? Simple. The island was sprayed with a deadly virus, and citizens would only get the antidote if they participated in the show, but they must first prove it by killing someone.
That's where Jack comes in. He finds himself a sponser and starts to earn interest from the audience as he takes down the ranked contestants one by one and goes deeper into the island. Along the way, you'll encounter some pretty cool little twists and turns, and discover that Jack isn't all he seems to be.
While the story has a rather serious tone to it, outside of the story is much different. Everything in the presentation of Death Watch is falt out INSANE, and I mean it. Blood gets splattered as you chuck a bunch of thugs into jet turbines and rotating saw blades, or impale a guy on a spike on his own nether sphincter, or tearing your foes in half with two, oversized daggers. It's insane. And if that weren't enough, two announcers provide play by play and color commentary, that is absolutely hilarious, and at the same time, absolutely vulgar. It's an F-bomb after another, with tons of sex jokes, and bickering between the two. Plus, you might question whether or not the "Black Baron" is actually black.
This game didn't get an M rating for nothing.
The basic controls for attack just involve pressing buttons, rather than constantly waggling the controllers to punch foes. Times that motion is required becomes very rewarding. When holding the B button, Jack revs up his chainsaw, and a swing of the remote will make Jack give a horizontal or vertical slash. Shaking the nunchuck does a dodge, and when grabbing an enemy, you can shake the nunchuck to stun him with a headbutt. Only minor complaint with the controls is that you really have no control over the camera, except recentering it.
But the real meat of the controls come from the finishers. When you pull these off, by following the onscreen gestures, not only will you have taken a life in the most shocking way possible, you will feel satisfied. Stuff like breaking people's back or decapitating them feels so good and rewarding.
When it comes to the overall gameplay, it's a beat-em-up at its core. For each area (5 in total, there are two normal levels (each with bosses), and one main boss level. You need to earn points through the levels to unlock weapons or other items, or the super hilarious bloodbath challenges, until you are finally able to fight the boss. Points are based on your kill combos. Slicing a guy in half would net you a little bit of points, but constricting him with a tire, stabbing 5 sign posts through his head, then throw him into the path of other people either sending them into human garbage dumpsters, spiked walls, jet turbines, or other environmental dangers. The normal fighting, using your fists, doesn't get very deep, compared to Clover Studio's God Hand, a game in the same genre as Madworld, but it's only needed to weaken your opponents before giving the big finish.
At first, the enemies don't pose much of a threat. More like cannon fodder than anything, and this is a good way to get players accustomed to the points system, but during the levels, you'll come across mini bosses, and they aren't push overs. One mini boss in particular on the third area can take off a HUGE chunk of your health, even an instant kill, if you're grabbed by one of the enemies. Difficulty gets progressivly harder, but once you beat the game on normal, you'll get the option to play on hard mode, which is truely painful. You will die alot, and get hit a few times and you'll go down. Plus you only have one life to spare. Talk about cruel.
Other than that, you can complete the game in around 5 hours or so, but the replay value comes from the kills you create throughout the game. Those who aren't artistic (or insane) enough won't be motivated much to go back through it.
In the music department, the soundtrack consists of rap and hip-hop tracks. Not any of that Soulja Boy or other crap, this stuff is actually good. It fits the overall mood of the game, and the lyrics, while you won't understand them half the time, give you the same, yet always awesome idea:
"Jack is awesome. He'll murder you. You're f***ing boned"
Speaking of which, given that it's a Mature rated game, there's sure to be some suggestive material in the dialogue. More like lewd. No, more like vulgar and outrageous beyond all comprehension. Although enemies will often repeat the same line over and over (the punk enemies in the first area will repeatedly say "GET YOU FOR THAT, MUTHAF***A!!"), but dialog in the cutscenes from the cast of characters is very well done. Jack's voice over Steve Blum provides an excellent gruff yet cool tone to the character, but the real show stealers, actually don't make a physical appearance. As I mentioned earlier, the game has two commentators that will watch and comment on your performance, all the while being offensive and vulgar in their vocabulary as possible. Voiced by none other than Greg Proops (Whose Line is it Anyway?) and John DiMaggio (Bender from Futurama, and Marcus Fenix from Gears of War).
Greg voices Howard "Buckshot" Holmes, a man whose hired by Death Watch to be their play-by-play announcer, and often talks about his terrible love life and tries to crack jokes while failing to impress anyone, especially his color commentator, Krease Kreely.
Krease is voiced by DiMaggio, and is portrayed as a brutish, and not to bright person, and was a former contestant on the Death Watch show, and when you fight against the different bosses, he'll talk about his encounters with them, ranging from getting his scrotum torn, to him being declared legally dead for a weak after giving for pipes worth of plasma.
Although the dialogue gets recycled at sections through the game, it's still very hilarious, and always good to hear, especially when you reach the credits. You'll get one last good laugh as you finish the game.
A very solid beat-em-up, and a sort of a spiritual sequel to God Hand, this game is a good choice for any grown up Wii gamer looking for a good time from all the shovelware flooding the system.
You know, scratch that last though, EVERYONE, and I mean EVERYONE, should play this game. Screw the ESRB rating, this game is too good to pass up, even if you're below the age rating. Platinum Games, even as a new studio, still holds all the same talent and creativity that made up Clover Studios.
Play it. Or better yet, BUY IT.