Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Platform: Wii
Rating: M for Mature (Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Sexual Themes, Strong Language)
Players: 1-2
Price: $9.99 new

Now here's a game that feels dramatically out of place on a "family friendly" console.  Gratuitous violence, profane language, and silly over-the-top gameplay, all in one package.  Put the kids to bed, it's time for the REAL action to start!

MADWORLD is a difficult game to categorize, because it doesn't fit into any genre particularly easily.  It has action written all over it, the scoring aspect makes it feel like an arcade game, and the story and progression make it feel a bit like an adventure game.  It's obviously not all three at once.

When the "hardcore" gaming crowd rags on the Wii, one of the biggest complaints is the graphics.  To be honest, I agree with them.  The sheer processing power of the Wii is lackluster compared to the Sony and Microsoft counterparts.  When Platinum Games set out to make MADWORLD, I'm certain that they had to take this limitation into account.  The red-on-monochrome made the game fit into its own visual aesthetic, and for the better.

MADWORLD's looks remind me of this in all the right ways.

When Varrigan City, a fictional Manhattan lookalike is shut off from the rest of society, chaos and panic ensue. The civilians trapped on the island find themselves stuck in a deranged game show called "Death Watch," which pits them against each other until one man remains.  In some ways, this reminds me of the Japanese slasher flick, "Battle Royale."  Competitors are forced to kill, while the world's rich and famous watch and place bets on them. 

The story of MADWORLD focuses around a Mr. Jack Cayman, a mercenary with a chainsaw strapped to his wrist. Jack picks up a sponsorship from Agent XIII, and proceeds to knock heads to win money and fame.

Gameplay involves slaughtering as many "weak" thugs as you can, using your environment in ever more creative ways.  As you do so, you get "points," which are required to progress to different areas of the stage.  Roughly halfway through, you'll start a "Bloodbath Challenge," a mini-game that can really rack up a lot of bonus points for you if you play it right.  Challenges include "Head Golf," "Death Press," the "Money Shot," "Hanabi," Japanese for "Flower," and "Man Darts." Don't ask.

The Bloodbath Challenges also make for entertaining use of motion controls.  Swing the Wii remote like a bat to launch thugs in "Man Darts."  Toss whole groups of thugs into the "Turbinator" for the "Massacre" bonus multiplier.  When your score reaches a certain threshold, the boss battle becomes available.  There's usually a small cinematic to lead you into the fight, then it's no holds barred until one man dies.  As you fight each of the bosses, you'll have a Quick Time Event (QTE) that has you shaking the Wii remote and nunchuk in certain directions.  Successfully pull them off, and can take a big chunk of health out of your opponent.  Fail, and you feel the hurt.
He really should have seen the signs...
Commentators Howard "Buckshot" Holmes and Kreese Kreely provide commentary for Jack's exploits, and this really makes MADWORLD shine.

Kreese: "I don't know why they call him Little Eddie when he's so f***ing big."
Howard: "I think its supposed to be ironic"
Kreese: "...What?"
Howard: "You know, the use of words to express something, ultimately opposite of the literal meaning, usually in a humorous or sardonic literary style."
Kreese: "You got beat up in school a lot, didnt you?"
Howard: "Yeah..."

The two of them serve as comic relief, advisory panel, and hecklers, all in one package.  They also provide great advice on how to fail in life:

Howard: "Wow, that happy pill completely restored Jack's health!"
Kreese: "I guess drugs really ARE the answer!"
Howard: "...What was the question?"

Howard and Kreese are voiced by Greg Proops and John DiMaggio, respectively.  If you recognize either voice, you will love their antics even more.

One problem that faults way too many Wii games is the silly insistence on using the motion sensing capabilities of the Wii remote.  Too often, developers will use the motion capabilities in ways that the game was not meant to play.  When this does happen, the game feels clunky at best and unplayable at worst.  Thankfully, MADWORLD side steps these issues and uses the motion controls in ways that actually feel like they're meant to be there.  One example is the infamous spare tire.  Pick up a tire, walk up to a thug, and shake the Wii remote vertically to slam the tire over the thug.

Now, this game isn't without its faults. There were times I had to put down the game because my arms were sore from flailing like a Magikarp.  Also, the levels play almost exactly the same, aside from visual changes.  Every boss battle seems to involve dodging boss attacks, then moving in to slice the b****.  After a while, you get a QTE to do a bunch of damage, and then you repeat.  The Bloodbath Challenges offer some entertainment value, but the really don't do much to break the monotony of the game.

If nothing else, check out what Unskippable did with the opening cinematic:

In short, MADWORLD is crazy, bizarre, and tons of fun.  And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why I love this game.  Pick it up and try it out.

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