By: Jac Bakley, Video Game Critic
Hi, everyone. I have a special treat for you today- a Wii game brought to us by the geniuses (so to speak) who gave us Sonic the Hedgehog: MadWorld.
Yep, I couldn’t possibly pass by this one. Developed by PlatinumGames and published by Sega, MadWorld is one of those games that often goes overlooked, yet remains one of the most notorious gems on its console. Why is that the case? Well, one of the signs of its notoriety is the fact that it was banned in Germany, and stirred up a lot of controversy for being a Wii-exclusive title. Why was it banned in certain countries? Why has it stirred up so much controversy? Let’s find out.
The game is set in the United States, in the fictitious Jefferson City. An unnamed group of terrorists has attacked the city and infected many civilians with a virus. The virus will kill them in 24 hours, but if someone commits a homicide, they will receive the cure. This results in a game show called “DeathWatch”, in which the civilians partake in a survival game to see who comes out alive. The game is not lacking in creativity, I’ll give it that.
The game is a hack n’ slash, and you take control of Jack, a man with a robotic arm who looks like Jet from Cowboy Bebop. Right off the bat, you’ll notice the different style of visuals. The game is entirely black and white, and it really presents like a comic book; words like “smash” and “vroom” accompany the sound effects, and the cutscenes consist of comic panels. It’s a lot like Frank Miller’s Sin City, isn’t it? In fact, according to Shigenori Nishikawa, who directed MadWorld, the game’s graphics were actually inspired by Sin City, and they wanted the game to present like an American comic book, as opposed to a Japanese manga. That’s quite clever, I have to say.
Let’s talk about the controls. Of course, moving is pretty self-explanatory. Z jumps, C targets an enemy, A punches, holding A grabs enemies, swinging the Wii remote uppercuts enemies, and swinging the Nunchuk causes Jack to backflip. Hitting A multiple times when right in front of an enemy will allow Jack to punch them repeatedly and finish them off with a chainsaw to the face. Holding B will activate the chainsaw, which can be used to instantly kill enemies for a short time until it needs to cool off. While holding an enemy, you can swing the Wii remote to chuck them away from you, and they will either be slightly injured or die of a broken neck or impalement. Violent, huh?
Yeah, let’s talk about that. Right off the bat, you’ll notice how insanely gory this game is. This game is oozing with blood; enemies bleed every time you punch them, whenever they are thrown, and whenever they get killed. You can tear enemies in half with your chainsaw and cause them to spew blood everywhere, you can pick up street signs and run them through their heads, and you can impale enemies by throwing them into these things called rosebushes, which are basically giant spikes attached to the sides of the city buildings. After punching an enemy a certain number of times, you can perform a finishing move, which is either slamming them onto the ground back and forth, spinning them around and throwing them like a javelin, running a chainsaw through their chest, or tearing their head right off their body, all ending with a sprinkler of blood. Seriously, I have never seen this much blood in a video game, and hilariously, it’s the only thing in the game that’s in color.
MadWorld went so far with its blood and intense violence that it almost never hit store shelves. The PEGI (which, if you don’t know, is basically the ESRB in PAL territories) originally refused to give it a rating, which would mean stores could not sell it, and many parent groups in North America petitioned for it to be banned. Of course, neither of those actually happened, but MadWorld did end up being banned in Germany, and Nintendo was heavily criticized for allowing it to be released on the Wii.
But about this violence; honestly, despite the immense amount of blood and gore, the violence in MadWorld is so cartoonish- almost being reminiscent of Looney Tunes. Enemies can get killed by being electrocuted by transformers, getting decimated by moving trains, disintegrating by being thrown into moving fans, and so on, and it is so asinine it’s hard not to laugh. But honestly, the ridiculousness of the violence is part of the reason this game is so fun to play; it allows for a greater and funnier variety of ways to show those enemies who’s the man. And I think I now know why this game received an M rating when it should have received an A rating.
Anyway, back to the gameplay. About halfway through certain levels, you’ll be given the option to face off against a giant man with a bull mask wielding a chainsaw with twin blades. Punching him won’t help you much, because he’ll just run his blade through you before you can stun him. Using the chainsaw blade a few times will certainly kill him, but sometimes he’ll swipe his blades before you do, and you’ll need to keep swinging the Wii remote and Nunchuk to fend him off. He can also charge at you with the horns on his mask, and watch out; it’s hard to avoid, and it will deal you a considerable amount of damage. Three chainsaw swipes will certainly kill him, and you’ll be rewarded with a massive amount of points.
Halfway through each level, you’ll also be able to play a game called “Bloodbath Challenge”. Here, you’ll be tasked to dispose of many enemies in a variety of ways, either by throwing them into a jet turbine, impaling them on spikes, throwing them until a guillotine, and so on. You usually pick enemies up and throw them into these targets like a game of darts, and the more you kill at the same time, the more points you’ll earn. Each Bloodbath Challenge lasts two minutes, so gather those enemies and get those points racked up!
Each level contains a boss fight, which you can play after earning a certain amount of points. Boss fights include a mace-wielding El Gigante, a robotic Hitler wannabe, and a Chinese fan-wielding princess. These bosses aren’t that hard to beat, but they are pretty tough when they do manage to attack you. Some attacks are impossible to avoid, and you’re going to take a hit anyway. Other attacks are avoidable via quick-time event, and you have to shake the Wii remote and Nunchuk like you’re having a seizure to fend them off. After doing that for a few seconds, you’ll be prompted to do a different motion in order to shake them off, and you will deal a severe amount of damage to them by doing so, either by having them get electrocuted, running your chainsaw through their face, and so on. After the boss fight, you’ll progress to the next level, depending on how many points you racked up during the one you previously played.
One entertaining feature of this game is the announcers. As said before, the setting is a game show, so of course there are going to be commentators throughout the levels, and they totally steal the show here. They say things about Jack, the enemies, the boss battles, and themselves, and they say some of the funniest video game quotes I’ve heard in my life. Seriously, the things they say are enough to distract you during combat. While I was playing, I actually had to pause the game for a few minutes because I was laughing so hard at one of their quotes (which I will not mention due to its obscenity). Some of their funnier quotes include: “Did I say ironic? I meant fucking awesome!”, “If you were down there fighting, you’d scream and crap your pants!”, and “You don’t earn points by running away, Jack!”. Sure, it gets repetitive, but some of their quotes will hold up until the game is over.
Now let’s talk about MadWorld’s few problems. The soundtrack consists of mostly heavy metal tunes, which I guess works with the theme of the game, but it honestly feels a bit repetitive and hurts my ears a bit. Maybe that’s just me, because I really hate heavy metal, but I just really don’t like the soundtrack. Next, the camera. There’s no button to control the camera, other than using C to target enemies, and sometimes it doesn’t pan in the direction you want, making it difficult to see and attack enemies. It requires careful turning of the joystick while moving to pan the camera in the direction you want it, and even that is difficult to do. This is a problem during boss fights, as you sometimes won’t be able to dodge attacks that can sometimes take a large portion of your life. Also, the C button doesn’t always work the way it should, so targeting enemies can be a little hard due to the fact that you don’t face in their direction when holding C. They should have taken lessons from The Legend of Zelda games on N64.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is MadWorld- a game with stylish graphics, excellent gameplay, and hilarious action that makes it one of my favorite Wii games. Following the game’s release, PlatinumGames went on to make the masterful Bayonetta 2, which turned out to be my favorite Wii U game. Unfortunately, MadWorld didn’t sell well for obvious reasons, but despite this, it is a work of art. Of course, it’s not for everyone due to its insane violence and gratuitous language, but if you can handle all that, buy it. Now.