In an alternate universe where Sega launches their Dreamcast II and becomes even more popular than the Wii, Madworld would be their shining opus to Sega’s trademark: style and violence. Developed by Platinum Games (Bayonetta, Anarchy Reigns) and producer Atsushi Inaba (Viewtiful Joe, Okami, Devil May Cry), MadWorld satiates the bloodthirst of the most deranged Sega fanboy. Anyone living throughout the 90’s remembers the controversy Sega brought along with their Sega Genesis, having the bloody version of Mortal Kombat and creating the ESRB with Night Trap on the Sega CD. Sega has never shied away from violent games, but has fallen in ranks the past decade in controversy to Rockstar Games– anyone remember Manhunt? An open-world beat-em-up, MadWorld builds upon Sega classics like Jet Grind Radio, Streets of Rage, and Mortal Kombat to provide a gory, visceral experience catered to the adult Wii audience. With a gritty high contrast black-and-white color palette, MadWorld plays like Jet Grind Radio, except instead of decorating your game world with colorful graffiti, you paint the town red with the blood and guts of your enemies–the only color present in the game.
Set on the fictional Jefferson Island, you play as Jack Cayman, a chainsaw-wielding former marine, forced to participate in a televised death match game show (DeathWatch). Imagine an updated and fully-fleshed version of Smash TV and you get the idea. As Jack enters a section of the city, he must reach a certain score before fighting the boss. Extra points are awarded to those creative enough to earn them. Impale an enemy with a caution sign, shove a barrel over them, and then hang them on a meat hook to achieve a maximum combo. The comically over-saturated violence adds to the fun of the game, as you uncover new challenges and death traps to rack up points. The “Man Darts”, “Man Golf”, and various blood sport minigames not so subtly poke fun at the Wii Sports craze (Wii Blood Sports is a good description of these games). Throughout each level, you’ll unlock new “Blood Bath Challenges” where you can accumulate massive amounts of points by causing as much mayhem as possible. The challenges do repeat during some levels, but are nevertheless absolutely entertaining. The only downside to combat in the title is how crucial combo kills and challenges are in completing the game. You can’t simply hack everyone into pieces with your chainsaw (its incredibly easy and fun, though!). Because you have a time limit in each stage (around 30 mins), acquiring enough points to reach the stage boss can be tough (having only three lives a level doesn’t help).
Kreese Kreely (John Dimaggio) and Howard “Buckshot” Holmes(Greg Proops) are the announcers of DeathWatch, giving you second-by-second encouragements, insults, and insights on your unfiltered mayhem. The voice-acting is top-notch, and the x-rated comedy stylings of Greg and John will leave you chuckling at their depravity. Jack’s gruff voice (Steven Blum) adds to overall Sin City feel of the game, and every other character’s voice acting is great. The underground hip-hop soundtrack blends in well with the cel-shaded black and white graphics, driving home that Jet Grind Radio feel. The only complaint I can lodge would be against the repetitive announcer segments. For two minute challenges, the announcers only have two or three lines repeated over and over.
Although many might find the Wii’s smart gesture controls gimmicky, in MadWorld they literally make the game. With a regular gamepad, MadWorld just wouldn’t be as fun of a ride. Tapping A unleashes a slew of punches and B whips out your devastating chainsaw. Flailing around the Wiimote like you have a chainsaw attached to your arm will do the same in the game. Stun an enemy enough and you can perform a gory finishing move. The type of finishing move changes to different enemies, but my favorite has to be pulling the Wiimote and Nunchuk apart to twist off an enemy’s head. The finishing moves aren’t for everyone, they are by far the goriest and most visceral action scenes. Moving, jumping, and rotating the camera are haphazardly controlled by the Nunchuk. The camera can be a big issue during boss fights and more powerful enemies, as the lock on feature barely works and the camera can be a little wonky.
What would a great beat-em-up be without a slew of increasingly challenging boss fights? In MadWorld, you’ll face a giant monster named Lil Eddie [pictured], a werewolf, an armadillo man, and many more B-movie villains (the game doesn’t take itself seriously). Boss fights are not very hard at all. If you use the right gesture at the cue, you’ll get in a skirmish with the boss where successful time-event gestures will result in a big blow to the baddie’s health. With a little strategy, the bosses are mostly easy (until a few of them recharge their health–cough, cough, Frank). The most annoying enemies are the Drill Man and the Grim Reaper, who will appear randomly through the castle stage and wipe out half of your health.
The story, written by Yasumi Matsuno of Final Fantasy and Tactics Ogre fame, is surprisingly well-written for a bloody beat-em-up. This isn’t a Streets of Rage or Final Fight game with a short and vague story at the beginning. In MadWorld, the basic Running Man plot evolves into conspiracy theory, eventually revealing that contestants must fight against a lethal virus to obtain a vaccine. I found the story line to be engaging, though playing this game puts my mind off of paying attention.
All in all, MadWorld’s no-holds-barred approach to slapstick video game violence will leave you entertained for a good 5-6 hours. The smart gestures will leave you sore after a few tough boss fights, but really make you feel like you’re a cold-blooded chainsaw wielding killer. The Jet Grindhouse Radio level design and classic beat-em-up finishing moves wouldn’t disappoint even the most hardcore Mortal Kombat fan. While every Sega Genesis fan probably owned Streets of Rage, any Wii aficionado or game collector must own MadWorld. Despite its few flaws, the game may just be the most violent and fun game on the system. Get it while its still cheap!