MadWorld Review: Simple Jack

Madworld gives Wii owners the opportunity to take out their frustrations on scores of helpless bags of meat and brain dead street scum—no match for a buff bounty hunter with a chainsaw for an arm.

The first offering from PlatinumGames, by way of Sega, the stylized black and white (and blood soaked red) brawler puts the gravelly, pumped-up protagonist Jack in the televised Deathwatch, a kill or be killed game show that's part Smash TV, part The Running Man. It's like a slapstick version of Rockstar Games' Manhunt, minus the stealth, self-preservation streak, and snuff perversion. MadWorld's excessive violence isn't horrific, it's comedic. Enemies are liquefied in jet turbines, decapitated with golf clubs, crushed into crimson goo by gigantic mechanical hands. All in good fun, of course.

Does MadWorld have more to offer Wii owners than the novelty of a bloody fireworks show and a rare chance for an ultra-violent, Mature-rated game for the more family friendly library?

Loved
Blacks, Whites: Despite having a palette that consists of black, white, red and the occasional yellow onomatopoeia, MadWorld manages to remain aesthetically interesting and surprisingly visually legible. There's no lack of style on hand, with distinctly different levels, from city streets to medieval manors, helping to keep things fresh. What's somewhat surprising though, given the limited graphical scope, is MadWorld's non-progressive scan resolution and bouts of annoying slowdown.

Sense of Humor: A good portion of the appeal here is how ridiculous the Deathwatch scenarios can be, some of which we wish we hadn't had spoiled prior to playing. The running commentary has its moments of good humor, which is just as crude and dying to be offensive as the on-screen violence.

Variety Show: PlatinumGames does an admirable job of keeping the action fresh for a long time. The addition of new weapons, new deathtraps and mid-level Bloodbath Challenges help to break up the constant punching and sawing. A couple of driving levels add a dash of variety, but are about as satisfying as driving levels in action games tend to be. You'll probably wind up looking for ways to improvise on your violence, if only to keep the spark alive. Deathwatch Challenges scattered throughout help to spice up the body count.

Satisfaction: MadWorld is oddly satisfying for a brawler. That's atypical in the current generation, where beat 'em ups tend to grow stale almost immediately, as opposed to MadWorld's hours worth of fun.

Deadly Nunchuk: It helps that the use of the Wii remote is mostly so intelligent, not to mention so forgiving. Almost everything you do works without a struggle and the controller is mapped wisely enough to feel almost instinctive. Headbutting, for example, is curiously fun with the Nunchuk. That said, there are a couple of control quirks and extended play sessions, full frantic Wii Remote waggling, can wreak havoc on the more delicate of wrists.

Hated
Where Camera Meets Control: The most maddening aspect of MadWorld is the inability to see where your enemies are and, if you do, throwing a flurry of punches that are in the wrong direction. Trying to pick up weapons or power-ups can be frustrating, as you may find yourself constantly correcting your location in a vain attempt to pick up that damned tire or head-skewering umbrella, then whiffing past your opponent.

What Am I Doing? Oh, Right. Points. Some level objectives can be confusing or unclear, leading to the excessive beating of respawning enemies while you search for the next objective. Unfortunately, sometimes that objective is simply "Score more points."

Ad Nauseam: Constantly running commentary isn't easy to do, but even after an hour, the dick jokes and "What's in that Mad Juice, anyway?" questions grow tiresome. The game's looping soundtrack is similarly grating, especially when you're doing the same thing over and over again in-game to acquire more points to move on. Losing all your lives during a boss fight, then having to restart the entire level can compound the tedium quickly.

MadWorld manages to be sexy, shallow, giddy, gory fun for hours, with a simplistic retro gameplay sensibility. Then the game continues for a few more hours, the novelty having worn off a little more than halfway through. Getting to that crescendo, however, having seen chunky thugs eviscerated, amputated and penetrated by street signs is a blast. It's perhaps made more enjoyable for how referential the game is, with not-so-subtle design references to quirky properties like Smash TV, The Running Man, Sin City, Hellboy, and Evil Dead. The game's bosses feel similarly referential, playing up archetypes that would feel at home in a Mega Man or Castlevania game, if those games went in a terribly gory direction.

Minor technical issues can interfere with the experience, but not to the point where it renders the game unenjoyable. The game's plot line also overstays its welcome after a surprising "Hey, there's going to be a story in this game!" moment. So don't be afraid to jam A + B simultaneously to skip this stuff and get back to the more satisfying aspect, the theme park of violent fun. MadWorld is worth, at the very least, a rental and, more than likely, a purchase, if only to see what disgusting fun one can have with the Wii for a few days.

MadWorld was developed by PlatinumGames, published by Sega for the Wii, released on March 10th in North America. Retails for $49.99. Played single-player game to completion, tested multiplayer modes.

Confused by our reviews? Read our review FAQ.