Rockin' Android's latest release, Bunny Must Die: Chelsea and the 7 Devils, has finally made its North American debut with a surprise release in the Indie Royale Back to School Bundle. Originally released in Japan back in 2006, I was thoroughly impressed back in April when I got my hands on the then-world-exclusive complete English build. I really had to limit myself from turning my preview into a full on review because the gameplay was that darned good. As it turns out, not only can Murasame of Platine Dispositif make some pretty good shooting games, he can also craft a daring, difficult and delightful action platformer as well.
With that, it's time for the final verdict on this sweet Metroidvania title from the people who brought us The Gundemonium Collection on the PS3 and Steam.
The plot is fairly simple: Bunny was cursed with cat ears as a result of being caught in a feline power plant explosion, and it's time for vengeance! Using the power of time manipulation, a wide array of weaponry and jumping that rivals a certain Italian carpenter-turned-plumber, Bunny sets out to exact her revenge and lift her curse by taking out Chelsea and the Seven Devils. Thankfully, despite its hackneyed story, the gameplay is anything but.
The Devil's Labyrinth is a pretty hostile place with death lurking around every corner, and not the ideal place for a diminutive girl such as Bunny. Luckily though, she has some backup. Throughout the game, players find a bevy of different weapons, each with varying attack types, range and power. With such a wide array of death-deliverance, there's really a weapon out there for everyone. Typically, I use the Light Sword for its defensive properties while jumping around the screen.
Additionally, players come across enhancement items that grant Bunny new abilities such as wall jumps, flying kicks, enhanced offensive and defensive capabilities, and -- most importantly -- moving right. Don't worry, though -- that “power up” is literally available the second Bunny falls into stage 1!
Finally, there are time mechanics that add a twist to your typical Metroidvania game; you are able to freeze and even reverse time to help traverse the labyrinth and solve puzzles to power Bunny up on her journey. Additional abilities are unlocked as you find hourglass pickups. Additionally, while your time gauge is only tiny to begin with, the more hourglasses you collect, the more you can use your chrono-bending special moves.
Firepower and smooth moves are one thing, but pulling them off with solid control is another altogether. Fortunately, Bunny Must Die has pretty great handling. If the original Castlevania was a Chevrolet Cavalier, Bunny Must Die is a Mazda MX5. Controlling Bunny both on the ground and in the air feels just right, which is good since some of the more demanding time-based puzzles in the game require razor precision. And Bunny just happens to have that -- especially with a gamepad (I used a Sega Saturn USB pad to get the job done). Some of the bosses are pretty furious too, and even have a touch of shmup bullet patterns thrown in for good measure. Overall, the controls evenly match players to their opposition.
Speaking of puzzles, some can be super-ridiculously well-hidden, requiring a level of observation bordering on the clairvoyant side. Overcome them and you can get all-important upgrades to your health and time gauge, not to mention Bunny Dolls, which allow players to continue after dying and not having to backtrack through a ton of hostile territory (or adding to the retry counter); it adds to an already decent game length.
Then there's the presentation: Bunny Must Die features well-animated sprites and varied, colorful backgrounds that harken back to the bygone 16-bit era, albeit much sharper with its heightened resolution. The English localization yields some pretty hilarious dialogue with nods to games such as Zero Wing (Megadrive) and Shadowgate (NES). The new art is also clean and well produced, and some of the bosses were reworked with new sprites, though the original sprites can still be selected. To round it all off, the soundtrack features an incredible work-over by Woofle, who also had a hand in the Steam versions of the Gundemonium games as well. Once again, the original OST can be selected, but the Arrange version is far and away superior.
The only problem I had with Bunny Must Die was the amount of backtracking sometimes required to re-obtain specific items to open additional pathways in the game. But given that most (if not all) Metroidvania games suffer from this issue, it's almost expected and, as such, practically a feature.
Bunny Must Die was originally announced with an October release but the Indie Royale Back to School bundle is a great way to get it and many other games, including Rockin' Android's Flying Red Barrel and Qulione, for a great price... but only for a limited time. However, if you're looking to get Bunny Must Die on its own or if you miss out on the absurdly great Indie Royale bundle it's contained in, be sure to jump on it when it “officially” releases in October 12 on either Desura or GamersGate. Given its delicious retro flavor, great gameplay, replay value, and fantastic soundtrack for a mere $10, everyone should have this game on their computer. Rockin' Android is even planning console releases in the future as well. Any way you look at it, this is $10 well spent!