There’s nothing quite like Madworld. It may be considered unique when compared to the other games in the Wii where everything is typically colorful, wholesome and kid-friendly. However, Madworld is still exceptional even when compared with other games in the two HD consoles. The streets of Madworld are painted black, white and red, while every word uttered contains either an expletive or intent to butcher. Madworld thrusts you in the thick-heeled boots of Jack, who must survive a quarantined city-turned-twisted game show. At its core, Madworld is an old-school brawler whose violence is more akin to Itchy & Scratchy instead of Rockstar Games’ Manhunt. Forget what the “mature” rating says, there’s absolutely nothing grown-up about Madworld, and that is what’s so great about it.
The Unique Aesthetic
In the fictional Varrigan City, everything is in black and white with some shades of gray in between. The only real color is red and it’s shown whenever blood is shed—which is often. Beyond the color (or lack of it), Madworld’s art style looks exactly like a comic in motion, with each level having its own distinct charm. Surprisingly, this unique Sin City-like style is never difficult on the eyes. The lack of color works to great effect, providing Madworld with a distinct visual punch.
The Satisfying Combat
Madworld seeks to overwhelm players with waves and waves of enemies, which learn new tricks as you progress through the game. Your job, as the protagonist, is to grind and smash each foe in the most gruesome way possible. The more creative your methods, the more points you get. The basic fighting moves do get old a bit fast, but the satisfaction lies in using the environment to lay the smackdown. You can stab enemies on the face with signposts, thrust them repeatedly on huge spikes, hurl them against rotating fans and fling them into speeding trains, among others. What makes the combat fun is its variety—throughout Madworld, you’ll keep on running into new weapons, deadly environments and Bloodbath Challenges that would provide you new ways and opportunities to obliterate your foes.
What’s especially charming about Madworld is that it doesn’t take itself seriously. The comical onscreen violence itself is so outrageous that it’s hilarious. The humor isn’t limited to the carnage, however, as the running commentary is juvenile, coarse and tongue-in-cheek. The initial shock of Madworld’s brutality might eventually wear off, but the humor somehow persists. It’s hard not to laugh at the absurdness of it all.
The Motion Controls
It’s possible to overlook Madworld’s well-implemented motion controls with all the craziness happening onscreen. Wagging the nunchuk and Wii remote may get tiring when the game requires you to go full-swing ahead in certain sequences, but it feels consistently responsive. The control layout feels intuitive as well.
The Difficult Camera
Cramped areas can be a problem in Madworld, thanks to the bothersome camera. The least concern it would likely cause is not provide a good view of the surroundings. However, it gets worse: when you’re in a tight space, you might not be able to see where the foes are. There’s also a chance it could go out of control in the worst possible time, like while fighting a level boss.
How could Madworld be varied and occasionally tedious at the same time? Consider that there are a limited number of lives and you have to earn them. The game may save your progress, but it also saves the number of lives you have left. If you lose your last life during a boss fight, which could happen more often than you think, you have to restart the entire level. That means you have to fight the same enemies, earn the same amount of points to unlock the same Bloodbath Challenges, hear the same crude jokes, and outlast the same stage boss all over again.
Here’s another odd design decision that puts Madworld dangerously close to becoming tedious: For some reason, developer Platinum Games left out cues telling players what to do next. Without the proper direction, there’s no way to know why nothing seems to be happening after fighting off the umpteenth respawning foe, even if all you had to do was score a certain number of points.
One can plow through Madworld in six or so hours. The encounter may be rather short, but it’s time well spent. Beneath Madworld’s unflinching gore, coarse dialogue and stylized, Sin City-like visuals is a visceral, engaging and enjoyable old-school brawler that provides a viable option to core gamers looking for something other than Mario on the Wii. We can’t say it’s a terrific purchase at full price though, considering its short length.
Then again, don’t sell Madworld short by merely renting it; we think the game deserves a permanent spot in your shelf so get it during a sale. Either way, one thing is certain: Madworld must be experienced.