Have you ever wanted to kill a man using a toilet bowl? Have you always had the urge to slam a punk into an oversized dart board using a spiked baseball bat? Was there ever a time when you found a fish tank full of man-eating piranhas and didn’t have anything to feed them? Madworld not only presents you with dozens of situations just like this, but also hands you a never-ending supply of criminals to use as fodder in these chambers of death! Just be warned…this game is not for the squeamish.
Madworld tells the story of Jack, a grizzled badass stuck in a world where murder has been turned into a spectator sport called DeathWatch. Jack must travel to places like a Chinese brothel, a torture chamber, and an alien-filled military base with the hope of taking down enough thugs to thrill the blood-thirsty television audience, climb the ranks of the tournament, and rescue the mayor’s daughter from the criminal underworld. Unfortunately for Jack, hundreds of the most dangerous creeps in town are gunning for his spot in DeathWatch, and all that he has to protect himself is his chainsaw arm, a bevy of melee weapons, and a plethora of stationary hazards set up around the city to make things a bit more interesting.
The weaponry of Madworld has been concocted from the darkest of nightmares, as everything including saw blades, umbrellas, pirate hats, fans, spears, giant fish, soda pop, lanterns, a gravity gun, and even fireworks can be used to deliver your opponent to their final resting place. In addition to handheld items, there are a number of environmental traps that Jack can hurl his adversary into. These include dumpsters, spike walls, electrical signs, subway trains, a giant oven, fishing hooks, and even an airlock that blasts the hapless halfwit out into space. With so many gruesome possibilities, the gameplay stays consistently fresh despite the fact that nearly every level is just a giant kill room.
Madworld doesn’t just encourage your sadism, but also rewards it. You get points for every hoodlum that you kill, but are given a far greater payoff if you put a little creativity into your manslaughter. Instead of just chainsawing some jerk in half, you should jam a pole through the deadbeat’s face, hurl several knockout punches in his direction, and then toss his mangled, barely-alive carcass into a wall of spikes to get a much larger point bonus. When your score reaches certain milestones in the stage, new sections, enemy types, and weapons will unlock around you.
After about 20 minutes of carnage, a boss battle will open up somewhere in that level. The bosses of Madworld are a rogue’s gallery of assassins, psychopaths, and brutes that often lumber at you carrying impossibly huge weapons. You get to face off against Frankenstein’s monster, a werewolf, and a duo of extravagant blade masters among others, and each fight is both cleverly unique and wildly frantic. Once enough damage is dealt, a QTE power struggle will pop up on-screen that requires you to slash the Wii remote and nunchuck in the direction indicated. Successfully doing so will cause Jack to deliver some major pain and leave the behemoth in a bloody mangled mess with a large chunk of their health missing. These battles have a decidedly old-school feel to them and are always fun, especially later on when they get a bit more difficult.
To break up the action a bit, Madworld offers a few deviations from the formula that add some variety. Each level includes a Bloodbath Challenge, which tasks you with accomplishing a specific goal in set amount of time. These objectives include stuffing unwilling enemies into barrels, chucking hooligans into an enormous frying pan, jamming deadly bottles of soda pop down a frightened fiend’s throat, and using a golf club to knock severed heads through floating hoops. Jack will also occasionally hop on his bike for some Road Rash-style motorcycle chases. Nameless villains will pull up beside you as you travel, forcing you to introduce them to your chainsaw as you barrel down the highway. These sections are wisely placed, ensuring that you never get bored with the beat-em-up gameplay.
When working on the controls, the developers at Platinum Games wisely took a page out of the No More Heroes playbook by restricting motion control to chainsaw swipes, finishing moves, and special situations. Everything else is effortlessly done with a button press, and you will be able to master Jack’s most useful maneuvers in minutes. The finishers—which include swinging your nemesis by his feet into surrounding danger zones and delivering a chainsaw shot that begins in an enemy’s stomach and ends in his skull—are all intensely satisfying and a breeze to deliver using the simplistic on-screen Wii remote movements.
One look at any screenshot of Madworld will show you how striking the visual style is. Jack lives in a world of black and white that is occasionally disrupted by a flashing yellow indicator or a red explosion of blood. In motion, it looks like an interactive graphic novel is being animated in front of you, as every image that you see is richly detailed and carefully drawn to stunning effect. The only visual gaffe involves the game’s camera, which will sometimes provide you with a less than ideal view of the action.
The sound of the game mixes the unbearably gruesome with the cheerfully wacky. Everything is blatantly over-exaggerated, with each kill resulting in a bevy of cracks, rips, and gurgles spouting from your fallen opponent. The music is made up of a number of original rap tunes that talk about some of your actions and provide a solid background beat for your work. Also worth mentioning is the two-man commentary team that describes every kill to the DeathWatch audience viewing at home. The duo of Greg Proops and John DiMaggio can be downright hilarious at times, having plenty to say about each weapon, level, and boss that you encounter. Unfortunately, their chatter repeats fairly often, which ends up being the only blemish to the game’s audio.
Overall, Madworld is a bloody, creative, stylish, and savagely funny action title that paints a bright future for hardcore gaming on Nintendo’s family-friendly console. If you have spent the last two years complaining about a lack of mature games on the Wii, go buy Madworld. It is exactly what you have been waiting for.