As a huge Viewtiful Joe fan, you can imagine how stoked I was when Joe’s latest adventure landed on my desk, complete with a long awaited multiplayer mode that was supposed to knock seven shades out of Super Smash Bros. In a world of sterile sequels, surely Joe’s hyperkinetic style wouldn’t let me down? Seconds later it was in the drive; Hours later I was lost, confused and a little disappointed.
Red Hot Rumble appears to be a victim of its ambition. As mentioned above, its essentially a ‘Viewtiful-universe’ version of Super Smash Bros., where up to four players fight it out with a variety of powerups, weapons and special moves to either be the last man standing or complete objectives (e.g. collect all the gems, capture the flag). All of the Viewtiful characters (16 in total) are there, from the classics to some new faces, each with their signature moves and powerups including ‘mach speed’ (move like The Flash), ‘slow’ (matrix style slow-mo) and ‘zoom’ (you become Godzilla sized). That alone should’ve made this game an absolute killer. What went wrong?
Firstly the graphics, while fantastic, don’t suit this type of game. In Super Smash Bros. the graphics were big, bright and clear, and most importantly, simple. Red Hot Rumble suffers due to its excessive detail. During a four player match up, the camera has to zoom right out to keep everyone on the screen – at this point, because the stages are so large and detailed, and the characters so small it is impossible to tell who’s who and what’s what. It doesn’t help that characters like Captain Blue and Little Blue look identical from a distance! Once you throw the many, many enemies, power ups, explosions and the rest of the signature Viewtiful Joe hi-speed madness into the mix, the screen is a mess. I couldn’t tell who was who, which way I was facing, or even what I was doing. Against friends it was confusing, against the computer (who knows exactly what it’s doing) the game is fiendishly hard (yes, even by Viewtiful Joe standards). Unfortunately the game quickly denigrated into button-mashing. Everything in Red Hot Rumble happens so quickly you don’t really have any time to put any kind of strategy or skill into achieving your objectives.
There are a few cool additions though, the levels themselves are very pretty and interesting, one minute you’ll be fighting on the wings of a biplane, kicking the other players off into the sky, the next running around kicking switches to blow enemy space ships out of the sky. The sound is similarly good, and presentation excellent (although the story remains basic – basically everyone is fighting to star in the next movie) it keeps the Viewtiful attitude and comedy intact, and the voice acting and characterisation is pretty spot on.