It's a Mad Mad Mad 'MadWorld'

The Inlander | March 23, 2009

Rated Mature; Wii

In MadWorld, reality TV has gone horribly wrong—or reached its logical conclusion. An entire city has been isolated from the rest of the world. In order to escape, the citizens must kill each other. Hundreds of cameras are recording the carnage, and the resulting sport is called The DeathWatch Games.

Into this apocalypse strides Jack Cayman—a hulking plug of a man with a cigarette hanging from his mouth and a chainsaw popping out of his right arm. He says he wants to be a contestant. But unbeknownst to his sponsors, he has radio contact with the outside world.

Like a graphic novel, MadWorld is chiseled in pure black and white. Occasional flickers underline the TV-show presentation. This vivid, stark style accommodates the Wii's weakness with graphics, and the crudeness suits the game's brutality, with the sole glints of color coming from spatters of blood.

MadWorld is a melee-only combat game—unless flinging bodies counts as ballistics. Jack can pick up anyone or anything and use it as a weapon. He can yank a signpost out of the ground and swing it. Or ram it through an enemy's head. Then he can grab them and throw them into a dumpster, letting the lid drop and sever their legs from their torso.

Tires, barrels, fireworks, bottles of soda and even pinwheels all serve as weapons. The game's environments form an alphabet for writing words, sentences and essays in violence. Points are awarded as the absurdity of the executions increase, and higher scores unlock even more outlandish weapons.

The Wii Remote becomes a motion-sensitive stand-in for Jack's arsenal. The trigger charges his chainsaw, and swipes in the air translate into the same gestures onscreen. Jamming a garbage can onto someone's head is accomplished by ramming the Remote downward, and repeatedly flinging an opponent onto the floor is done by swinging the Remote back and forth.

Each action is accompanied by a spelled-out sound effect: "SPLORCH" when someone is impaled on a spike and “VROOOOOM for the chainsaw. There's also a running commentary from two vulgar, sarcastic broadcasters that keeps the entire game feeling like an evil, sadistic—and often hilarious—sportscast.

THE GOOD: As soon as the economy tanked, I predicted that 2009 would be the year of safe sequels and uninspired knockoffs. But in this cautious, conservative environment, MadWorld is exhilarating and fresh. It's an entirely new franchise that's unafraid to be offensive. The fact that it could use a little improvement only makes me look forward to the follow-up.

THE BAD: While the standard killing sprees are limited only by the resources at hand, the battles with the bosses at the end of every level are tedious fights that can only be won by carrying out repetitive cycles of actions. Almost as uninteresting are the occasional motorcycle chases, in which Jack hacks at opponents to his left and right. There's no imagination in these fights, and they're the only times when MadWorld feels like a typical game.

THE BOTTOM LINE: MadWorld is a dynamic and ingenious brawler that mingles violence and absurdity in brutal black and white.

4/5 Stars

The Inlander

Founded in 1993, The Inlander has quickly become the most trusted source of news and entertainment information for the sprawling Inland Northwest. While the majority of our readership lives in the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene area -- a fast-growing part of the...
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