Given the amount of trouble I had playing the original Metroid, it’s a wonder that I have played anything even remotely like it since. Ever since hearing the opening lines of Super Metroid I was hooked, though. Wandering the lonely, dangerous halls of a place while constantly shooting at the walls and foundation in hopes of finding a new toy has become a joy to me. I’m always looking forward to the next game that combines action and deep exploration, and I thought that Bunny Must Die: Chelsea and the 7 Devils was going to provide that for me while I waited for the next Castlevania: [Musical Thing of the Sad Feeling]. It does the trick, for the most part, but there are some control choices that suck almost all of the fun out of the game.
There are spikes pretty close by when you start the game. When I first saw them, I waved them off. There’s a few hazards to make you time your jumps properly, but what game doesn’t have them? I wasn’t worried in the slightest. When I fell in one set of spikes, though, I actually looked around my room in case someone was watching through the windows or something. I didn’t want anyone to know that I’d screwed up a jump at the beginning of the game and gotten myself killed, something I hadn’t done since Super Mario Bros. I did what any self-respecting gamer does in that situation and blamed the hardware. It must have been because I was playing with a keyboard instead of a controller.
As I would find out, having a controller in my hand didn’t make much of a difference. One of the ways that Bunny Must Die likes to challenge you is through difficult platforming, although I doubt you’ll pick up on that from the screenshots. It all looks pretty basic and straightforward from a glance, but the game has a strange jumping control that can take the simplest obstacle and turn it into an endless well of rage.
Your basic jump is functional, even if it feels a little clumsy. The character’s jumps have a lot of momentum, making it hard to control where you want her to land. I overshot or undershot many jumps, and it was something that made really easy tasks much harder. That’s bad enough, but there’s also the fact that you can achieve very different heights depending on whether you’re moving or standing still when you jump. Running makes you jump further and standing still lets you jump higher, and while this might be more realistic it made it just about impossible for me to have any fun with the game.
I don’t know if you’ve played Cave Story or any of the Metroids or 2D Castlevanias since Symphony of the Night, but movement has always been extremely important for these games. You can jump around at will, and any changes to your movement are intuitive. More importantly, the movement flows with the game’s needs, creating an experience where the avatar is an extension of your will. If I want to hop to a platform, I hop to it. I don’t come to a full stop and consider the platform’s height. Even with double jumping, the movement just feels natural and flows along with the gameplay.
Making you have to come to a full stop in order to jump to the highest platforms is infuriating and brings the game to a screeching halt. It might not have even been as big of a problem as it was if it weren’t for all of the races the game likes to run you through. There are many doors that only open for a few seconds while you navigate a little obstacle course to get to them, so you’re going to want to hurry. To get through them you’ll have to stop moving at some points, taking special care that you don’t dart past the place where you need to jump from. If this was any other game I could just hit jump and continue along, keeping along with the hurried pace of my task, but Bunny Must Die demands that you stop and consider when your hands want you to rush. It’s jarring, and it is always annoying.
This also happens all the time. There are very few screens where the jumps are all short ones, so you always need to stop and consider your environment before you jump anywhere. Given the game’s propensity to drop you out of tall areas into older ones, things only get that much more frustrating. I can see that they threw this in as a way of forcing the player to be more tactical and create more challenge, but I feel that it does nothing other than constantly break the game’s flow.
I wish I was done with the jumping, but I’m not. There is a dash jump as well, and this is also handled poorly. Unlike most platforming games where you’ll stay on the platform so long as even one pixel is on it, Bunny Must Die will let you drop after you go so far out. I haven’t done extensive tests on it, but it really does feel like the timing on the jumps is off. I fall more often than I manage to pull off the dash jump, and that’s something I’ve never had a problem with in any other game. It’s just one more thing that makes the platforming painful, and given how much of this game is precise platforming, it’s a huge problem that takes away a lot of the fun.
The combat is good, but not enough to pull the game out of trouble. You have several different weapons to choose from to fight enemies with, all of which have different strengths and weaknesses. I was partial to the sword, since you can do a screw-attack right out of Super Metroid while jumping and attacking. There is a ball and chain that does heavy damage but has a tendency to swing uselessly around you for a few seconds after a hit. The boomerangs and daggers are nice, but have low power to counter how much distance you get out of them.
The drag about them is that you don’t have all of those weapons at any one time. They’re all trapped inside torches like in Castlevania, so you can poke around to find one that you like. Sticking with your chosen weapon is much harder than you’d think, though. For starters, there are some enemies that can only be killed with a specific weapon. While that weapon is always in that room, the fact that you have to give up on a favored weapon made for some combat problems I didn’t want or need. Beyond that, there’s the usual problem of picking up a new weapon when you didn’t mean to. Given that they’re all stuffed inside torches with no way of knowing what’s there, I found that I’d accidentally pick something new up while swinging at enemies that hung around torches.
I wish that my previous weapon would pop out of me like in Symphony of the Night so that I could go back to what I was using, but such is not the case. Once you get something new, you’d better get used to it. There’s no need of it, though, as they could have just dropped that old weapon beside me as a courtesy. They didn’t, though, giving me even more reasons to get mad. Once again I felt like this was something that was meant to force the player to be more cautious, but all it did was get on my nerves. This gameplay decision feels like it is at odds with the fast-paced gameplay, and I feel like it’s another way that the game’s flow was hopelessly snarled.
The bosses and characters in the game made me wish I could like it more, though. Of particular note is a vampire boss that can instantly kill you by flashing you, something that’ll take a good dozen or so attempts before you figure out what’s going on. There’s also a huge cat creature you fight in a room filled with fire, and a girl that tosses scythes just like Death from the Castlevania games. It has a good sense of humor about the games it draws inspiration from, but it hasn’t taken any of the gameplay quality from them while it did so. I really did enjoy the lighthearted character and enemy designs, but when they’re mired in a game like this, that doesn’t even begin to make me enjoy the game.
I never once thought that something as simple as jumping could completely derail a game for me, but Bunny Must Die: Chelsea and the 7 Devils sure showed me. The problematic jumping and weapon choice nuisances just overtake everything I might have enjoyed about the game. It’s a game that had some interesting ideas with its time slowing system, but I just couldn’t enjoy it when I was getting slowed and stalled by my character’s inability to just get on the stupid platform. If you have a lot of patience for a game that starts and stops constantly then you will find lots of stuff that’s worth your time here. For me, if I ever want an experience like this again I’ll just pick up one of the many iterations of Cave Story. If you’ve played both, there really is no comparison.