Overall Score 88%
Toxic Bunny HD
Take a blender, preferably a large one. Add several cups of strong coffee, some radioactive waste, weapons-grade explosive hamsters (okay, that one might be tricky), a list of the most dreadful puns imaginable, the entire cast of Warner Bros' cartoons, several firearms, a handful of psychedelic narcotics, cinnamon to taste and a bit more coffee. Blend for three minutes or until the motor packs up. Pour the resultant mess over a common or garden rabbit and stand well back. This may be the closest reality can take us to the absolute insanity that is Toxic Bunny HD. Note: please do not actually follow this recipe. The rabbit will not appreciate it.
Toxic Bunny HD (itself a remake of an earlier, non-HD version) is a fast-paced and utterly bonkers platformer. That doesn't really express it, though. If you were to run an insane asylum and crossbreed the craziest inmates for several generations you might start to approach the mental state of this game's developers. Toxic is a rabbit who, while out one day having a few cups of coffee with his rabbit pals, fell victim to a toxic waste spillage. Now he's mad as hell and loaded with a mixture of caffeine and chemical sludge, making him a fast and dangerous avenging rabbit of death. Or something. Your task is to guide Toxic through a maze of platforms and enemies in order to wreak vengeance on the polluters that have ruined his day.
Controls are largely keyboard, and the mouse is usually optional for menus and so on. By default (you can change the key mappings) you move Toxic with the arrow keys, fire with Z, jump with X and occasionally use stuff with C. There are also numerous keys for switching weapons and selecting and mixing potions, and by holding down shift you can have Toxic run instead of walk. Get used to running everywhere - it's the only way to get onto some platforms. Weapons vary from the humble explosive goo you start out with to the alien gun to the Nitric Hamster Launcher, which guarantees a fatality with every shot (presumably the hamster), and there are plenty of critters to blast with them.
Each level contains a set quest - for instance, level one has you restarting a moleminer machine by finding a fuel tank, keys and a battery. It isn't quite as easy as that, of course. You need to charge the battery and find some fuel to put in the tank, all while fighting off the deadly creatures you encounter and the lethal bone and glass traps that seem to litter the level. Fortunately you have a map available (courtesy of your Bunnypad) and you can visit the ingame shop, "Obay" (that sounds familiar...) for supplies and potion recipes. There's also a ton of stuff to collect as you wander the levels, from coins and 1-Ups and potion ingredients to all manner of things that I cannot identify and are probably just for points. You can save at any point and have numerous save slots.
Toxic Bunny HD, as the title suggests, boasts improved high quality graphics. The style is the epitomy of cartoon, with traditional sprite-based characters, and the jaunty angles of the sloped platforms are a welcome relief from the usually obvious square patterns of these platformers. There are plenty of graphics options if your system struggles, though my middle-aged PC coped perfectly happily with the standard settings. My biggest complaint would probably be that the screen can be decidedly overcrowded at times, but I suspect that's more the style of the game than any fault on the part of the developers. The whole concept is a projectile vomiting of insanity at your brain, and psychedelic lunacy on the screen is a big part of that.
I found the sound a little disappointing, however. While there are plenty of sound effects, there seem to be plenty of opportunities for more - if it wasn't for Toxic's thought balloons, for instance, I might not have realised the jet fuel waterwall was anything more than background. A water-pouring background effect would be good here. While enemies have effects for firing at you, they seem otherwise mute, even in death. And there appears to be only one background track in the game - while it fits perfectly well, it gets a little tiresome after repeating several times over. Fortunately Toxic Bunny HD offers the option to adjust sound effect and music volumes independently.
It takes a little while to adapt to the controls, given the number of them, and to its credit Toxic Bunny HD provides a pretty comprehensive tutorial. Even so, it may take you a few attempts to get started with the main game. The levels are BIG. Enemies do not respawn, so one sensible tactic is to clear out as many as you can before you start seriously exploring an area. Money is collected in the levels, but spend it wisely - if you waste your supplies, you can't easily earn more. With no ammunition constraints, the Alien Gun is my weapon of choice, but you have to earn it first. Using multiple save points is also a good strategy, potentially avoiding a lot of backtracking.
Between the sheer size of the levels and the range of potions, weapons and strategies on offer, there's plenty of game time to be had from a single play through. But it is easy to get stuck - can't figure out what to do next? There's no way to move on. Toxic provides hints at key locations and the game map will highlight points of importance but how you get to those points is for you to determine. Once the enemies are dead and the level is open, you might find the size of the levels makes things tedious. Still, if you get bored, why not try playing one of the in-game games? I have no idea what "Boredom" is supposed to be, but "Gobman" is a remarkably faithful Pacman clone. And, aside from Day of the Tentacle, what other games allow you to multi-level procrastinate by playing other games within them?
It's clear that a lot of work has gone into this project and I had no actual issues with it. One of the biggest things working against Toxic Bunny HD is the sheer size - the download is 1Gb! Sure, the game text could use another read through in places and the gameplay could be improved with clearer directions, but the levels are huge and the central character has plenty of scope to become a recurring antihero in other games. Frenetic and downright bonkers, Toxic Bunny HD is a welcome addition to the platformer genre. Perhaps it isn't perfect, but I like it all the same. Bring on the bunny!
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