As children of the '80s learned at a young age from The Smurfs and The Care Bears, cute and cuddly creatures can always win the day against forces of darkness with little more than some pluck and their indomitable spirit. Raze's Hell asserts that the cute and cuddlies are actually much more sinister than the hideous monsters they are so quick to demonize and that it's completely reasonable to exterminate them with extreme prejudice. The game banks big on the inherent satisfaction of brutally destroying creatures too sunny and happy to live in the first place, and that dark sense of humor helps turn Raze's Hell into something greater than the rather average third-person shooter it would otherwise be.
Have you ever shot a Teletubby in the face with a shotgun?
What's most surprising about Raze's Hell is how it uses this anti-cute sentiment as cover fire for some fairly biting satire. At the beginning, the game is pure storybook, as the Princess of Kewtopia decrees that her warm and fuzzy Kewlett disciples are to bring joy, happiness, and freedom to the ugly, sad, and pathetic creatures that live outside their idyllic kingdom. It soon becomes apparent that "freedom" actually translates into genocide, and all the Kewletts really want is to extend the suffocating grasp of their unnaturally cheery kingdom. As Raze, one of the creatures the Kewletts want to exterminate, you happen upon an ancient and powerful relic that turns you into a vengeance-seeking badass who, coincidentally, looks kind of like Frank, the big, evil rabbit from Donnie Darko. Throwing around turns of phrase like "shock and awe" and regarding the Kewletts' efforts as a preemptive expansionist war, Raze's Hell is not subtle in its scathing indictment of the recent war in Iraq. The story starts out quite strong, though after the first few hours, it quickly slips back into fairly standard sci-fi fantasy rhythms.
Aside from lots of tongue-in-cheek social commentary, Raze's Hell is a pretty standard third-person shooter. Don't expect a lot of puzzle-solving or extracurricular item-collecting; the focus of the gameplay is to bring bloody death to an evil army of walking, talking merchandising opportunities. Each level is essentially a series of intense firefights, and they can be quite challenging, even on the normal difficulty setting. You have some basic melee attacks for when you're up close with an enemy, but mostly you'll be using a cache of gunlike weapons. Within the context of the game, your ammo consists of fruit that you pick from really, really weird trees. In practice they're more akin to modern hardware like shotguns, grenade launchers, and sniper rifles, though there are exceptions, such as the Dig-Dug-inspired inflator weapon. On the surface, the weapons seem extremely punishing, but most enemies can take an almost inordinate amount of punishment before going down, and when given the option, we found the massive blade that juts out of Raze's left hand to be far more effective.
Aside from serving as a satisfying finishing move, melee attacks are important for replenishing your health. The levels aren't stocked with health-restoring boxes or bubbles or whatever with a red cross on them; instead, your life bar is restored by cutting open enemies you've killed and sucking up the giblets--an agreeably morbid move, given the rest of the game's tone. Raze can also perform some rudimentary stealth moves, though sneaking rarely proves to be effective. If you're in a hurry, you can also curl up into a ball, Metroid-style, and simply roll right over your enemies, though you will usually take a bit of damage in the process.