Only a handful of Wii games can boast the hardcore pedigree of MadWorld. The first title by upstart studio Platinum Games (the reincarnation of Clover Studio, responsible for such sleeper hits as Viewtiful Joe and Okami), it features a striking cel-shaded art style, a protagonist with an iconic weapon (mechanic/ex-Marine Jack Cayman and his slightly impractical yet immensely gratifying retractable, arm-mounted chainsaw) and more blood than a Takashi Miike horror flick. It also provides a vehicle for some of the most hilariously vulgar voice work I've ever heard in a videogame, courtesy of veteran actors John DiMaggio and Greg Proops.
So why does it remind me of Cooking Mama?
First, there's the obvious: Much of MadWorld focuses on the gritty mechanics of chopping things into tiny pieces, rending flesh from bone and placing the resulting chunks into a receptacle for further preparation. Sure, you're dealing with street thugs, ninjas and zombies (among other enemy types) rather than Cornish hen and sea bass, but both games give you the satisfaction of chopping away, combining ingredients and gleefully presenting your creation to the world. In Cooking Mama it's a delicious seafood curry; in MadWorld, it's the severed torso of a zombie with a lamppost sticking out of its neck, feebly attempting to wriggle its way off the spiked wall on which you just impaled it.
While Mama forces you to follow the recipe, however, MadWorld encourages you to improvise. Chaining together a string of maneuvers on a single victim multiplies the amount of points you get for the kill. These aren't just for bragging rights; you need to reach a certain score before you can progress through a level. With a hard time limit for each zone, it makes sense to get creative - you could run around slashing enemies with your chainsaw (a one-hit kill in most cases), but you'll earn points more quickly if you use your environment to maim, mulch and otherwise murder your opponents.
I'll admit to getting a little squeamish when cutting up a whole octopus in World Kitchen, but (PETA's exceptions aside) it's nothing compared to the level of brutality in MadWorld. There are so many unique ways to kill people that you could spend hours with the game and still find yourself shocked at a new finishing move. Each zone introduces new items to immobilize your victims, pointy objects to jam into their necks and subtle accents like spinning blades, iron spikes or grinding gears that serve no other architectural purpose than to bring about as many horrifying "accidents" as possible. Grab a stunned enemy and walk up to one of these objects, and the game offers you the option to instantly (and stylishly) murder your victim with a quick downward motion of the Wii remote.