Mayhem in Single Valley is an arcade puzzle game developed by Fluxscopic and published by tinyBuild Games. The apocalypse is here, and it’s up to the protagonist to save the world. This title is unique in its own right, but unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed.
You play as a kid named Jack, preparing to leave home for college. The game begins in Jack’s dream as he falls from a burning airplane, with clones of himself falling as well. You can move Jack to grab onto his clones, but they inevitably lose their grip and fall to their death anyway. It was intriguing, but the sequence felt out of place other than the “impending doom” feeling.
Anyway, the brief tutorial begins as Jack wakes up and prepares to leave home. You roam through the house and come to understand Jack’s family well. His mother constantly does chores while his drunk father watches TV and naps all day. You move about the place, putting your sibling down for a nap, picking up dog poop, and distracting your father with beer cans to tire him out. You can sneak into his room and take your passport and money when he takes a nap.
This tutorial shows you how to walk, dodge, and jump. It also explains picking up items and throwing them. For example, grabbing beer cans from the fridge and throwing them in the living room to get your father to drink them. And now you know how to play the game.
Green goo gets dumped into the river, tainting the water sources. Thus, the wildlife in the area becomes rabid monsters and zombies. Rabid squirrels break into Jack’s yard, stealing his backpack. Now the game officially begins as Jack leaves home with his first task being to retrieve his backpack. It’s an odd beginning, but manageable, and I appreciated the tutorial. However, the game then got worse for me.
In a nutshell, the premise of the gameplay is to make it through each area without getting caught by the monsters. But, of course, this is easier said than done. Sure, you want the gameplay to be challenging, but Mayhem in Single Valley can be unforgiving. Jack has one hit point, and as you learn the patterns of the animals, you can expect to die a lot. The game autosaves frequently, but you’ll respawn exactly where you were, trying the same thing repeatedly until you feel like you’re going insane. Trash can lids are available for Jack to grab and use as a shield, allowing him an extra hit point. However, these trash cans are few and far between, and I almost always immediately got hit upon getting the shield.
Now, this is where Mayhem in Single Valley gets unique. Instead of getting a weapon and fighting off the wildlife and humans (they’ll become zombies if they get bitten), you only have a slingshot to throw food. You can shake trees to get acorns to distract the squirrels, pluck carrots from the ground to distract the rabbits, and gather hot dogs to distract the humans. Finding food ammo isn’t the issue; it’s the inventory system and throwing the items.
Jack has a limited inventory in the beginning. Of course, you can upgrade it later, but it’s extremely frustrating how little you can carry when you begin the game. For example, trees will drop about six or seven acorns, but you can only pick up three. Thankfully, similar items stack, but the types of items are limited.
Instead of combat, Mayhem in Single Valley encourages you to throw food to distract the enemies and run away. Unfortunately, while it’s a cool idea in theory, it wasn’t executed well. The hitboxes didn’t make any sense to me. I often threw the food not close enough to the enemies so they wouldn’t get distracted. Then, I’d get eaten because I was out of ammo. Jack has decent running speed, but those rabbits dash at you in a blink. Not to mention, I often threw the wrong type of food. Switching items in the inventory is a one-button process, but, for some reason, the wrong item almost always got thrown. I don’t know if the button didn’t register, the game glitched, or I was doing something wrong. Regardless, it was beyond annoying.
In addition, there are platforming puzzles in the game. For instance, Jack needs to jump onto platforms, cross rivers, get to high places, etc. These puzzles, such as figuring out how to cross a poisonous river, were decent. They weren’t too easy, but not too challenging. That doesn’t mean I didn’t die numerous times, though. The buttons were sensitive, and many times I would overjump where I wanted to g, resulting in death. Thus, I’d have to do the puzzle again just to overjump the platform and die. Rinse and repeat.
There are also collectibles in each area. For example, you can collect Jack’s clones. I didn’t bother doing this, though. It often wasn’t worth it because the animals only got distracted for so long that they’d corner me while I was saving my clone. Not to mention, I was at the point where I just wanted to get through the game.
I rage-quit Mayhem in Single Valley many times. I believe the game was meant to have more of a sneaking element, especially since there’s no time mechanic. However, some enemies were so fast that I couldn’t take my time through each area.
The pixelated graphics were charming, and the chiptune tracks were fun to bop to. Mayhem in Single Valley certainly looks and sounds good. The premise is also intriguing, but the gameplay doesn’t complement it well. However, if you have a lot of patience and the time to figure things out, I can see this title as a solid game.
Review: Mayhem in Single Valley (Nintendo Switch)
Mayhem in Single Valley has the potential to be more than what it is. The premise is clever, but the execution didn’t work for me. However, the graphics and music are certainly up to par.