The opening to Mayhem in Single Valley had me excited. The game starts by having you fall out of an airplane. You’re tasked with trying to gather as many clones of yourself who are also falling out of the plane while dodging falling plane debris. Catching three or four of your clones, only for them to then be hit by falling debris and die anyway was a unique opening to a game. You then realize this was all just a dream anyway, and Mayhem in Single Valley is a little more grounded than you being a superhero that flies around saving clones of yourself.
The truth is more mundane. You wake up from your dream on the final day before leaving home, off to your art school college. As you are finally leaving home, it’s time to say goodbye to the family. The opening serves as a tutorial, learning how the quest system works, how to pick up items and throw them. I found it humorous that you needed to gather beers from the fridge, and then throw them, creating a trail for your drunk father to get in bed. Other chores involve cleaning the dog poop from the backyard, finding your passport, and taking your baby sibling up for a nap. As you decide to climb up to your tree house one last time, you see something ominous taking place. A mysterious figure is dumping green sewage into the water system. The green ooze like substance turns the waters green, the animals and humans who come into contact with it into zombie-like monsters. It’s now the job of you, Jack, to find out who’s behind this misdeed.
Platforming is a big element of Mayhem in Single Valley. Sadly this is more often than not a weaker point of the game. When Jack jumps, he feels like he floats for a second or so longer than he should. I find myself frequently missing my jump, going further than I should. I would constantly have to try my platforming more than once to get where I was going. Other movement was fine, moving in the world goes without a hitch, it was only the precision platforming that gave me trouble, but Mayhem in Single Valley has a lot of it.
One of the features that Mayhem in Single Valley does do well is the use of its meta-commentary and fourth-wall breaking. The jokes land, and the commentary on what we are doing to the environment isn’t too over the top that I was annoyed by it. While the game is funny, the story isn’t the deepest. The main plot points are predictable, and the characters are one-sided. There isn’t much depth for characters beyond the one-note ideas they have. Even your character Jack has little development. Early on I was heading to the school, but it felt like it was taking me longer to get there than it should have. I had that feeling a couple of times while playing, like objectives took longer to get to than I had the patience for.
Mayhem in Single Valley has a lot of little gameplay elements to look out for. There are plenty of secrets to collect, like clones. These make an appearance in the actual game, not just the opening dream sequence. Finding them makes playing the game easier but Mayhem in Single Valley is just fine if you don’t encounter every hidden feature. Expanding storage, finding armor to increase health, or other benefits like increased movement speed do help make playing easier, but they never feel like game-breaking by having them. Movement speed is great for running from zombies, but can make precision jumping harder.
Combat isn’t what I expected, I don’t think it would be what anyone expected. You don’t really fight the zombies, more like distract them with food. Certain zombies like certain foods, snakes like eggs, squirrels like nuts, and humans like hotdogs. Finding food to throw was never a challenge, you can pick it up everywhere. The problem became having too many different types of food. Moving through the ammo is beyond annoying. I found myself throwing the wrong type of food almost every time. Trying to run away and select the correct food I want to throw at the same time typically leads me to walking into a zombie. Eventually, you can cure the zombies, but if you don’t cure everyone that's in the area, then the cured zombies can be turned back without much effort. Overall combat doesn’t feel like combat, more like running away and throwing hotdogs while you do so.
Joining the frustrations of not having real combat is the health pool Jack has. Throughout Mayhem in Single Valley you can find items to increase the number of hits your character can take. But I find myself going through them quicker than I can find them. Despite what you may think, armor or trash cans to help add health are not around every corner. This resulted in a lot of one-hit deaths. Mayhem in Single Valley becomes better when you learn the pathing that some creatures make, but dying never feels good. Thankfully when you do die you spawn back to that map, so there is never much retreading to be done.
I didn’t have much issue figuring out puzzle solutions in Mayhem in Single Valley. The real issue was in executing the movements and jumps needed that I struggled with. The puzzles are decent, nothing that feels impossible to work through, and nothing so easy that I can figure it out without effort. It was a shame that I felt like I couldn’t move through the puzzle and platforms the way the developers intended.
I was taken in by the visuals; that was the main reason I decided to review Mayhem in Single Valley. And visually, it is very appealing. The chiptune soundtrack used fits perfectly into the game too. Puzzles, meta-commentary, and fourth-wall breaking are additional plusses on the game. But Mayhem in Single Valley was not what I expected. Imprecise platforming and simplistic characters mar the experience a bit. Combat is unique but not entirely satisfying, and the health system can lead to frustration with a lot of one-hit deaths. The story is also just there, characters feel like they lack any motivation, having one or two driving forces throughout the game. Death happens a lot, thankfully you're not punished too harshly for it.
Most of the time Mayhem in Single Valley feels like a step above a sneaking game. I throw some food to distract something, jump over a pit, or dodge a train, avoiding some type of zombie creature, rinse and repeat. That’s not to say Mayhem in Single Valley doesn’t have some great stuffing going for it. The pixel art and chiptunes soundtrack are a perfect combination. While combat was not something I got into, it is different and a unique take, and could be seen as refreshing to the right person. There are also plenty of hidden elements to discover that would keep you busy. Overall, Mayhem in Single Valley can be an enjoyable game, but its flaws prevent it from being a must-play experience.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.
I'm pulled towards anything that isn't driving or sports related; having said that, I love a good kart racer. I Can't get enough RPGs, and indies are always worth a look to me. The only other subject I pay any attention to is the NFL (go Colts!).
While writing about games is my favorite hobby, talking is a close second. That's why I podcast with my wife Tessa (it's called Tessa and Elliot Argue).View Profile