Mayhem in Single Valley is the second game developed by Fluxscopic Ltd., and published by the lovely folks over at tinyBuild. The developers describe their game as a “fast-paced, puzzle-loaded action adventure”, and although I completely agree with that description, I’d also add that a key part of Mayhem in Single Valley is its charm and loveliness.
In Mayhem in Single Valley, you play as Jack, a random kid from Single Valley. Now, what is it that makes Jack special? Truthfully, nothing, but it just so happens that he started the apocalypse, or at least that’s what pretty much everyone in town is led to believe. In an effort to both clear your name and save the world, you step out of your own backyard and venture into the world.
It all started with a spillage of a mysterious substance in the local water supply. Upon consumption, the local wildlife and the townsfolk immediately became vicious and attempted to kill or transform anything and anyone in their path. As you travel the surrounding areas, you’ll traverse a multitude of environments, bat-infested caves, a desert, a private zoo, your own school, the town itself, amongst a few places.
Throughout your journey, you’ll meet several quirky characters that will aid you in your quest to save the world. However, although your interactions with the various characters are funny and memorable, and even though the game has plenty of charming moments, overall, I, unfortunately, didn’t find the overarching story to be that interesting. The game definitely has its moments and surprising twists, sure, but it wasn’t really the driving force that pushed me to keep playing the game. What kept me going through the game was the fact that it constantly presents you with new challenges and small gameplay dynamics. Because of that, the gameplay manages to feel fresh throughout the whole game.
Now, upon first glance, Mayhem in Single Valley might look like a game with some degree of combat, but actually, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While there will be plenty of enemies in your way, you won’t actually be fighting them directly. Instead, you either run past them as fast as you can, dodging if necessary, or you distract them with bait. Most enemies have a unique kind of food that they like, and if you manage to drop or throw a piece of it, they will gladly leave you alone while they eat it. In any case, there isn’t any penalty to dying, other than just restarting at the last checkpoint, so you can easily try again.
Meanwhile, just as a huge part of the game revolves around avoiding enemies, another huge part of it is puzzle solving. Now, if we’re being real, the puzzles are very minor, and this is coming from someone who doesn’t play puzzle games at all. Most of them are pretty typical, requiring you to move boxes and hit switches with your slingshot, but, most importantly, none of them feel forced. That’s one of the main reasons why I had such a good time while playing the game. Pretty much every gameplay mechanic, no matter how small it is, feels natural within the game world.
It’s worth pointing out that the game features a huge amount of collectables, but the overwhelming majority of them are optional. With that said, there are upgrades that you can get if you manage to find duct tape. Still, it’s fairly easy to acquire all of the upgrades even if you’re not looking in every nook and cranny. The upgrades themselves are pretty useful, not because they do things like increasing the number of items that you can carry, but because they increase your movement speed. This is my biggest complaint about the game, the fact that, by default, you move extremely slow. Fortunately, this is only a real issue during the early phases of the game, because once you get the speed upgrades, the whole game becomes much more fluid.
In terms of how the game feels, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by how great it plays with a keyboard and mouse. At the same time, I was also astonished by how good the game looks in motion. Based on the screenshots that I had seen prior to playing it, I was expecting Mayhem in Single Valley to feature some finely detailed pixel art, but it actually goes beyond that. The game also boasts some rather meticulous lighting effects and dynamic shadows and reflections. Sure, it’s no ray tracing, but I feel that the developers have definitely put in work to make their game look the best it could.
Mayhem in Single Valley is a great example of why I love indie games. It perfectly shows what video games can be when developers don’t have their creative freedom restricted. They can bring to life ridiculous premises that can end up being incredibly witty and fun to play. In an age where the overwhelming majority of games either focus way too much on action or whatever their genre is best known for, Mayhem in Single Valley feels like a breath of fresh air.
Although far from perfect and despite having a few, albeit minor, bugs and crashes, as a whole, I found Mayhem in Single Valley to be a compelling experience. It took me around 5 hours to beat it, but that could probably be stretched over the 6-hour mark if I went back and hunted down every single collectable and achievement. For 12,49€, I think that Mayhem in Single Valley is definitely worth your time. It has some pretty creative ideas which you don’t see on a lot of games, it’s funny and charismatic, it plays great, and the soundtrack is a banger.