HomeReviews4.5/5 ReviewMayhem in Single Valley Review

Mayhem in Single Valley Review


Mayhem in Single Valley is a retro-themed action puzzler that – for the most part – hits all the right spots. Admittedly, that’s not the best way to start off a review, but bear with me folks. 

Coming to us from the people at Fluxscopic Ltd and published by tinyBuild, Mayhem in Single Valley comes so close to being a perfect game. Big words, I agree. Let’s see what I’m on about then.

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You play as Jack, a kid; yep just your garden variety kid. Oh, and he has just started the apocalypse. Yikes.

Jack needs to save the town and be back home in time for dinner, all while solving puzzles and avoiding zombified enemies along the way. Each stage, from the back gardens to the forest area, even the school, are all wonderful to explore with the game’s slight Metroidvania element. I say slight as the focus is more puzzle based than the back tracking that is usually found in those types of games.

The developers have created a real tongue-in-cheek adventure game here, with some outstanding puzzles within. There has been barely a visual hiccup in my time with the game (unusual these days for any title) and it’s all complemented with an atmospheric soundtrack suiting each stage. But before we get ahead of ourselves, we need to talk about Jack.

Jack himself is no action hero, but that I feel could be adjusted in a sequel. At times it was great to outsmart an enemy by luring it to an area to trap after figuring out what its needs were. However, being able to take on the creatures more often would have brought a new element to the game and maybe avoided so many deaths.

Mayhem in Single Valley is the Dark Souls equivalent of a retro action puzzler. No, I kid, it isn’t quite that difficult but occasionally being overwhelmed by enemies in an area you really need an item from can be frustrating. Travelling around in general is actually pretty good, at least once you master dodge rolling which makes Jack invincible for a second. The umbrella allows you to fly across gaps which I found tricky at first, but all in the controls are absolutely spot on.

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Talking of exploring, there are all sorts of collectibles to find in the world. Discovering cassette tapes along the way adds more music for you to select whilst navigating the puzzle filled retro world. The music and sound effects feel fresh from the ‘80s too, running haunting chiptune beats which help to really cement Jack and his world in a retro feeling apocalypse. 

There are also weird clones of Jack in various predicaments that you need to rescue as you make your way through the apocalypse. Finding these Jack clones allows you to upgrade the real Jack, and I would highly recommend upgrading your carry capacity and movement speed first as traversal is slow to begin with and items you can hold are low. Finding these clone guys scattered around was a highlight and brought a chuckle to my face on occasion, especially seeing where they had gotten trapped.

The retro feel doesn’t end with the soundtrack however and the graphics in Mayhem in Single Valley are some of my favourite graphics to date. Yes you heard me right – to date, people. A wonderful pixelated aesthetic comes together in an experience that brings back forgotten memories of classics from yesteryear. In fact, one game sung to me as a reference that the developers surely took inspiration from – The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

A certified Game Boy classic, Link’s Awakening had you moving from screen to screen very much like Mayhem in Single Valley. Each screen would contain secrets, enemies and even puzzles to solve and Mayhem in Single Valley definitely brings back memories of trying to play my Game Boy in the dark on car rides home (almost impossible with no backlight).

Puzzles here are fantastic once it all clicks, and whilst some of them at first may feel out of reach, should you step away and come back, you’ll discover that huzzah moment of figuring out what must be done; it is ever so satisfying and creates that one more go before bed feeling. Though, that said, once it does click, things tend to move very quickly, and thus begins the major critique.

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Mayhem in Single Valley is short, like finishing in a few hours short. Now while this style of play is perfect for on-the-go gaming, when I sit down in front of my Xbox to play a good game, I want meat, veg, potatoes and then some. I dare say, being left wanting more is no bad thing, and collecting everything across each level will add to completion time, but I’ve been left a little deflated seeing Mayhem in Single Valley come to a conclusion so fast.

But Mayhem in Single Valley is one for fans of retro goodness, as well as those who were there at the time of the 8-bit / 16-bit eras. Imagine a world where instead of photo realism being pushed from the dawn of 3D graphics on console, developers refined the pixelated designs and chiptune beats. That is the world where Mayhem in Single Valley would become a genuine system seller.

I loved my (short) time with Mayhem In Single Valley and would snap up a – hopefully longer – sequel in a heartbeat.

Alister Kennedy
Alister Kennedy
A gaming writer for TheXboxHub, Ali loves the finer things in life, like Sonic 3 & Knuckles. Gaming since the '80s on multiple platforms. Podcast host and video editor.
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