State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem is something I can only describe as truly unique. It sparks fond memories of the doodles many of us drew while bored in a classroom, only here it’s all interactive.
At its core State of Anarchy is a simple twin stick shooter, a game that should be nothing more than a simple time killer between bigger games; the price tag supports this. So let’s take a loaded up dive in and see just what the work of one man can come up with.
State of Anarchy doesn’t hold much of a plot and from the outset it just makes it clear that aliens have invaded and rioting has broken out. Get to the bank is pretty much your first and only (barring boss battles and the odd change up) objective. This pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the game; simplicity is key and permeates pretty much every aspect of the game. Controls are a simple twin stick affair, with movement handled by one stick and aiming/firing with the other. Secondary weapons can be unlocked and these see control made by LB, while your rage meter is activated with a simple press of X.
Setting levels in large open environments gives a nice sense of scale and you find yourself taking whichever path you like to the first bank. On the way you find yourself in need of a vehicle and once found it’s fairly simple to control – if a little unintuitive. Driving and shooting in games like this has never been easy and the case is the same here. Levels are packed with rioters and various other enemies to take down, and they all offer a nice variety of attacking patterns that include simple attackers through to suicide bombers and jetpack wielding maniacs. I did, however, find very little in the way of challenge here and in fact it is entirely possible to just grind out all the upgrades in the first level alone… at least if you have the patience and skill to take on the increasing difficulty with each wave of enemies.
Banks offer a slight change of pace with enemies surrounding a boss in the centre. These attack from a stationary position and don’t put up too much of a fight, and once they yield you’ll find yourself flush with cash and a new upgrade or weapon. This closes out each level and allows you to buy some more upgrades. There’s a good variety here from increased movement speed to higher damage output, and all are certainly worth picking up with none feeling tacked on in any way. Every few levels the game attempts to shake things up slightly by chucking a curve ball at you; initially you find yourself fighting giant aliens in a small arena, but later the game moves to you crash landing on an alien world with an aim of finding a ship to get home. It is these levels that offer the most variety, but even so, I found the cycle just repeats and in long play sessions can get a little tedious. Despite this Master of Mayhem never really out stays its welcome and heading back on in each time feels refreshing.
Graphically State of Anarchy is a completely hand drawn affair and is reminiscent of something you would find doodled on a teenage boy’s school book. It’s a great look that suits the game well and lends a certain charm to the experience that elevates it beyond other games in the genre. The audio too is just as unique and charming, with every single sound effect actually being a noise made from the vocals of the developer. It really is an amazing range and something I’ve never heard in a game before. It just adds to that teenage fantasy feeling. The soundtrack is also suitably teenage with a heavy rock vibe throughout. Combined, the look and sound work so well that any kind of tedium takes much longer to grip you than it would had the game been designed any other way, making the entire experience unique, ever so slightly surreal and hugely enjoyable.
There are a few issues that rear themselves pretty quickly though and you’ll find that the movement speed is incredibly slow at the start and it initially takes an age to reach objectives. The way new weapons are dished out from each boss can also be frustrating, as you don’t get to choose if you want that weapon or not; it is thrust upon you, taking over whichever weapon you had. This sometimes forces you into utilising weapons you might not be too keen on. Finally, with 48 levels included State of Anarchy can become a bit of a slog if played in long stretches. That’s not a huge criticism – as the game is designed for short bursts – but those going through in one playthrough will find themselves tiring by the end.
Overall though, State of Anarchy is a wonderfully charming and unique game that does an incredible job of evoking teenage fantasies with a brilliant art and sound direction. It may occasionally be marred by a lack of variety of challenge, but will most definitely give you more enjoyment than the cheap asking price implies. It is very much worth the investment.