Headed into Rush Hour Mayhem, I was expecting an updated version of the classic Spy Hunter, but what I got was one of the most strangely addictive vertical scrolling shoot’em ups. You play as a vehicle constantly driving forward instead of a typical space ship. I say vehicle, because beyond cars there are wacky things like NES controllers, a pig that fires bacon and even what looks to be the USS Enterprise. Your objective is to shoot things into cars for points. You can’t just blow up a car unless its parked on the side of the road, you need to shoot something hurtling into cars. Simply shooting one car into another will get you standard points, but launching a tree, cow or old man into traffic will net you double points.
While manslaughter and carnage might be wrong, its Rush Hour Mayhem is absurdly fun. Thanks to the tweaks the developer has added, including a new hardcore mode and cars that actually steer left to right it turned an originally dull game into a joy to play. If you’re looking for a story, a plot or and endgame, you won’t find them here since its all about the points. Anyone that remembers arcades and squeaking out extra points to topple a high score will enjoy Rush Hour Mayhem.
Both lanes have you moving with traffic, so its a one way sort of thing. These lanes are wide and allow for a lot of cars to be in each lane. As you drive, you’ll encounter slow moving purple cars, orange cars that shift lanes. School buses that spin around, but can’t be destroyed unless they’re on the side of the road and even what looks to be a Heisenburg fuel truck that explodes on impact. There are occasional dividers in the center of the road, but nothing too long that restricts you to either lane.
You’re not limited to the two lanes on the road though. If you want to get risky, drive in the gross to shoot trees and cows. They don’t die, they just tumble into traffic. As they tumble, if you shoot them a second time they’ll change direction, so there’s a bit of strategy there.
On top of everything you’ll shoot, there are question mark blocks and point bags to collect. The question marks will give a random power up such a temporary auto fire green spread that makes things so much easier, a tornado that clears the screen, shoots cows and vehicles up in the air and knocks you to the side. One power up gives you a tree sprouting projectile that grows a tree where you’ve shot. It lets you easily bowl a tree into other cars.
There’s a standard explode everything on the screen, but there are hindrances too. Sometimes your controls will be reverse where right is left and left is right, or even throwing fish from every direction of your car. These fish do nothing, but take your weapon away. Everything is temporary and in fact its almost a fifty percent chance that you’ll get something bad. Personally, I end up avoiding them. At least with the two hindrances, they have an icon over your car, so you can see that you’re afflicted.
Most vehicles shoot forward, but depending what you play as, you can shoot in a V pattern or even shoot left and right out of your sides. The forward firing vehicles are labeled as easy, while the other directions are medium or hard. There’s so much vehicle diversity and they all fire a different projectile. The wiener mobile fires hot dogs. There’s even a space ship with a SHMUP style option that also fires with you.
While you have a few vehicles unlocked from the start including a union jack covered car, you’ll need to unlock a lot of the more eccentric vehicles. These are quirky little additions add a lot of variety to a game and adds a lot of silly fun. The cars that fire in a V spread feel easier to score points since you’re shooting two projectiles at a time.
The controls are super simple, use the keys for four directions of movement and the space bar to fire. Its a game that would be at home on an Atari 2600 joystick. You can’t just hold down the space bar to keep firing, this is a game of endurance and skill. You need to keep hitting that space bar for every bullet, so you can either wear yourself out or time your shots. The glaring problem to me is that I just don’t want to keep slamming a space bar; it feels unnatural to me, so thanks tot he use of third-party software I bound keys to my 360 controller and the game is infinitely more playable and fun. There’s native Ouya controller support, but nothing for 360 as of yet.
After each death is a menu that you’ll need to hit R to retry, C to change cars and Esc to quit. So if you’re using a 360 controller with third-party software, make sure to include buttons for those keys along with H for hardcore and T for tough cookie.
I found an exploit with the game that allows me to easily stay on the sidewalk and just blow away cars and old men with walkers for big points. Oh but that’s why there’s Hardcore mode. For anyone using that exploit, hardcore introduces indestructible tanks and even land mines on the sidewalk. Hardcore is the only way to play in my opinion and it gives the game more depth.
If you get X amount of points, the game gets really wild and throws all sorts of cars at you, even locks you into a section by putting dozens of parked cars and or tanks on the side of the road. Its a good way to ramp up the intensity.
The developer’s logo is one of the most awful and hilarious logos I’ve ever seen for a video game. Its something that South Park would make as a joke and that’s why it works so well. Instead of being mundane like every other developer, they stand out. The sound effects have a lot to be desired, but it adds to a sort of so bad its good quality. In the background is generic rock that manages to fit with the carnage.
As for the graphics, there’s a an 8-bit nostalgic quality to the graphics that really hits the mark for me. This is a game that I want to look at and play. The title screen puts a lot of flavor into the game and its probably one of the most innovative titles I’ve seen in a long time. Cars that get fired into the screen and pile up. They knock down clouds, topple trees and all seem to fit together in a random order sort of way. Then when you start the game they all explode.
After each death you can enter your initials for a high score. The only problem is there’s just one score. It could enhance the game with your times and your best score for each one of the cars. Its still nice to have for an arcade-style game. Online leader boards would be nice as well.
Another downside of Rush Hour Mayhem is its poor hit detection. While I can’t say its destroyed me that many times, I still worry about fitting between two objects. You learn to compensate for it and with a great big wide road or the grass to drive on, its a rare issue.
For anyone that loves old school arcade-style games with Atari simple gameplay, this is for you. There’s a lot of value for what is sixteen quarters. I just wish that there was native controller support. I’d like to thank James for my copy of Rush Hour Mayhem.