Post Apocalyptic Mayhem has more strategy than your average vehicle combat racing game and that’s where it shines. The goal here is to get the most kills while on a closed circuit track rather than winning a race. A simple make it to the finish line would be too easy. Since you want the most kills, if you’re in first place you had best slow down and let the others catch up to you so you can wreck them. However, then you risk them overtaking you and the person in front always has the advantage when only one weapon is designed for a forward attack.
Each of the game’s twelve vehicles has their own set of three weapons. The front attack is usually something that shoots forward, the side attack sprays out mines of some sort and the back attack drops something. These weapons all do something slightly different. The childhood dreams school bus has a cow catcher that will throw a vehicle, the alchemist RV has an ooze gun. The logger has side saw blades, while another vehicle has mines that will throw you into reverse. The side and back attacks are temporary and disappear after a moment. When you use them a rear view camera appears so you can see if anyone hits them for your own fiendish glee. When you kill someone a notice pops up on the screen.
You can have all three of your weapons ready by driving through colored barrels. Blue is the side weapon, yellow is the front, red is the rear. Black barrels give you a random charge. Having three weapons at once makes you dangerous. In fact everyone here is dangerous. You need to watch your opponents for a red, blue or yellow glow on on each respective area. Well if there’s a glow on their front you’ll never see it coming. There is full camera control, but the problem is you need to rotate the camera to face behind you rather than a quick look behind you. Another shame is no indicator to warn you that someone is on your six.
To get into the lead position you have a nitro boost and a lot of it. If you run out, you can find more in green barrels, but otherwise it refills after a brief moment. This boost is more than a slow thrust, so there’s no logic to using it. When you get a small amount of it, use it.
Your vehicle has health, so getting hit with a falling log or running over ice spikes still gives you a chance of surviving. If you die, wreck or even respawn, you lose all of your charged weapons and keep what’s left of your used nitro. So Post Apocalyptic Mayhem has good strategy rather than quick and crazy car combat.
The courses are designed to make use of this combat with several sections that break up a map into narrow stalls, larger areas and bottlenecks. Kills are almost guaranteed without quick thinking to play defensive and let others through a narrow corridor or nitro ahead and leave barrels or fire for the others to run through. There are several different paths with each track so you always have a chance of finding a safe path to get ahead.
There’s an arcade mode that lets you play one track at a time, but I much prefer the apocalyptic challenge which has you playing all eight tracks back to back with a score after each one and a final score at the conclusion. This mode makes it feel like a deeper game even if its limited. The game does offer multiplayer online with ranked matches, but four years after a budget title’s release means the game is inevitably dead for multiplayer. I would have enjoyed it, because medium felt easy and the hard difficulty while it was still fun, it was difficult to exceed second to last place.
The vehicles all have character and there’s a wide variety each with their own stats for acceleration handling and mayhem. You have nine unlocked from the start and can select between a pair of dune buggies, a little car with a unicorn head that has a giant twisting drill, another small nuclear themed car and a few others. You’ll need to purchase DLC with the ice cream truck, 1950s squad car and classic tow truck. On sale, I’d go for it. I’d advise against smaller vehicles, because a smaller body size means its tougher to hit the barrels to get weapon charges.
If you think there’s a balance to smaller vehicles having less body to hit with weapons, you’d be wrong, because the weapons really scatter out making them tough to avoid without stopping. The mines themselves are tiny and blinking, so they’re tough to even see.
The game plays like a lot of other racers with a chase cam and I feel like the game was really designed with a 360 controller in mind. Everything is color coated to the controller, even the barrels. Its true arcade style racing with throttle controls of forward and reverse. There is a hard brake, even if I never had to brake. Slowing down to let opponents catch up just meant I had to let off the forward.
Now that I’ve discussed the good, let’s turn to the bad. The weight of each vehicle is so light it felt like driving a balloon with tires. Its difficult to stay grounded even in a logging rig, a school bus or an RV. There are a lot of jumps and ramps, but I’m talking about in general you can be driving on the walls. Coming down from a high jump can bounce you back up. Its ridiculous and it took me thirty minutes before I stopped laughing at the game and had some fun with it. You can also boost through the air, because your boost is a rocket rather than strict nitrous.
As for the graphics and art direction, it just looks faded and worn. I feel like I could enjoy the game more if the colors were bolder and it was more than a dusty covered look to them. I would say a dusty brown, but one of the eight courses feels little more than a happy winter wonderland of a previous course where rather than having brown sand blowing in the breeze its a snow dusting.
Another interesting thing is how much the demo or trailer plays in game if you wait too long in the menu. I enjoy when games have demos or trailers and it seems to be what’s missing from games now, but it plays a little too often.
There’s a lot working against the game despite all its positives. Its still far from a good game, but it was entertaining once I stopped laughing at it and found the strategy involved. In a sequel I would love more levels, more modes and a different, more vibrant art direction. I think a lot of people will hate it for how simplistic the weapons are with side, front and back coupled with the fact each vehicle’s weapons are different and there are better vehicles.
If you find it on sale, take a risk.