previews\ Feb 23, 2011 at 7:00 pm



When Sega and Platinum games released Madworld in 2009, the most striking feature of the game was the black and white visuals. It’s rare that a game will choose to design graphics strictly in black and white with spots of color, but Madworld rose to the challenge admirably. Since then, no other developer has truly created a game that runs on this black and white, partially colored aesthetic.

It's about time a title adopts this visual style, and that game is Mayhem, a noir-style destruction derby/racing game that treads the line between Sin City-style racing and family friendly design. There's no gore to be seen, and the language is decidedly E10+, but there is a definite dark mood to the game.

The visuals of Mayhem are arresting, even if the game doesn’t appear to tax a console's power and technology. Most of the arenas are depicted in black and white, but taillights, the sky, and other highlights appear in red. Yellow is also applied to pop-ups when players ram into other racers. No other element in Mayhem is as exciting as its visual direction.

Oh, and remember that the game is in 3D. No, not the new-fangled pretty 3D with special TVs and all that, but an old school 3D viewed with red and blue glasses. The quirk goes a long way to applying a grind-house retro feel to the title.

Visuals aside, Mayhem is at heart a racing game. There are four different game types that are spread across twenty levels in five arenas and utilize 120 different cars available in six vehicle types. That’s a lot of numbers, but what the game comes down to is some good old arena-based racing, with events broken down by car type.

Demolition Derby is exactly what you'd imagine, with cars smashing each other to smithereens, all while the player collects broken parts on the track to build a boost meter for extra damage. Banger Racing offers traditional arena-based racing within a smaller environment. Domination is a king-of-the-hill variant, with cars ramming each other off the edge of platform, and Eliminator is a racing variation with lagging racers eliminated by a timer. Each of these modes supports two-player split screen, and eight-player online.

There will also be a series of unlockable mini-games, plus over 150 different unlockables ranging from new tracks and cars to vehicle modifiers. Mayhem is indeed a budget title, coming in at $39.99, but the game seems to offer a fair bang for the buck.

There's your incentive. If you’re looking for a visually striking game for a budget price, Mayhem holds some promise. If the gameplay impresses as much as the art direction, Zoo Games and publisher Rombax could have a nifty spring surprise in store when Mayhem releases March 29.

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