When it comes to the side-scrolling beat ’em up genre, Streets of Rage 4 is king. But Mayhem Brawler is snapping at its heels.
Developed and published by Hero Concept, based in the heart of Istanbul, Mayhem Brawler introduces players to Stronghold – a super-powered law enforcement agency. Its story begins with three of its members – Trouble, Dolphin and Star – responding to a routine call while on patrol. Little do they know that it’s going to lead them to a troublesome case that will determine the fate of the city.
Released back in August 2021, Mayhem Brawler has since had a new character join its roster: She Wolf. She isn’t a member of Stronghold, but has close ties with them, and players will love her ferocity. Even better, her arrival also brings four-player local co-op to the game. Previously the maximum was three. Other improvements have been made since launch, too, but we’ll get to those later.
The gameplay of Mayhem Brawler doesn’t stray from the traditional side-scrolling beat ’em up format. Each level finds you moving from left to right, frequently stopping to beat up thugs and other miscreants. And at the end of the level there’s a formidable boss for you to overcome. No matter who you choose to play as, you’ll find that you have one attack button you can mash to perform a combo, and a special attack button which can be used providing you have enough charge in a meter.
Like in Streets of Rage 4, special attacks come in three flavours: a defensive move that clears the enemies around you, a forward-facing attack that’s more focused, and a powerful aerial assault. Thankfully the meter that powers them charges fairly quickly, allowing you to use them regularly. Combined with the other actions available, such as jumping, dashing, picking up weapons and even blocking, the combat of Mayhem Brawler feels sufficiently fleshed out.
What stands out most about Mayhem Brawler is that you have a limited ability to determine where your adventure goes. After completing the first stage you’ll be offered up two choices as to where you can go next, and that will not only change the scenery, but also the enemies you face. The fantastical nature of the game’s world means that there are vampires, werewolves, spellcasters, and more, all keeping you on your toes. Ultimately, your choices will lead to one of three endings, presenting some replayability.
Outside of the campaign mode, Mayhem Brawler features an arcade mode that has been revamped since launch. It allows you to make your way through the game’s stages without any story scenes interrupting the action. A level select feature has also been added since launch, allowing you to jump into any level you’ve previously completed. The only thing that’s really missing is the option to play in online co-op, which will disappoint some.
You’ll soon get over it, though, because Mayhem Brawler is just so much fun to play. It’s fast-paced but your movements still feels purposeful. And the combat feels more fine-tuned that most other side-scrolling beat ’em ups out there. It looks great, too, with a comic book art style that makes the visuals stand out. Add in a suitably rocking soundtrack, and you have a game that’s a joy to play from beginning to end, again and again.
If you love side-scrolling beat ’em ups, consider Mayhem Brawler a must-have. Though even those who have simply dabbled with the likes of Streets of Rage or Final Fight should also check it out. This is, without a doubt, one of the best examples of the genre, and a fun game to play alone or with friends or family members while sat on the couch. We can only hope that Hero Concept follows up with a sequel. Because as a first attempt, there are solid foundations here for something special.
Mayhem Brawler Review – GameSpew’s Score