The public toilet is a complex environment, bursting with unwritten rules and accepted traditions. While these standards are not governed by laws, only a brave person dare break them. Men’s Room Mayhem, a brand new PlayStation Vita pee ‘em up from Ripstone and Sawfly Studios, aims to tackle these complex issues in a comical arcade fashion. But will it pull your chain, or merely block the bog?
It’s a game that’s flush with ideas, many of which are inspired by the popular smartphone and PlayStation Move title Flight Control. However, as opposed to commanding different coloured concords, here your main points of priority are cross-legged patrons desperate to take a leak. Dragging your finger across the screen will allow you to guide all manner of potty people to the nearest urinal or cubicle, allowing them to relieve themselves without making a mess. Some folks will be more desperate than others, and this will have ramifications on how quickly you’ll need to guide them to the loo.
Of course, the men’s toilet is not nearly as orderly – or pleasant smelling – as the little girl’s room. As such, there are a number of regulations that you’ll need to abide by. Leaving a gap between lavatories will earn you extra points, as everyone except George Michael expects some privacy when enjoying a wee. You’ll also grab a hygiene bonus for successfully encouraging a client to wash their hands, which is trickier than it sounds. Any points that you do earn will be multiplied by the number of people in the bathroom, allowing you to maximise your score by keeping the pressure high.
Should two eager urinators cross paths, they’ll engage in a brawl, leaving a bloody mess on your freshly mopped floor. Furthermore, you’ll be forced to contend with a yellow puddle should an accident occur, and, well, you can probably guess what the brown splodge represents. If your bathroom starts to stink, you’ll be fired from your regrettable role – but you do get a ten second opportunity to clean up in between waves on the standard setting.
While the gameplay doesn’t really stray from these core ideas, new levels do provide different layouts for you to contend with. One stage – in a hotel – is loaded with urinals, but only has three sinks, leaving you sweating over how you’re going to get everyone to wash their hands. These arenas also introduce unique toilet goers, such as the lady who can’t seem to understand door labels, and acts as a bathroom medusa, turning nearby patrons to stone should she get too close. Meanwhile, the drunk moves at a variable speed, while the old man shuffles about like a sleepy snail. These subtle tweaks introduce some interesting challenges, but the gameplay doesn’t really change much throughout. Even the bonus Blitz Mode fails to mix things up, replacing the traditional waves-based format for a frantic three minute bog-friendly blast.
And that’s perhaps the biggest problem with the slash simulation: it’s a one-trick potty. Once you’ve successfully served your first tinkle starved personality, you’ll have largely seen it all. The novelty won’t wear off immediately, and you’ll probably find yourself playing long enough to unlock most of the stages and set some high scores on the online leaderboards, but you’ll eventually tire of the formula, and you’ll end up feeling emptier than the contents of your customers’ bladders.
It doesn’t help that the game has a more dislikeable progression mechanic than sandpaper loo roll. Inspired by Jetpack Joyride’s mission structure, the title will set you three tasks at the start of a stage in order to up your rank and discover new arenas. The problem is that these don’t rotate during rounds, meaning that a successful session lasting anywhere up to 20 minutes won’t get you very far. We ultimately opted to complete the challenges and then purposely force the ‘Game Over’ screen, allowing us to game the system and unlock the new levels faster. That’s clearly not how the release is supposed to be played, though.
Nevertheless, it’s a nice little title to look at, with a Habbo Hotel-esque isometric aesthetic, and some Sims-style pixelation effects to protect your patrons’ modesty. The visuals are packed with personality, and this is reflected in the audio, which boasts some colourful – if a little grainy – melodies and satisfying sound effects. It’s clear that the title’s been produced on a toilet paper-thin budget, but given the simplicity of the action, it’s not really a problem – though, obviously, a few extra character models and environments wouldn’t have hurt.
The ideal accompaniment to a short spell on the throne, Men’s Room Mayhem is bursting with charm – but its poor progression system and novelty-driven gameplay means that it ultimately pees on the potty seat. The title definitely scrubs up well, and there’s an unusual allure to its overarching concept – just don’t expect this water closet excursion to come up smelling entirely of roses.