Emergency Mayhem (Wii) review
"Crisis City is swarming with activity. Pedestrians crowd the sidewalks. Traffic is thick and boasts a pleasing variety of vehicles, while the scenery is frequently beautiful with great draw distance. There's definitely a pleasing artistic aesthetic, with everything looking like it was ripped out of a particularly gorgeous cartoon. You'll find the occasional bland texture, sure, but overall this is one of the most visually arresting games to arrive on Wii to date."
Crisis City is a mess. Monkeys are running loose in the streets, a bunch of convicts escaped from prison and hospital patients are wandering the streets like zombies. On top of all of that, buildings are on fire and traffic is brutal. The time has definitely come for someone to do something about it, and in Emergency Mayhem for Wii, that someone is you.
At its heart, the game is pretty straight-forward. You race your chosen vehicle--a police car, a fire truck or an ambulance--around one of the bustling city's four precincts (think Crazy Taxi but prettier) and then you play mini-games to reduce mayhem to an acceptable level before time expires (think Rayman: Raving Rabbids but not as funny). Each rig boasts different mini-games, which would be really neat if the selection weren't so redundant.
Consider the police car and fire truck. In the case of the former, you'll help stranded motorists fix flat tires by holding the Wii Remote sideways and treating it like a tire pump's handle. As the fire truck, you'll perform a similar action to snuff out flames. Then there's the ambulance, which doesn't even go so far as to copy its competition. Instead, it introduces one basic mini-game and then repeats it with only slight variations. You'll be looking at someone's digestive track in three of the selections. Depending on your assignment, you might be asked to guide a fly through it, a magnet or a marble. Sure, these are technically all unique diversions and the control scheme is different each time, but perhaps you can see why the “over 30 mini-games!” sound more impressive as a selling point on the packaging than they are in practice.
That's just one aspect of Emergency Mayhem, though, and a small one at that. Where the game really shines is when you're cruising around the city. At first it can all seem a little intimidating because you don't know much about how the streets are laid out (and because there's no on-screen map). Crisis City is swarming with activity. Pedestrians crowd the sidewalks. Traffic is thick and boasts a pleasing variety of vehicles, while the scenery is frequently beautiful with great draw distance. There's definitely a pleasing artistic aesthetic, with everything looking like it was ripped out of a particularly gorgeous cartoon. You'll find the occasional bland texture, sure, but overall this is one of the most visually arresting games to arrive on Wii to date.
Besides looking wonderful, the streets of Crisis City provide numerous points of interest. In addition to mini-games, you'll find hundreds of glowing objects on high ledges, in underground parking garages and in back alleys. Some extend your remaining time and others reduce the level of mayhem. If you want to last long, you have to tag as many of the icons as possible while completing other driving objectives that include racing from one side of the city to another, avoiding collisions as you transport fragile goods or even doing quite the opposite and ramming evil-doers and key pedestrians with your car.
They can grow tiresome over the course of the game, but at least your objectives gradually evolve. Tasks that start out simple grow increasingly demanding as you advance to new precincts. For example, one of the police car's jobs is to diffuse bombs that have been left in phone booths. This is done by snipping electrical cords in a certain order. You have to trace tangled wires from one side of a jumbled mess to another. By the time you hit the fourth precinct, you really have to pay attention to the tangle or you'll almost certainly make the wrong choice. The ambulance mini-games, which require the most skill, get downright brutal near the end. Failing those a few times can really sting, especially when the game starts making fun of you.
Emergency Mayhem is quite willing to kick you while you're down. I don't even know the lady who provides the dispatcher voice work and already I despise her for the number of times she has told me that I suck and for the incessant chatter about how I am 'the boss' or how we're a good team or how I only have 20 seconds left to return to headquarters. Someone must be really proud of how irritating she is, since the insults come not only from the television speakers but also from the one built into the Wii Remote. At least you can head to the “Options” screen and turn off one or both if they're getting on your nerves, though.
Unfortunately, there's nothing to be done about the guiding arrow that is supposed to help you find your way through the twisting city streets. Often it will point straight at a wall that you can't possibly pass through. It also has the unfortunate habit of dropping out of sight when you need it most. Several times I found myself at the end of a mission and all I had left to do was return to headquarters, only I couldn't remember where they were and the arrow that should have pointed the way had vanished. It came back for the final 30 seconds, but then it pointed me to dead ends and cost me the game. Losing a half-hour of progress in that fashion will not make you a happy camper, I assure you!
The good news is that eventually you can play just about however you like. Once you've cleared most of the single-player campaign, you can access the mini-games right from the main menu. You can try for new top scores or even compete with other players if there are interested parties in your household. If you just want to drive, it's also possible to play through the final stretch of the game--with all four precincts seamlessly combined and free of load times--without worrying about a timer expiring.
Though it's not part of an established franchise, Emergency Mayhem does bring a lot of great ideas to the table. The combination of driving and mini-games, even without being used to its full advantage, works quite naturally here. The racing action is suitably frantic and polished, plus load times are infrequent. This isn't one of those titles that people will be talking about for years and it won't likely make an appearance on any list of top sellers, but it's still an enjoyable experience that you shouldn't miss if you're looking for something different on Wii. Crisis City might be a mess, but clean-up duty is a privilege.
Staff review by Jason Venter (May 09, 2008)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
If you enjoyed this Emergency Mayhem review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!