Aliens have come to Earth. You’ve heard the story before; maybe not in quite so many words – that title is mouthful! State of Anarchy: Master of Mayhem (SoA from now on!) comes from the minds of Russian developer Sometimes You. In its simplest terms, you’re looking at a twin stick shooter.
Left analog stick controls your movement, right is to aim whatever gun you happen to be holding at the time. Opening mission, you’re chucked into a top down view, with the vista just like something you’d see in a child’s colouring book. Bushes are messy scribbles and the people are viscious little blobs that run at you. It’s crudely drawn but I found myself enjoying the look.
First order of the day, follow the red arrow to stop the alien invasion. The end of that arrow is a bank (because why not?) These are your boss levels with a bulky bloke, stood on a table, holding a big gun that’s pointed right at you. Take out the boss, collect the money he had lying around in his pocket and complete the stage. Easy right?
Well, it starts slowly enough paced. As you would expect, the intensity soon ramps up. Enemies appear at an alarming rate of knots. The pedestrian stroll to the next bank from Stage 1 soon becomes filled with all sorts to hamper your progress. Machine gun wielding men, aliens in hovercraft, mini orange Star Wars style Star Destroyers and cars. Lots and lots of cars!
If you could solely (sorry) proceed on foot, you’d soon be overwhelmed. Fortunately, you have access to vehicles of your own. They handle exactly as you’d expect from an arcade shooter; bending round corners and drifting in tight circles; for my money they’re one of SoA’s strongest elements. You don’t lose any of your firepower when you shoot from behind the wheel either. You do however gain a satisfying squelch as an alien/ rioter splats beneath your wheels
Vehicles aren’t your only advantage. SoA has it’s own (very) lite-RPG elements. The aforementioned money soon adds up, allowing you to purchase small increases to your stats such rate of fire and range. In reality, these don’t feel like huge additions in the moment – it’s only when you go back to the earlier stages that you realise how under-powered you were.
Add to that perk points which you pick up every few levels. These grant you the ability to run faster or the chance to snatch some health back every time you make a kill. Finally, and among the smartest of the design choices Sometimes You made, are the weapon upgrades you gain at the death of every boss. Early on, these are just more powerful versions of the single shot pistol you start out with.
Later changes fundamentally change the way you play. That burst fire machine gun you had was great for keeping the alien overlords at bay over distance but now you’ve picked up a rapid firing buzz saw. This has twice the impact of your regular firearms except now you’re going to have to get in close. And then, the level is over and now you carrying a shotgun that inflicts toxic sludge damage. This really keeps things interesting and breaks up the monotony of what can otherwise be a fairly repetitive genre.
A few things worth mentioning. The soundtrack is really odd. Haunting alien invasion type music is soon turned into Madness style ska as soon as you get in a vehicle. The levels that take place in space have bizarre, almost relaxing acoustic guitar riffs, completely out of keeping with the action on screen.
And. There are bugs. I had to reinstall the game twice to get the sound to work. On another occasion, SoA froze on a loading screen just after I’d taken down a stage boss. Rather than take me back to the beginning of the level, I lost all progress I’d made from Stage 4 to Stage 15! Maybe it will be fixed in time for launch, maybe it won’t.