Last year, 99Games unleashed Prison Mayhem, the grim and gritty Shawshank Redemption of the traditionally fluffy time management genre. Nightclub Mayhem is the follow-up, but don’t expect blood on the dance floor. This game hews closely to a formula of inoffensive gameplay, cute characters and customers who can’t find their mocktails without help.
Nightclub Mayhem’s protagonist is Brooke, a perky strawberry blonde who is– stop us if you’ve heard this before– taking over her Uncle Jack’s once-popular nightclubs. You seem to be a disembodied spirit moving people around, since Brooke talks to you between levels but nobody else acknowledges your presence. That’s probably not what the designer intended, but thinking about it that way adds a certain creepy charm.
The game starts at Breeze, a small nightclub in Miami. There, Brooke shows you how to guide customer Dave through eating a snack in the cafe, drinking a drink at the mocktail bar (there’s no booze in this all-ages game), and dancing up a storm on the empty dance floor. Once Dave settles his bill, you’ve learned all the key tasks.
You can dance if you wanna.
The characters are cute in the big-headed way that has earned millions for publishers like Zynga, but what we appreciated is that each character has a set routine. Dave, Silver, Bruce and the rest always do the same things in the same order, so you can plan your strategy around Silver’s need for two mocktails and Bruce’s fruitless attempts to sober up in the cafe after his fruit drinks. There are variations in food and drink orders, and random events to keep you on your toes, but you have enough control over the game to rack up big bonuses by chaining tasks together.
As the game progresses, the tasks become more complex. There are more characters, more drinks, more menu items, song requests that encourage you to change up the music selection for extra points, and a narcoleptic DJ that triggers a disk-spinning minigame. This last is entertaining, at least until you figure out how to exploit the rhythm element by spinning the disk continuously.
You’ll upgrade the club’s decorations as you play, with each improvement increasing tips or customer patience. We focused on the patience improvements, but you earn enough money that you’ll have bought everything by the end. After twelve levels, Brooke pronounces the Miami nightclub scene conquered and you’re off to run Boom Box, a nightclub in London.
Mocktails for one and all.
This is where the game gets a little weird. Most of the Boom Box levels are smaller and easier than the levels you just left behind. There are a few new characters and tasks, including an annoying mini-game that requires you to memorize mocktail recipes and reproduce them for a bartender seen nowhere else in the game. But instead of continuing at a higher level, it’s almost as if you’re playing a new game from the beginning.
The whole thing also comes to an abrupt end. After twelve more levels, Brooke gets in a plane and flies off to her next challenge, which is… coming soon. It’s a fun game, so the promise of more to do is a good thing, but the lack of closure left us feeling like we hadn’t really beaten the game.
There is a ‘Party All Night’ high score mode, in which you play until you lose five customers. But we still can’t shake the feeling that we’ve left something undone. Time management fans will enjoy Nightclub Mayhem, but they risk ending up like we did, crying in our mocktails for Brooke to return and finish the game.