It's a bit of a bomb.
Developed by the studio behind Bit.Trip Runner, Hextech Mayhem is a rhythm-platforming game starring League of Legends’ bomb-loving yordle Ziggs as he goes on an explosive rampage through the city of Piltover. Each stage has you controlling Ziggs in an auto-scrolling obstacle course, playing along to the beat as you jump, slam, and bomb your way to victory. Along the way, Ziggs is pursued by Professor Heimerdinger, who serves as the game's main "villain", seeking to Ziggs' explosive rampage short.
Ziggs’ controls are very simple, with only three possible actions at any time. These actions are indicated by color-coded icons on the stage that sync up with the music, marking exactly where in the stage you’ll need to perform them. The concept is easy to grasp, and there’s a satisfying sense of flow that comes with really getting into the groove and hitting all the right actions on time.
You’re not exclusively limited to following the icons, though; the game also allows you to perform “freestyle mayhem,” which are actions that fit the flow of the song that are unmarked on the stage. There are alternate routes you can reach with improvised jumps, and bonus points that can be awarded for throwing extra bombs.
Freestyle mayhem is a cool idea in theory, and I’ve actually loved the idea of a rhythm game awarding the player for “ad-libbing” extra actions that fit the beat of a song before. Unfortunately, the implementation in Hextech Mayhem feels more frustrating and limiting than rewarding. Despite the name, freestyle mayhem actually doesn’t allow for much player freedom. There are specific, correct actions that must be performed, and due to the platforming nature of the game’s stages you can actually make some obstacles completely unavoidable.
You could successfully pull off a freestyle jump, but then not realize a freestyle bomb right afterwards will lead to you ramming right into an enemy, killing you. Freestyle mayhem is so rigidly set in stone by the game that you can actually unlock an alternate game mode after finishing the game called Full Action Mode that reveals the hidden icons for freestyle actions, which ironically makes the game easier overall. As I got later in the game, I gave up on freestyle actions entirely and started to get much better scores by exclusively focusing on the actions that were clearly defined with icons.
There are also some pretty significant performance issues on Switch. Though the game usually runs fine, indulging in freestyle mayhem can often lead to an awful lot of explosions appearing on screen at once, and the framerate starts to dip pretty quickly as things get more hectic. These performance drops carry a huge drawback to them, as the game often fails to register your button presses whenever the framerate drops below 30fps. This would be irritating in any game, but in a rhythm game it’s downright debilitating.
Ultimately, there isn’t much to Hextech Mayhem, and that doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. As a smaller budget game, the rhythm mechanics are decent enough, and once you unlock Full Action Mode the problems with freestyle mayhem completely disappear. Unfortunately, more freestyle mayhem means more performance drops, which means more missed button presses. Hextech Mayhem is a fine little game, but the fact that the best way to play just doesn’t work sometimes and is only available after finishing the game, I’m not sure I can really recommend it to anyone that isn’t a League of Legends fan that’s really itching to see more of Ziggs in action.