Nothing incites mayhem quite like fast food, especially when it's falling from the sky. At some point in 2004, Requiem Software Labs set out to document this burgers-and-fries madness, and the resulting product is Fast Food Mayhem for the T-Mobile Sidekick. It's yet another twist on a classic puzzle formula, and like any simple, well-conceived puzzle game, it's a great fit for your mobile phone.
The Fast Food Mayhem setup puts 13 columns at the top of the screen. The game begins with four fast food items in each column, but as you play, more food will drop down into the playfield. You control a tubby, pompadoured man at the bottom of the screen, and it's your task to place four of the same fast food items next to each other, which causes them to vanish from the playfield, presumably into your stomach. You can slide along the bottom of the screen, pulling food items down into your hands and launching them back up into the playfield to make your matches. Big points come when you cause chain reactions, where one set of food disappearing causes another to line up and disappear, and so on.
Fast Food Mayhem also has a strong anti-fruit agenda. You must watch out for fruit items, which are useless to our burger-loving protagonist, and can't be moved in any way. If you pop a set of food next to a piece of fruit, though, it'll bow under the burger pressure and disappear. Bonus items occasionally pop up as well, letting you remove a chunk of food from the playfield. The game gets faster and faster, and new food items are introduced into the mix. Starting out, you'll have to deal only with soda cans, burgers, and fries. But you'll also encounter hot dogs, ice cream, pizza, doughnuts, sandwiches, eggs, and pretzels. The additional items, along with the increases in speed, scale the game's difficulty nicely, but you can also adjust the game to disable fruit, start with more foods in play, or start at a higher difficulty level.
Control in Fast Food Mayhem is handled best with the scroll wheel and D pad on the Sidekick II. The wheel is used to move around, and pushing it in will launch power-ups. The D pad is used to bring food down from the playfield and launch it back up. This default setup works very well, but you can also assign the food-movement controls to any key on the hiptop's keyboard.
Fast Food Mayhem has a great deal of charm to it. The title screen has a large animated version of the game's hero lumbering after a cheeseburger that has managed to grow feet and run away from the human vacuum cleaner. During the gameplay, the food is good looking and easily recognizable, and the character has a couple of frames of animation that cycle when you move. Overall, the game looks good, and it also runs at a smooth, high speed. Though, like most Sidekick games, Fast Food Mayhem will occasionally seize up for a split second, often because the Sidekick is working on some other task in the background. But regardless of the technical reason behind it, it rarely gets in the way of the action. As a nice bonus, you can pause in the middle of a game, go handle other phone-related tasks, and then come back to the game and pick up where you left off.
On the sound side of things, Fast Food Mayhem is a bit quiet. There isn't any music in the game, but you'll hear some grunting noises when you move fast food around and some popping sounds when you match up food. Launching power-ups, which all come in the form of condiments, delivers a sampled splat noise, and leveling up nets you a voice saying, unsurprisingly, "Level up." It's sparse, but it fits the bill.
It's been said before, but it's worth repeating: Puzzle games and mobile phones are a solid match. Fast Food Mayhem may not be the most original idea in the world--it's basically a fast-food-themed take on games like Money Puzzle Exchanger or Magical Drop, both available in arcades on the NeoGeo hardware--but mimicking obscure puzzle games doesn't automatically make this game an also-ran. If you're looking for a great puzzle game for your Sidekick, Fast Food Mayhem is exactly that.