Title: No Straight Roads
Release Date: August 25, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Sold Out
There’s no denying that one look at No Straight Roads will get you interested in whatever the heck it is. Well, even after playing, that’s kind of hard to explain. It’s as if the game is one part adventure platformer, one part boss rush, and one part rhythm game. Sadly, it doesn’t execute fully on any of these concepts, but thankfully, the characters are there to carry this quest to the credits.
No Straight Roads has such a grand opening as we are introduced to Mayday and Zuke as they debut their music to the world. Their city is under the control of a corporation known as No Straight Roads or NSR, which provides music that powers Vinyl City. So, Mayday and Zuke’s rock band Bunk Bed Junction tries out in a competition to be the next prominent artist.
However, things don’t work out as the judges of NSR turn them down, and to further spit in the duo’s face, they announce that rock is dead and EDM will be the reigning musical genre in Vinyl City. After the two spend time moping around, they realize that something just isn’t right about NSR’s decision, and they aim to get down to the bottom of it. The two characters then set out on a quest to end the careers of each of the most beloved artists in town, all while spreading the joys are rock to the citizens.
Let’s just get one thing clear, Mayday and Zuke are extraordinary protagonists, and their chemistry is perfect. They each riff on each other in some creative ways, but we also get to see different sides of their personalities throughout the narrative. The more you get to know them, the more believable their friendship is, and it almost feels like you’re watching episodes of a Saturday morning cartoon.
The supporting cast is almost as compelling, but they leave you wondering if they have any alternative motives. When it comes to the members of NSR, I found them to be an excellent group of baddies, which make it easy to hate them, except for Sayu, you can’t hate her.
However, the characters are not the problem when it comes to this adventure. Instead, it’s the journey from point A to point B that really hurts the overall experience. During gameplay, players can explore Vinyl City as they make their way to the boss levels. At first, exploration is fun, but that’s until you realize their is absolutely nothing to do. There’s a variety of collectible laying around town, but that’s all you’ll really be doing during these moments. This is actually a let down considering the city itself has a nice layout overall.
Once you get to the boss level, it’s time for a rhythm type of fighting experience. Well, I think that’s what’s supposed to be going on here, but I could never really find the beat. I found that I just wailed on enemies and got through alright. However, they do kind of go with the beat, but it really doesn’t matter that much.
Each dungeon that you enter is more or less the same. You clear a platform of enemies, and you move to the next, over and over again. It wouldn’t be so bad if the combat was so basic. It’s possible to level up your character to add new abilities and attacks, but the depth of it all is skin-deep. These sections become even more tedious due to the locked camera that makes platforming sections significantly tougher to land. There also isn’t an enemy lock-on feature, but it does lock onto flying enemies to use a ranged attack.
Boss battles, on the other hand, are each unique and require the player to stay on their toes if they want to get through the encounter. The difficulty of the game raises slightly here as you’re expected to navigate gimmicks and do actions that damage the boss. Most of these boss encounters are probably the best part of the gameplay experience.
Outside of battles, players can earn fans through various means and upgrade their characters by using stickers. This gives the player a way to fine-tune their experience by adding modifiers, but it doesn’t get too deep. Using the power of having fans allows players to gain new combos and skills, including dashes and double jumps. I thought these made exploration a lot easier, but as soon as I got the double job, I spent most of my time trying to get to places that I shouldn’t be.
Graphically, No Straight Roads is fantastic. I just loved the character designs and world during each moment of gameplay. The music only complements this by setting the tone for the adventure. There is also multiplayer elements to the game, but I didn’t feel like they made the game more fun, instead, it felt like we were having more fun just making up our own
No Straight Roads is such a good game in concept, but the mechanics hold back this gorgeous adventure from being something great. The world feels empty, and the level designs become a repetitive mess. However, if you can look past that, then you are rewarded with some stand-out character writing and fantastic animation work. Call me when No Straight Roads gets its own Netflix series.
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