If there’s something this generation of gaming has missed out on, I would say it’s the variety of game genres we had previously, took for granted, and now miss sorely. That’s not to say that I think gaming has stopped producing uniquely-weird games but I do feel that there is much less out there than before. And that alone makes me all the more inclined to reach out to these kinds of games even more now, and after two years I’m glad I can finally talk about No Straight Roads.
No Straight Roads is an action-adventure game developed by Metronomik and published by Sold Out Sales. You take control of our two protagonists, Mayday and Zuke of Bunk Bed Junction as they try to reclaim Vinyl City from the clutches of NSR (“No Straight Roads”), a group that believe the world’s music should solely be EDM and that rock has no place in the world. Basically you’re building an underground rock band that rises up against the man and their sick techno beats. Pretty neat!
But there’s a lot more to the game than just this simple premise. If you love music and you love jiving to beats while gaming, there’s but one road for you.
Rockin’ and Rollin’ through EDM Requires Skill
In No Straight Roads, the core gameplay loop is the boss fights and replaying said fights to get a better score. And because each boss has their own theme and mechanics, your first go at a fight might not yield a score you’re proud of. But that’s okay! This game is all about learning attack patterns which you can later use to your advantage to finish a fight faster.
Now the two playable characters, Mayday and Zuke, each have their own playstyle and learning their mechanics will get you a lot farther than simply button mashing the attack button. Mayday is great at charging in and dealing heavy but slow blows while with Zuke’s the player must press the attack button to the rhythm of the beat will allow you to drum up a chain of attacks in quick succession.
Besides the basics, you can apply stickers found throughout the game’s overworld to our duo’s weapon’s of choice. Some of these stickers will either increase damage, movement speed, or even increase the parry radius for the player (like I mentioned, this helps you beat fights faster!). You can also apply ‘mods’ which enable you to use skills that can be real helpful when in a pinch or if a baddy is just out of reach. And last but not least, there are ‘ultimate duets’, which brings Mayday and Zuke together to create some real on-screen chaos.
But of course the assists do not end there. Beating bosses gives you ‘fans’, which you can think of as the game’s experience system rebranded. Using the number of fans you have, you can unlock new attack patterns, increase the number of attacks you can add to your chain, increase the amount of energy you hold, and much more.
These assists encourage you to replay bosses and improve your score, giving you more fans which allows you to unlock more skills, and either progress through the game or retry the boss fights on much harder difficulties. Honestly, I quite this gameplay loop. I don’t have to focus on getting fans because even though these skills are a great help, they mean little if you don’t learn a boss’s attack patterns. Think of it this way, you could have all the gear in the world, but if you don’t know how to infiltrate your way into the base, you’re as good as human paste.
There’s also a two-player mode, which has proven helpful in beating one of the stages that I was having trouble with. Though it is a little buggy and really only works during fights. When you’re exploring the overworld the camera still focuses on the first player, which means that the second player is left helpless as they get stuck on random parts of the map. It’s not game breaking by any means but it sure looks silly.
The World of Vinyl City and its Music
As you’ve likely surmised, this game is all about the music. The boss fights are dictated by the musical beat that play in their fights and the overworld is swarming with style, prettiness, and beats like no other.
When your not clobbering the stooges of NSR you’re exploring Vinyl City, finding little ‘Qwasa’ energy containers, which allows you to restore electricity to nearby lights or vending machine and gaining you new fans in the process. Starting the game, Vinyl City may seem small, but by beating a boss you unlock their ‘platinum disc’ of sorts, which opens up the next area of the overworld for you to explore.
And when you’re not jumping around the city or going to the next boss fight, you’re in Bunk Bed Junction’s underground sewer lair. Here is where you distribute fans for skills, apply mods and stickers, play a fun little retro-like arcade game, and much more is added as you progress through the game, recruiting denizens of the city to your rock ‘n roll cause.
Oh, and the music? It’s friggin’ great! You have the likes of James Landino, Andy Tunstall, Falk Au Yeong, Shota Nakama and more of CYTUS, Tekken, and Kingdom Hearts fame. Each composition really reflects the world and each head honcho that you go after and listening is a requirement both for pleasure and for making sure you don’t lose half your health in one hit.
Is This Concert Worth the Price of Admission?
No Straight Roads is a project that I’ve looked forward to playing for a long time. And its clear that a lot of love has gone into this game. From the animation work to the music and to the colourful world of Vinyl City, this game is so stylishly pleasing. Oh, and the voice acting is a treasure.
During my time with this game, I had a lot of fun tackling the challenges thrown my way, though at time I did feel that the game sometimes didn’t do a good job of indicating what the player should do next. One could argue that’s part of learning the boss, but I think that involves both visual and audio indicators and I do feel that the game doesn’t do too good of a job pointing out the former to the player.
I also ran into some bugs and glitches, one of which resulted in me losing out on a hard mode win in one of the fights. These issues weren’t common, but they certainly frustrated me, especially if you lose out on what should have been a recorded win!
But even with these issues, No Straight Roads was really fun to play, for me and my friend. Metronomik’s first game, in my eyes, is a hit that blends so many unique and weird styles. I never felt bored playing this game and I think you won’t be either. Hopefully, if No Straight Roads is successful, we’ll see more titles not just from Metronomik but from other developers in parts of Eurasia not known for gaming.
Oh, and let me be controversial for a moment. Video games will continue to be shining example of why video game music > music. ∎
No Straight Roads
- Stylish game-world that's fun to run around in.
- Combat rewards timing over button-mashing.
- Characters, writing, and voice acting are very entertaining.
- Technical oddities sometimes result in a janky experience.
- Boss fights can become frustrating with split-second to no visual telegraphs.