Some of the best games are the ones that take weird concepts and go their own way with them. Platinum Games actually made a name for themselves by giving over the top gameplay depth. Other developers have used mechanics, music, design, or a number of other things to stand out. At first glance, No Straight Roads is vibrant, extremely stylized, and certainly interesting. With some big names attached and it is based on some iconic games from the past, it has the potential to be great, but will it capitalize on it?
No Straight Roads starts with a rather simple premise. Vinyl City has something of a gameshow that Mayday and Zuke enter with their rock band Bunkbed Junction. Despite performing well, the pair fail due to a bias towards Electronic Dance Music (EDM). After protesting, they decide to fight back and show that rock still has a place in Vinyl City.
Levels are pretty straightforward in No Straight Roads. You overcome a series of obstacles and then fight a boss. Fighting peons is fairly forgettable, with the most notable thing being they attack with the beat. Those who find themselves following the music will know when to attack or dodge, making them pretty straightforward. In fact, everything just builds towards a climactic showdown between the larger than life EDM figures.
Boss fights are the opposite of the normal previous section. They’re extremely stylized enemies that have a lot of quirks, unusual mechanics and unique elements. One is a Miku-esque digital idol piloted by a wide array of talented people, another is a crazy DJ that has moves based off scratching vinyl, with others standing out in their own ways. These fights work because the core elements are presented in a wide variety of different ways.
At their core, it is about the same. Do normal attacks, find specific items, obtain bullets, then attack the boss. It’s when you need to hit planets floating above a record or break molds that it feels different. These weird and unusual elements are enough to sell the idea of the adventure, one that is further enhanced by charming characters.
Mayday and Zuke have a rather interesting relationship, one that shines through on their adventure. There is a lot of little things that add substance to No Straight Roads to make it more than a flashy game with catchy music. That said, other areas are a bit lacking.
Progression is based on defeating bosses, performance, and doing things around the city. There are a lot of hard caps that you can either save for or maximize perks as you progress. Given you’re limited to certain perks, there is only so much you can do on the first or second attempt. There are also some neat mechanics, such as stickers, but their temporary nature means they’re better left for a later hard run.
For such as eventful world, it’s also relatively linear. Everything is set up with only so much progression in mind, leaving the world with an empty feeling. Finish a boss, unlock a new area, move forward, do it again. Thankfully, these elements only impact the experience so much. More often than not you’ll still explore, collect stickers, obtain resources and gain fans, it just has a rather mechanical feel to it.
No Straight Roads Review – Verdict
Despite being a relatively simple game, No Straight Roads has more than enough charm to stand out. Mayday and Zuke are a cute pair that made me smile on more than one occasion. The soundtrack is also really good, one that prompted me to move away from my usual sound system in favor of some nice headphones. Its unfortunate combat isn’t overly deep but everything else comes together so well it’s easy to overlook that.
[Editor’s Note: No Straight Roads was reviewed on the PS4 platform. The game was provided to us by the publisher for review purposes.]