Review – No Straight Roads

A game all about a rock band saving the world from an evil corporation that forces everyone to only listen to EDM. Nope, this isn’t the long-awaited sequel to BrĂ¼tal Legend, but actually No Straight Roads. It’s a delightful musical adventure that might have been a bit too ambitious for its own good, but still managed to make me smile with its setting and premise. Let’s take a look at this little unpolished gem.

No Straight Roads

Yeah, for the past twenty years…

I absolutely love the background premise. You control the rock duo, Bunk Bed Junction; comprised of Mayday, the nightmare-inducing flower-eyed guitarist, and Zuke, the closest to a chilled out stoner they could get away with without ever mentioning marijuana once throughout the story. After failing miserably in a talent show sponsored by the evil NSR corporation, a company that converts music into electricity in order to provide your city with power and ultimately bans rock in favor of EDM, you set out on a journey in order to defeat a bunch of evil DJs and restore power to the city.

There are two different gameplay sections in No Straight Roads. There are straightforward, story-focused battles against the evil DJs sponsored by the NSR corporation. Then there is a simple, but quite decent open-world section that lets you explore a small city in order to collect macguffins and gather more fans to your posse. The boss battles are the meat of the experience. They reminded me a bit of Furi, not only due to the musical connection, but also the fact that, in terms of gameplay and combat, that’s basically what you’re going to do the most in here. Not because there are lots of bosses to fight against, but because the game encourages you to kill them over and over again in order to improve your stats.

No Straight Roads

What a nightmare.

No Straight Roads isn’t a rhythm-based game, sadly enough. Although the tutorial mentions that you can defeat enemies by paying attention to the beat of the music being played in the background, you barely need to care about that. This is more of a mindless hack and slash/beat ’em up hybrid with little emphasis on stylish attacks and precision. Keep killing enemies left and right, then defeat bosses by reading their telegraphed movesets, attacking whenever they drop their guard. Sadly, the combat controls are clunky and the platforming mechanics (yes, this game features platforming sections) is severely unreliable.

Whenever you’re not in a new boss battle, or repeating an old boss battle in order to improve your stats, you’ll be able to freely explore Vinyl City and interact with its handful of citizens. There’s not a lot to do in these sections besides collecting “qwaza cannisters”, which can be used in order to power up multiple objects throughout the city, pleasing the nearby populace, and increasing your overall fanbase. The more fans you have, the more skills you can unlock. The overworld isn’t that exciting, but it’s so pleasing to look at that I didn’t mind its shallowness at all. It reminded me of those old Dreamcast hub worlds, back when they were starting to doodle with this concept.

No Straight Roads

I love this game’s goofy animations.

No Straight Roads is clearly focused on style over substance, given how its gameplay is a bit too ambitious for its premise without being adequately polished. Thankfully, it is hella stylish, even though it’s slightly clunky. I loved its art style, despite Mayday looking extremely weird with the flower-shaped eyeballs. I loved the character designs and their animations. The game did feature some instances of screen tearing though, and the framerate suffered some dips when a lot of enemies showed up onscreen.

Being a music-themed game, it’s no surprise that No Straight Roads features a fantastic soundtrack. You need to take into account that for the most part, you’ll be listening to EDM songs, as the world is dominated by this evil EDM corporation. Even so, those tunes are absolute bangers. Everything sounds upbeat and cheerful, making an already colorful game even more colorful. I wasn’t completely enamored with the voice acting, though. Sometimes it works and can actually be quite hilarious at times. There are other moments in which the same voice actors deliver such lazy lines that it almost felt they had been replaced by someone else midway through the recording session.

No Straight Roads

Some of these boss battles are way more complex than they should, but they’re always an audiovisual treat.

No Straight Roads‘ premise is fantastic. I loved its setting, its soundtrack, and I really enjoyed its cast of characters, despite how freakishly weird Mayday looks. A game all about saving the world with the power of rock should be an easy win for me. If it wasn’t for its clunky combat and controls, as well as its tendency to bite way more than it can actually chew, No Straight Roads would have been one of the best surprises of the year. As it stands, even with its lack of polish, I still had a blast with it. It’s way too damn adorable and cheerful for me to ignore.

 

Graphics: 8.0

It looks absolutely adorable, but it features some ugly cartoonish stills, and its framerate is very janky in some areas. It also features very noticeable cases of screen tearing.

Gameplay: 6.5

The combat mechanics are fun, but nowhere near as responsive as the game’s fast-paced nature requires it to be. The platforming is also unreliable.

Sound: 8.5

The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic, but the voice acting is a mixed bag. It can occasionally be adorable and hilarious, but there are instances in which the voice actors completely phone it in.

Fun Factor: 7.0

The art style is adorable, the music is great, and the humor is on point, but No Straight Roads‘ gameplay is a bit too complicated for its own right. It tries to bite a lot more than it can chew.

Final Verdict: 7.5

No Straight Roads is available now on PS4, Xbox One, PC, and Switch.

Reviewed on PS4.

A copy of No Straight Roads was provided by the publisher.