See you at the crossroads
2020 will not only be the year we finally see ageing time travellers Bill and Ted return to the silver screen in Bill and Ted Face the Music but also the year we are set to discover a new duo of wannabe rock legends. After several delays, No Straight Roads hits PC and consoles and is the debut release for the team at Metronomik. All that’s left to find out is can No Straight Roads crank things up to eleven, let’s dig in and rock out!
No Straight Roads is an action-adventure game with beats of rhythm infused throughout. The game follows playable characters Mayday and Zuke and their band Bunk Bed Junction in a battle to save Rock ‘n’ Roll from the evil EDM empire of Vinyl City. The game is deeply inspired by the genre-defining greats, notably Jet Set Radio and Space Channel 5, all the way through to pop culture icon Scott Pilgrim. Devs Metronomik certainly has set the bar high for this inaugural offering but luckily they have a degree of pedigree to back it up. The development team is the brainchild of cousins Wan Hazmer and Daim Dziauddin who previously worked on Final Fantasy XV and Street Fighter V respectively.
TOP OF THE POPS
The first thing that hits you with NSR is the sheer amount of energy and style it has. The visual is bright and in your face with leads Mayday and Zuke looking like they just missed out on making the Gorillaz original lineup, which is fitting as we join them taking part in a televised talent contest. Falling at the last hurdle, the judges inform that rock is dead and EDM (Electronic Dance Music, for the older readers – including me) is the new king. Not one to take things lightly the duo decide, in true rock fashion, to start a revolution and take back the city!
Of course, it isn’t that easy. The gameplay mixes in a limited open world, for exploration and collection of key items, while en route to hijack performances by the superstar DJs of the EMD empire. Each district contains numerous enemies, NPCs to meet, ability upgrades and power cells that can be used to regenerate darkened areas. In defeating foes your fanbase points increase, which is in essence XP. Collected upgrades and modifiers are stashed for your return to an underground sewer called home, its a setup Master Splinter and those four half-shelled heroes would be envious of. This underground base acts as a central hub and safe place to manage abilities, learn info about the next target or even play a quick gig to unlock the further branches of your varied skill tree. Modifiers and skills are vital components that aid with progression, unlocking double jumps will allow for previously restricted areas to be explored while upgraded move sets will make BOSS BATTLES easier.
Oh yes, the sewer base is also home to Zukes snappy pet alligator who is always happy to receive a meal. Back on the streets, a mini-map will help navigate districts although there isn’t a waypoint as such, just a star to indicate the rough direction of the next target if close enough.
The revolt continues as you hijack each performance. A brief bit of platforming will lead you to the main stage and the ensuing battle of the bands. Switching between Mayday and Zuke, at the press of a button, you must defeat each artist in a series of mini-game styled rhythmic face-offs. Mayday, the lead, utilises her guitar skills while Zuke packs a punch on the drums for up-close melee encounters. Additionally, both have ranged attacks and killer finisher moves for when the final note is insight. The two characters have variations in playstyle which comes in handy during each battle, Zukes parry ability is particularly fiddley to master but an essential mechanic and Mayday is the heavy hitter of the group. No Straight Roads generally controls well but takes a little practice to master as each performance requires a different tactic. Move and attack in time with the music is the key to success.
Defeating each stage will unlock the district and allow you to explore further collecting more items. You’ll find different difficulty levels for each stage to unlock but to be honest the standard is tough enough. The inclusion of multiplayer modes simply adds to the enjoyment had as you take in the locale and battle together.
THE SHOW MUST GO ON
It’s not all praise unfortunately, NRS suffers from the same issues that were present in the genre-defining titles of twenty years ago. Gameplay is somewhat limited, even hollow at times and the difficulty of hitting the right groove to progress can be on the steep side. You will end up replaying segments time and time again in order to progress, especially if you don’t have an ounce of hand-eye coordination or soul, like me. Generally, it performs well on the Switch but did suffer occasionally in handheld mode but this in no way detracted from the enjoyment.
Where NSR really knocks it out of the park is in the audio department. Sound effects are brilliant as is the superb voice acting, many of the NPCs are purely there for the odd piece of additional dialogue but most that can be interacted with are voiced. Every single stage is an audio treat with the killer cast of superstar DJs providing unique tunes and slick lyrics. There’s a great variety on offer with the tracklist, from pure EDM to Hip hop all the way through to chilled-out pop beats. The first couple of stages flow by as you start to feel the tunes and when you’re finally introduced to the larger than life DK West things elevate to another level. Playing docked with the volume up is essential or in handheld mode with a decent set of headphones, above all at least you’ll look the part. The Golden Maestro of Vinyl City, a piano-playing child prodigy is also another musical highlight but in all honesty, every track is sublime.
No Straight Roads is a nostalgic trip back to the innovative rhythm titles from the Dreamcast era, yet one that doesn’t always hit the high note. The visual style works in harmony with the excellent voice acting and heavenly soundtrack. As lyrics flow and beats drop it defines the experience, even if you’re not a fan of this type of music it will pull you in. NSR is a fresh IP, that feels familiar, a real treat to the senses and I can’t wait to see what this talented team dream up next. Play No Straight Roads with the volume turned up to eleven and a smile.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo
Release Date: 25/08/2020
No. of Players: 1-3
Category: Music, Action
Download link: eShop