HIGH Unique Visuals, solid soundtrack.

LOW Forgettable combat encounters.

WTF Rhythm-based rap battles.

Vinyl City — where music is the lifeline that powers the city thanks to a corporation called NSR.

Enter Mayday and Zuke, a duo trying to bring rock to the city with their band, Bunk Bed Junction. In their attempts to impress NSR, they not only get rock music banned, but the the power is cut off from everyone except the NSR elite. The pair take it upon themselves to go up against NSR and bring power back to the people, which they’ll do by… beating up every musical artist on NSR’s label?

No Straight Roads is a third-person action brawler where players control Mayday and Zuke (either solo, or with a friend) as they battle against the artists of NSR. Players will fight drones and crash through concert security before facing off against each artist themselves.

Combat is serviceable, but forgettable. Players can switch between Mayday (power) or Zuke (combos) at any time, but they feel identical as players will be mashing the attack button and occasionally hitting a trigger button to activate a special effect, but there’s not much else to it. NSR occasionally forced me to switch between characters, but when left on my own, I was able to use the same strategy for the entire game and I was just fine.

In each stage, enemies will move and attack to the beat of a song. Players can see and predict when enemies will attack, giving them time to dodge and deal damage between their blows. There is an optional parry mechanic for some attacks which requires a bit more timing, but gives a better rank at the end of the combat encounter if the player can pull it off.

Each concert has its own style to match the music. One has players fighting in coral reefs, dodging spiky fish controlled by a digital mermaid idol while another has the pair fighting security guards as they jump from limo to limo to catch up to a robo-boy band. As players defeat NSR artists, they’ll gain fans, which can then be used to earn new attacks and upgrade attributes.

Between combat, there are platforming sections that should have been removed. I would frequently try and jump across gaps and either fall short or leap way further than needed. The jumping was never consistent — I never knew what would happen.

There’s also an another issue with No Straight Roads — it offers an option to put a ‘beat meter’ in the corner of the screen to see when the beats hit for a song, but it doesn’t seem to line up with enemy movement.

All of the enemies and platforms seemed to start their motion on the  beat, but it felt like the actual hit of the enemy was offbeat just enough to throw me. This could just be my own brain’s way of processing the information on screen, but I didn’t have the same reaction when the visualizer was off. This feature feels unhelpful at best, and a detriment at worst.

Looking at the narrative, there are flashes of promise at times, mostly with Zuke who’s more chill than the loud and boisterous Mayday. For example, the characters have a history with one of the NSR artists, and that brief exploration shined. There’s also a side-story with an optional boss that offers promise. Unfortunately, the rest mostly feels like the duo are just on a rampage and possibly even the bad guys, even though they’re portrayed as heroes.

While I appreciated the stylish, neon-soaked city and the fantastic soundtrack, No Straight Roads switches between brawler, platformer, and rhythm concepts, but fails to deliver a memorable experience overall.

Rating: 6 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Metronomik and published by Sold Out Ltd.  It is currently available on the Epic Game Store, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the PS4. Approximately 6 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+, and contains Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence and Language. According to the ESRB, “Battles are sometimes frenetic, with screen-shaking effects, explosions, and a hit-combo counter to tally damage. The dialogue contains a reference to alcohol (e.g., “Shall I go get the champagne?”), as well as the word “p*ssed.”

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: All information is text- and icon-based, but there is no option for resizing text. Music isn’t critical to playing the game and there is a beat visualizer to assist in knowing when the beats are hitting.

NO STRAIGHT ROADS_20200824200732

Remappable Controls: This game features no remappable controls (for the console version), and there is no control diagram. Outside of combat: X is jump, square is interact, circle is to cancel and movement is with the analogue sticks. In combat: X is jump, square is attack, triangle is dodge, and circle is parry. R2 and L2 are both linked with a special move, and R1 changes characters. When I previewed the game on PC, the PC version has remappable controls.

Eugene Sax
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