Have you ever played a game that is exactly your vibe? No Straight Roads is that game for me.
The combination of fantastic design and a focus on, not only music, but specifically EDM and Rock makes it feel like Metronomik reached into my brain and made a game specifically for me. It’s a little bit of Scott Pilgrim, a touch of Psychonauts, a smidge of Gorillaz and a whole bunch of my Spotify playlists.
I’ve always known that the concept and design of No Straight Roads meant that I had to check it out, but whether the game side of it could live up to the presentation was a mystery. After getting the chance to preview the first hour-and-a-half of the game, I’m happy to say that No Straight Roads continues to be one of the most exciting games of the year for me.
No Straight Roads has you playing as Mayday and Zuke, who form the duo rock band Bunk Bed Junction. After a sabotaged audition to make it big, the pair decide to take down NSR and their EDM-powered rule over Vinyl City. It’s a simple setup, but it’s powered by the cast of characters, who are wonderfully realised. Mayday and Zuke are both fantastically charming, and the two villains that I got to take on were genuinely funny to take on.
In the hour or so that I played, there were enough story beats to keep me intrigued as to what the game was setting up, and I loved the respect that’s being paid to both Rock and EDM here. NSR are evil, but there’s still a clear reverence to all forms of EDM and Rock, and it feels like more of a celebration of music than a statement that “rock is better”.
Speaking of the music, it’s absolutely fantastic here. In the same vein as Sex Bob-Omb from Scott Pilgrim, Bunk Bed Junction is a fictional rock band that I would genuinely want to listen to. Sayu’s electro-pop song has been on replay in my head since finishing the preview and DJ Subatomic Supernova’s funky beats happily reminded me of Rayman 3’s Funkyboard sections.
No Straight Roads’ biggest strength for me is its design. All of the characters and locations look fantastic and the graphical style reminds me of the PS2 generation in the best possible way. It really does remind me of the lovechild of Gorillaz and Psychonauts which is absolutely a good thing.
I already knew the world, characters and music were going to be fantastic, so my major focus with this preview was the gameplay. No Straight Roads is essentially a pretty simple action platformer, that has you switching between Mayday and Zuke, jumping over obstacles and attacking music-fuelled robots and turrets. Mayday is a heavy-hitter, whilst Zuke is more combo-focused, although I didn’t get to see too much variation between them since it was just the first hour.
Moving and attacking feel good enough, and Zuke and Mayday do feel distinct enough in their own right. Each of them have unique special abilities as well, which I hope branches out to make them feel really different from one another. You can also upgrade their weapons and skills by visiting their sewer hideout. The selection of upgrades here has me hopeful that the combat will really start to come into its own the further you get in. From what I played, No Straight Roads is simplistic, but good fun.
The thing that makes No Straight Roads’ gameplay unique is the focus on music. Not only do Mayday and Zuke use their instruments as weapons, but enemies also attack to a beat. I liked the ability to use music to transform things in the environment too and there seems to be more levels to it that I simply didn’t get to use yet, which makes me hopeful for more depth. It’s a cool premise that makes combat a bit more unique, especially if it does get more fleshed out.
Besides combat and platforming, you’ll also spend time exploring Vinyl City and the unique districts that make it up. Vinyl City is a really interesting location so far, and I’m excited to see what the other districts are like. As a small touch, I loved that Mayday and Zuke have unique reactions to interacting with objects around the environment.
The real stars of the show here are the boss battles, which are multi-layered events that have EDM and Rock battling it out for dominance. The fight against DJ Subatomic Supernova had the duo dodging planets and turning satellites into rockets with their music. The main hook of these fights is hearing the boss music and slowly hearing Rock take the centre stage.
Sayu’s fight really showed me the potential of these battles. Not only was the music fantastic (it’s the song from the most recent trailer if you’re interested), but the way you take her on was really unique. Since Sayu is a digital musician, akin to the Gorillaz, fighting her means taking out the people making her work, such as the voice actor and the graphic designer. As you take them down, she’ll stop functioning, and her design morphs to try and get the upper hand. It was a really cool boss battle, and I hope the others are just as inventive as hers.
Once you beat a member of NSR, you also get to take on harder versions of the boss, as well as getting the choice of which music you want to hear during the fight. You can listen to the EDM version, the rock version or the fusion of both that happens during the fight. There were a lot of different options to unlock for each boss, so it seems like replayability will definitely be a factor here.
There’s a lot of No Straight Roads that I didn’t get to see. I didn’t get to try cooperative play, I didn’t see much of the abilities or upgrades and I only got to see two of the boss battles. It felt like I was just scratching the surface of Bunk Bed Junction’s adventure, and I really liked what I saw. If No Straight Roads’ gameplay gets more in-depth and the battles keep getting better then this is really one to look out for later this summer.
No Straight Roads will release at retail and on the Nintendo eShop for Nintendo Switch worldwide on 25th August 2020.