David is a proudly queer performing artist and software developer. He spends most of his downtime with a controller in his hands and a lazy beagle on his lap.
Launching on consoles and the Epic Games Store this August, No Straight Roads is a music-driven action adventure game from Malaysia-based developers Metronomik and UK publishers Sold Out Games. Blending colourful, Pixar-esque visuals with combo based rhythmic combat, No Straight Roads is a rocking release worth keeping an eye on.
Due to being delayed from an initial June launch, we were kindly given the chance to play a preview of the game featuring the first hour or so of the campaign. I made sure to plug in my fanciest headphones in to bring you my initial impressions – and let me tell you, I am hyped for the full experience!
Set in the campy cyberpunk Vinyl City, No Straight Roads takes place in a world where technology is entirely powered by music. The militant NSR corporation rules the city with a titanium fist, enforcing their ideological views on its citizens. These views, as the game’s protagonists discover in the opening scenes, include economic domination, mass-producing evil robots, and the eradication of any music that is not their beloved EDM. To this end, the leaders of NSR host permanent concerts through the districts of Vinyl City and hoard the energy that they generate, represented as “Qwasas”.
You play as plucky bandmates Mayday and Zuke, the guitarist and drummer (respectively) of indie punk rock band Bunk Bed Junction. They’ve entered into the NSR’s “Lights Up” competition, and the game begins with their big reality-TV style audition. You are tasked with demonstrating the band’s prowess by defeating robots in a combat tutorial.
Combat in No Straight Roads is similar to the flashy combo-driven experiences in Platinum Games, with an added emphasis on listening for musical cues to dodge attacks and strike at weak points, and on using your instrument’s special abilities. With regular enemies the timing is easy to master, but I found myself physically bopping in my seat so I could keep the beat when faced with the more challenging boss battles. There’s also an option for two player local co-op which is a massive draw-card.
After the tutorial, you’ll be ejected from the NSR building and driven to guide Bunk Bed Junction through their rebellious rejection of authority, taking down the NSR leaders and bringing rock back to the downtrodden residents of Vinyl City. Mayday is the front-runner of the musical duo, with a passionate love of rock, a furious sense of social justice, and a manic energy that serves as a counterpoint to the more reserved Zuke. This extends to their battle abilities, with Mayday being more of a heavy hitter and Zuke relying on combos and agility.
The pair are delightfully realised with excellent voice acting, perfectly capturing their friendship and eccentric personalities. In fact, the voice work throughout this preview of No Straight Roads was a real highlight. The dictatorial leader of NSR is particularly of note, perfectly balancing a Little Mermaid’s Ursula-style throatiness with a slight high-fashion clipping reminiscent of Edna Mode from The Incredibles.
With developer alumni credits including the Final Fantasy and Street Fighter series and inspiration drawn from Nier Automata, Kingdom Hearts and Devil May Cry, I was surprised that No Straight Roads plays so incredibly nostalgically like a PS2 era adventure game. This is absolutely not a criticism – running around Vinyl City and collecting Qwasas to liberate the city feels like playing Jet Set Radio with a fresh coat of Splatoon paint, and I’m on board. There is, however, a bit of jankiness in some of the platforming, with the unlockable double jump revealing a bunch of invisible walls on the city’s rooftops.
The main focus of No Straight Roads (other than the incredible soundtrack, which I really hope is available separately) is the extended boss fight sequences which have you facing up against NSR leaders in vibrant, cinematic challenge battles. I was able to play through the first two battles in the demo, and the bosses ooze character and charm. The first fight against DJ Subatomic Supernova takes place in a dark cosmic rave, where he launches planets at you to dodge. The second is against virtual pop idol mermaid Sayu and has you entering cyberspace to take her down. You fight the bosses through a combination of targeting weak points and using your instruments to activate special weapons in the stage, all while dodging timed attacks and hazards. Like other games in this style, it looks like “easy to learn, tricky to master” will apply, as I was able to finish the stages relatively easily, but not with a particularly amazing score. The fights progress in bombasticity and excess, with a hilarious highlight of this preview involving Mayday lambasting the four computer operators who control Sayu remotely.
It’s worth noting that while No Straight Roads is releasing on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One and PC, there will be exclusive content in the Switch version. Switch players will be able to access an Assist Mode, allowing a third player to control Zuke’s pet alligator to help out in battle. Another thing to note is the promotional campaign #StayHomeAndRap, inviting prospective players to drop some lines and win a free PS4 version of No Straight Roads.
No Straight Roads will release on 25th August for PS4 and Xbox One, with the Nintendo Switch edition releasing shortly after. From today a PC playable demo will be available from the Epic Games Store, so you can try it out for yourself.
I’m honestly super psyched to play No Straight Roads when it releases in August. If the full game continues in this vein of camp, witty writing and charming presentation, I will be one happy little rockstar! Stay tuned here at Checkpoint for more updates and eventually our full review of No Straight Roads!