Hands-on with No Straight Roads for PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

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Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Publisher: Sold Out
Developer: Metronomik
Medium: Digital/Disc/Cartridge
Players: 1-2
Online: N/A
ESRB: E10+

Revolution X, Brutal Legend, Britney’s Dance Beat…gaming has had a plethora of titles where societal change is brought forth by the power of music. So Metronomik’s stylish rhythm action title No Straight Roads has a lot to live up to and from the preview that I played recently…I think they’re going to chart.

Vinyl City is the multi-districted metropolis that the game takes place in. This city developed a process to convert music into electricity and this utility is managed by NSR. Our heroes, the effervescent guitarist Mayday and the stoic Zuke hope to contribute to society with their 2 piece rock outfit, Bunk Bed Junction. However after being rebuked by Tatiana and the shadowy artists of NSR, the duo plan on toppling NSR to prove that rock is the dominant musical genre!

To accomplish their goal Mayday and Zuke will hijack concerts of each member of NSR and the first target is DJ Subatomic Supernova. The good DJ is a pastiche of other helmeted disc spinners such as deadmau5, and Marshmello, but with a “universe” theming. The battle begins with the duo running around in a circular track, smashing disco balls to collect ammo so they can directly attack Subatomic with projectiles. As this multiphase boss fight progresses Subatomic will sling asteroids at players, pulse planetoids so that it will hurt players who stand too close. The final phase of the fight will have you trying to deflect planetoids being sucked into a blackhole situated in Subatomic’s helmet. Defeating Subatomic will put you 1/6th closer to completing your rock revolution as well as giving you access to the open world and a pathway to your next target…the vocaloid analogue, Sayu.

The open world of Vinyl City is a teeming with activity. Non-interactive “grey’d out” pedestrians are milling about, interactive “colorful” pedestrians will provide commentary and quip when interacted with. These pedestrians usually have varied designs and will pirouette to the forefront to say their piece. You can collect qwasa, which are battery-like collectibles that you can use around the city to fix flickering lights or broken vending machines to improve the city and garner fans. Fans are the equivalent experience in the game, used to improve both members via a skill tree that can be accessed in the band’s sewer hideout. Equipment crates are strewn across the cityscape which will contain stickers that can be applied to either May’s guitar or Zuke’s drumsticks to provide effects or stat boosts.

When you’re done hanging around the overworld, the next NSR target in the demo is Sayu, a pop-mermaid-vocaloid mashup. This virtual megazord of a musical artist is managed by a team of four(artist/voice actress/mocap actor/animator) so fighting her requires some unconventional methods. Bunkbed Junction enters her virtual domain to take her down. Unlike DJ Subatomica, there’s actually a platforming section before taking on your sacarhine virtual target. It’s a pretty straightforward affair where you need to defeat a set of enemies before the next section unlocks. When you finally reach Sayu, you need to attack each aspect of Sayu to weaken her (each aspect is constructed like a sheet of parts that one would find in a model kit…so that was a nice touch). The finale of the battle brought forth a chuckle and after you’ve scrubbed Sayu you’re treated to a trailer indicating when the title will release.

This was a very meaty preview and definitely dispelled my original notion that this would be a boss rush game. Mayday is the bruiser of the duo and Zuke is more of the healer. You can swap between the two if you’re playing solo or both can be controlled at the same time if you have a co-op partner. If you’re playing solo, the game is over when one of the members is downed, and if you’re downed during the boss fight, you will be sent back to the beginning of the encounter…which is somewhat annoying. There is a parry mechanic, but it is extremely situational, and perhaps it was my hardware (I had to run the game in low settings on my PC)…I found it hard to see the “purple” streak which indicates something is parryable.

Otherwise the game is a feast for the eyes and plays pretty well, despite the constant change of visual designs meant sometimes it’s hard to figure out what elements are transformable or what elements are breakable in stages. Either way, the title is racing to the top of my most anticipated list of 2020. Players who want to bring rock back to Vinyl City, can Bunka, Junka and Bam on pretty much all platforms when No Straight Roads drops August 25th, 2020.