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June 2019

Creepy Road

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Developer: Groovy Milk
Release Date: May 17, 2018


PC Review - 'Creepy Road'

by Cody Medellin on Dec. 26, 2018 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

Creepy Road is a 2D run & gun action game with classic gameplay, funny characters and great art style.

The run-and-gun action game was a staple of the '80s and '90s, with titles like Contra and Gunstar Heroes being the best examples of that genre. By the turn of the century, however, the only remaining series to represent that style of gameplay was the excellent Metal Slug. As they've done with many other abandoned genres, indie developers have brought back run-and-gun games, with Mercenary Kings and Guns, Gore, and Cannoli leading the pack. Creepy Road from developer Groovy Milk is the latest entry in the genre, and while it looks like a winner, the bad pacing of the difficulty prevents it from reaching such heights.

You play the role of Flint Trucker, a truck driver who's in love with a circus trainer named Angelina. On his way home to reunite with her, Flint encounters a crazy bear that hits his truck and causes him to crash near a billboard. It becomes immediately apparent that something is wrong: Both animals and humans seem to be zombified. With the whole world on its way to destruction, it's up to Flint to find Angelina and do whatever they can to survive.

At its core, Creepy Road is a basic run-and-gun title, but it's limited to a solo experience, unlike most similar offerings, which feature co-op play. Flint starts off with a pistol with unlimited ammo, but it isn't long before he finds more powerful weapons. Shotguns and assault rifles are commonplace, but you'll also encounter flamethrowers, ray guns, rocket launchers, and even rocket-powered fists. You aren't limited to how many weapons you can carry at a time, but everything else beyond your trusty pistol has a limited amount of ammo. You also have throwable weapons, like grenades and Molotov cocktails, which are also in finite supply.

All of this becomes useful against the myriad of enemies. You start off fighting possessed bears, pigs and rabbits, but it doesn't take long before you take on foes like explosive-dropping birds, dive-bombing pandas, and shotgun-toting zombies. Bosses are also pretty diverse, so facing a giant, bloated superhero or a steroid-addled strongman is par for the course.

Creepy Road tries to present some absurdity in its enemies and weapons. Those aforementioned bears, for example, charge in wearing party hats and riding unicycles. Pigs attack you with baseball bats or large legs of ham. Birds drop explosive swordfish, and some of the zombies are brandishing selfie sticks. Enemies tend to die in a puff of skull-shaped smoke instead of an explosion of blood. The exception is when you use your gun, which transforms any adversary into a cartoon swirl of poop.

The gameplay formula is sound, and although it lacks any sort of multiplayer, the campaign comes in at a decent length of about 3-4 hours, which is long enough so it doesn't overstay its welcome. The game has quite a number of quirks and flaws. On the minor side of things, the game's text has sentences that don't match up to what's spoken in cut scenes, and some of the lines are done in broken English, which some may forgive due to the non-English-speaking development team. Far less forgivable is that the game mislabels buttons in the tutorials. The A button, for example, is listed as both the jump and shoot button, while the bumpers and triggers are sometimes labeled for the wrong things. The issue isn't present when using a keyboard and mouse combo, but since the game advises using a gamepad, the labeling is sloppy.

The shooting is fine, but your limited directional firing isn't helpful. You can fire in the four cardinal directions, but diagonal shooting isn't allowed. Weapon switching isn't intuitive, since the order of every weapon with the exception of your pistol is different per level, and you can't carry over collected weapons from one level to another. The automatic switching to the last picked-up weapon isn't ideal, since you'll always switch to your best weapon after accidentally picking up one of lesser quality.

The main gripe players will have about Creepy Road is due to its difficulty. With the exception of the bosses, most enemies have very bad tells and plenty of advantages. For example, enemy shotguns have a range that's twice as long as yours, so they can hit you easily while you have to switch guns to return fire. Other projectile enemies have unavoidable fire. The game loves to mob you with enemies from all sides, to the point where it becomes a bullet-hell shooter but without any extra maneuverability to compensate for it. Combined with some issues where throwables can be used with a delay and sometimes be thrown in the wrong direction due to said delay, and you have a game that's tough to beat early on, even on the easy difficulty level.

The high difficulty level also generates some pacing issues. With the exception of the flying shoot-'em-up stage, each level has decent periods of walking to the right before culminating in you having to survive a horde. Complete that, and you're given the stage's lone checkpoint before repeating the process at least once more, sometimes twice. You have infinite lives, but each death means restarting at the beginning of the level or checkpoint. The tedium of the level design and the harsh "penalties" create a frustrating scenario that can result in more people quitting rather than persevering.

The presentation is decidedly mixed. The bright colors and smooth animations will remind you of good Flash games, and it's good that the game has no frame rate issues when flooded with foes. Although the game looks fine on all counts, the audio is less polished. The soundtrack is fine, but the effects can lack volume. Additionally, the lack of variety when it comes to boss phrases and your sayings means the audio can quickly get tiresome.

In the end, Creepy Road ends up being more frustrating than fun. The poor pacing, heightened difficulty, and lack of tight controls kill any goodwill generated by the humor and good graphics presented on-screen. There's a difference between good difficulty and cheap difficulty, and with the game favoring the latter, only the masochistic and the hardcore genre fans should entertain the idea of playing Creepy Road.

Score: 5.5/10

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