No Straight Roads

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Sold Out Sales & Marketing Limited
Developer: Metronomik
Release Date: Aug. 25, 2020


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Switch/PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'No Straight Roads'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on July 20, 2020 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

No Straight Roads is a rhythm-based action-adventure title.

No Straight Roads follows Mayday and Zuke, two members of a rock band called Bunk Bed Junction. They live in Vinyl City, where the power of music can literally be transformed into energy. Unfortunately, the NSR, a group of EDM aficionados, monopolize the power of music and refuse to allow other genres to exist. With Vinyl City's power being given only to the rich and noteworthy, it's up to Bunk Bed Junction to return power to the people with the magic of rock and roll.

On the surface, No Straight Roads feels like a standard action game. In single-player mode, you have control over both Mayday and Zuke and can swap between them at a button press. In co-op, one player takes control of each band member. You have a basic set of maneuvers — attack, jump, and dodge roll — that feel familiar to anyone who has played a recent action game. Each character also has access to up to two mod attacks, which are special moves that drain an energy bar but have special effects. The Showdown is a special move that requires both members to have full energy. By collecting music notes dropped by enemies or environmental objects that you damage, you can also fire auto-aimed long-distance attacks, but these seem mostly reserved for specific phases of boss fights.

Mayday and Zuke are not carbon copies of each other. Mayday is the powerhouse, while Zuke is the speedy one. Mayday's guitar attacks are heavy and powerful but slower than Zuke's, while Zuke can engage in combo strings using repeated movements of his guitar. Each character also has their own exclusive mods. In our preview, we got to try out one of each. Mayday unlocked the ability to throw her guitar, which did massive ranged damage and could also be charged up for more damage. Zuke can self-heal, which can be included in combos for bonus effects.

In addition, each character can also have different effects on objects in the environment. There is a dedicated Rock Out button that can activate switches and doors, and it can also transform objects in the environment. For example, Mayday can transform an object into a cannon that fires at nearby enemies, while Zuke can create a temporary shield that renders anyone inside of it immune to attacks. While we didn't get to see it in action, the Rock Out skill can apparently level up, which will allow you to unlock more areas and have some impact on the power of transformations.

What sets apart No Straight Roads from other action games is that the combat is based around the rhythm of music. It's not quite a rhythm game, but every enemy follows the beat of the background song for a particular stage. The sound effects of attacks are often incorporated into the music, so if you can follow the rhythm and pattern of combat, you'll know what is coming before it does. If you know a particular segment of the song is approaching, you can prepare for it and avoid damage pretty easily. Enemies still have tells to warn of incoming attacks, but they're a little shorter than usual, since the music also provides hints.

The first of the two stages we played was just a boss battle against one of the EDM empire's musicians, DJ Subatomic Supernova. He is themed around planets and the solar system, and his music sounds like it is based on house EDM. The fight involves you dodging the repeated circling planets while also attacking them to build up your musical notes to attack DJ Subatomic Supernova. As the battle progresses, he'll throw in faster beats, more planets, and switch up attacks that require you to use both traditional pattern recognition and music to beat him.

The second stage belongs to Sayu, a Vocaloid-style mermaid idol with an underwater- and computer-themed stage. This stage gives the first example of what one might expect from regular levels. The first half is a traditional platformer, and you must break through nine security gates, each of which has a number of drones beforehand. It isn't too difficult to get past, but it's important to keep an ear on the music, since the rhythm of the background track assures you can make platforming jumps without taking damage from cannon-firing robots.

The second part is focused entirely on Sayu's boss fight. Her boss fight involves chasing her down by attacking symbolic representations of the computer programs that comprise her abilities. As you do, she'll shift into new forms, and that increases the tempo of her electropop theme song and adds new attacks to the mix. Early on, she sends easily avoidable laser blasts, but as things progress, you'll need to avoid nuclear explosions, swarms of razor-sharp fish, tidal waves, and more. The fight ends with a final conflict against a "Reverse Mermaid" version of Sayu, who needs to be beaten with careful parries and music note blasts.

In between stages, you return to your sewer home/hub, where you can modify and improve your characters, including by equipping new mods and stickers. Stickers are temporary buffs that you get from the city; according to your trusty guide, stickers can last about one stage. You can also explore the worlds you've already hijacked to find more stickers and upgrades. There are even power cells scattered around the boss levels and the main hub worlds, and they can be used to restore power to objects in order to open new paths or unlock new items.

No Straight Roads has a ton of personality, and it's easy to see how it could become a tremendously addictive beat-'em-up. The two stages we played were full of style, even though they were clearly introductory tutorial levels. The core gameplay seems solid, and the rhythm-based mechanics give it a very distinctive feel. Hopefully, the final game will keep the beat going when it hits later this year for all systems and the Epic Games Store.

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