Rock and roll has had haters since its birth, so it’s fitting that No Straight Roads is all about restoring rock to a society where it is repressed. While the spirit of the game rings clear in each cutscene and voice line, it’s far from a flawless riff.
Speaking of riffs, the band Bunk Bed Junction hopes to bring their crunchy tunes to all of Vinyl City. Guitarist Mayday and drummer Zuke are a pair of young rebels who resolve to take on the nefarious “NSR” – an organization that supplies the city with electricity through electronic music – only electronic music. The way to restore rock is to take down all of the NSR top brass – EDM musicians who control districts of the city.
These unlockable districts are all themed beautifully – and that’s just one aspect of this visual feast. Cutscenes feature a seamless mix of professional 2D and 3D animation, and the static character portraits in dialogue are expressive, even interacting with each other in some conversations.
During the rhythm-based boss battles, you’ll plough through enemies with melee and ranged attacks. Each boss has a different move set, and several phases which get increasingly difficult as you uncover the big baddie’s weakness. NSR members each have unique musical styles, too, from K-Pop to Deadmau5-esque beats; it makes for a diverse soundtrack that’s worthy of gracing your personal playlists.
The combat can feel stale, with little diversity outside of some boosted abilities, but the silver lining is that it’s easy to pick up: Hit with A, shoot with the triggers, use abilities with bumpers, and transform useful items with X. What keeps fights from being boring are the aforementioned music and the character design. The NSR members look as diverse as their musical styles are, and their dialogue is hilarious. Every line is fully voiced, and with excellent quality in the sound and the actors.
May is a heavy hitter, and Zuke is a quick combo expert, so switching between the band-mates is a big part of the game. Playing in local co-op feels natural, then, and it also runs well. The game’s pretty overworld certainly feels less empty when a friend is romping around with you.
Bunk Bed Junction’s abilities can be enhanced in their underground hideout, where they can view their collection of trophies, get briefed by their number-one fan, slap powerful stickers on their instruments, and boost skills at underground gigs. The more fans your band accrues, the more skills you’re able to unlock. Fans are gained after boss battles, and from collecting batteries to restore power to vinyl city yourself (Who left all these batteries lying around, anyway?). There are also optional opportunities to learn more about the characters, which makes this colourful world feel all the richer.
Among the low notes are the camera controls, which are tolerable at best, jerking around instead of moving smoothly. I also experienced minor visual bugs and stability issues, including frame drops and a crash – but this wasn’t persistent, and the game saves fairly frequently.
No Straight Roads is a hot jam that was slightly overcooked. The game honestly might have been better served if it were solely a boss rush, since the overworld sections feel hollow. It’s a memorable ride, though, with loveable characters, laughs galore, and an insane soundtrack. If nothing else, this is a solid option for a co-op couch game and a jukebox, all rock n’ rolled into one.
No Straight Roads £34.99
There is no denying that No Straight Roads boasts quality music, visuals, and wit, plus a co-op mode that’s in perfect harmony with regular gameplay. There are few calls for an encore, though, with stability issues and an empty-feeling overworld.