If you don’t know, a few members of our team at LifeisXbox are huge fans of music and rhythm games – namely, Jimmy and Robby – so I was surprised to be the one selected to review No Straight Roads, the first game from the Malaysian studio Metronomik. Surprised and glad, I must say! Published by Sold Out, No Straight Roads (or NSR, for the intimate) is an action-adventure game with music in its core and I dare to say that since Brütal Legend by Double Fine I don’t see an adventure like this!
In No Straight Roads you play as the indie rock duo Bunk Bed Junction, formed by the lead guitarist May (Mayday) and the drummer Zuke, in an odyssey to free Vinyl City from NSR, a corrupt electronic music label whose goal is to maintain control over the city and to monopolize the music industry. They have domination over the city through a technology named Qwasa that turns music into energy. Our adventure starts with the duo applying to the annual Lights Up auditions – something like a The Voice contest in this world – and being rejected by not attending the label’s standard. After some confusion with the jury, the duo starts a revolution to prove the age of Rock is not over! Now let’s join the resistance and see everything Metronomik brought us in this adventure!
What we liked!
- Music and the plot: There’sno chance I’ll start this review talking about anything different from the music, the core aspect of this game! And have no doubts, my friends: Metronomik spared no efforts to make this an awesome experience! Everything in this title revolves around music. Starting by the gameplay: Vinyl City, the world where our adventure takes place, is powered by music and NSR – the music label – is using the energy generated by the Qwasa to control it. Thankfully, our heroes are here to show the age of Rock and Roll is far from gone (as Tatiana, NSR’s leader, insists) and will deal with the superstars of the label while gathering a legion of fans to challenge NSR’s control. Very original and compelling, I must say!
- Music and NSR Superstars: To defeat NSR, you will need to defeat NSR superstars and take control of the districts they’re responsible for. Each superstar works as a boss you need to overcome. And different from what I was expecting, they aren’t all EDM addicts: each one represents a different rhythm you must beat: EDM, Classic, Boybands, J-Pop and more. The creativity behind these characters, their songs and the battles you will have with them is beyond amazing! I can’t praise this team enough for what they’ve delivered here!
- Other sound aspects: This title isn’t only music: its sound effects (with emphasis to May’s guitar reefs and Zuke’s drum solos) also have superb quality. And let’s not forget about the mind-blowing – or better saying, ear-blowing – voice work performed by the dubbing team – especially for our main heroes. You can almost touch how much passion they’ve put in each dialog (especially the clashes between Zuke and DK West… but let’s not spoil anything here). I’m looking forward to seeing this team taking all the prizes in The Gaming Awards 2020!
- Visuals: Changing the subject for once (finally!), the visuals in NSR are no far behind from the music (gotcha!). Vinyl City is so colorful and well-animated as the best cartoons there are nowadays – you name it! Characters, animations, special effects, cutscenes… they all look astonishing! The screenshots from this review make it no justice: each district in this game feels so unique and well designed that I wish there was more content in each of them to explore.
- Gameplay elements: In NSR you will fight enemies with your music instruments – May with her guitar and Zuke with his drumsticks. These instruments can be customized while in your base of operations, where you can learn new skills and abilities (RPG elements – yes!), attach stickers that will increase your status to them, and customize your special attacks! Yes, there’s much more than music in this game!
- About the gameplay: The gameplay in No Straight Roads consists of exploring the world and find your way throughout it, show after show, to defeat each NSR superstar and take their platin disks to unlock new areas of the city. To defeat them, first, you will need to bypass the security forces from their shows and finally face them in huge battles with multiple transformations (like level bosses from the good old days)! The bad part about it: those sections where you will face the security forces are cool – sometimes as cool as the boss battles – but also are very short. You can replay your encounters with those bosses in different difficulties (and rhythms!), but not this action segment with the security forces. Sigh. I wish there were more of them to increase the longevity of this game.
What we disliked
- Bugs: The game isn’t perfect, but let’s be honest: what game is nowadays? I’ve run into several bugs while playing NSR: my characters getting stuck in the scenario, falling from mobile platforms and freezing during animations (especially during an animation where they seem to be suffering from a headache). Nothing that cannot be addressed by the developers in future updates.
- Local co-op: Usually, I’m very happy when a game offers me the opportunity to play with friends (especially in couch-coop) and, to place a smile on my face, NSR offers it too. But the co-op mode, with each player controlling one of the characters, seems to have been included in a rush and not have been tested enough by the QA team. Otherwise, they would have noticed the major problems with the camera (the camera only follows the 1st player and you never know where the 2nd player is unless you keep the camera pointed at him) and controls (my 2nd player could never guess where to point his directional to make the character walk in a straight line). And this was only while walking through the city – we gave up on co-op before reaching one of the bosses. This co-op does need some more attention to become playable (preferably with split-screen, if possible).
No Straight Roads is a game I didn’t know I needed. Not only by its amazing soundtrack but especially because of its incredible world. Be you a Rock fan or not, you will love this musical adventure! Well, except for its bugs and gameplay problems that literally take the spotlight from its remarkable qualities. It had (and still has) everything to be the indie game of 2020, so I hope most players will remember it for all this top-notch quality and not for its short duration and buggy gameplay. If you are like my friends who love musical games, go for it! You won’t regret it!.
With a history of gaming that goes from his old man’s Atari 2600 to his Xbox One, Rafael or RAF687, our Brazilian editor, has a love for games as old as he can remember. He has already spent countless hours in many consoles (Mega Drive/Genesis, Sega Saturn, PS1, PS2 and Xbox 360) and is always ready for more (as long as his wife is asleep). Raf has been writing for LifeisXbox since 2017, with a passion for games of almost all genres – though we know he has a special place in his heart for RPGs, racing games and anything that includes pixel art. Writing about games has always been a childhood dream to Raf, dream that he has fulfilled reviewing games for you here. You can drop him a message at Twitter, Facebook or Xbox Live at any time.