No Straight Roads drew me in with its high octane trailer and the promise of a fun rhythm game I could play solo or with a co-op partner. In a town literally powered by EDM, Mayday and Zuke want to bring back rock and roll. But the board governing Vinyl City stands in the way of their band Bunk Bed Junction’s fame. Taking it one gig at a time, this duo plans to climb the charts and set music free.
No Straight Roads Review – Turning Tables
Mayday and Zuke’s on-screen debut maybe wasn’t all they hoped it would be, but it does reveal that NSR—the label responsible for the EDM— is up to no good. The duo sets out with two goals in mind: take down NSR, and give power (and music) back to Vinyl City. In order to achieve this goal they must boost their fan count and face off against NSR’s top talent.
No Straight Roads has three distinct sections of gameplay: exploration of Vinyl City and its districts, the approach leading to the boss, and the boss battle itself. I personally love that the game distinguishes the approach from the fight; this way, if you’ve made your way to the battle and need to log out for a bit, when you get back to the hijack point you won’t have to go through it all over again (unless you want to).
No Straight Roads Review – The Two Great Ones
Vinyl City opens up for further exploration as you take down NSR’s top talent, which means boss battles. In these head to head matches, players control Mayday and Zuke, switching between the duo as required. Mayday is a heavy hitter. She uses her guitar to smash obstacles for ammo and do some massive damage. Zuke’s attacks are much lighter, but those drumsticks of his are perfect for parrying certain kinds of attacks if you can nail the timing. And timing is important. Bosses are supposed to play on the beat which means listening to the music and getting the rhythm down is key.
Playing solo is a real challenge no matter the difficulty setting. With so much happening on screen, both the approach to the boss and the battles can be overwhelming. Often to the point where my brain is too distracted to register or recall exactly where I have been. It’s all just too busy. And that’s before some performance issues which I’ll discuss a little later.
Co-op mode alleviates some of the busy-ness but presents new challenges. Only Player One can control the camera while exploring Vinyl City. There is a mini-map in the bottom left corner that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be all that beneficial for the second player. And since this isn’t a split-screen game, boss fights can be real tricky. My partner would find himself lost on the edges of the screen since the camera seemed to have designated me as the main character.
No Straight Roads Review – Topping the Charts
Exploring Vinyl City is crucial. Hidden on roof tops, in alley ways, and other dark corners are Stickers that BBJ can apply to their instruments giving them limited use battle perks. These would be buffs to health, attack power, etc. You also want to make sure you are powering up as many electronics in each section as possible with the Qwasa containers you collect. Turning on the lights gives you more fans, and more fans equals upgrades.
Weening Vinyl City off NSR’s teet allows the duo to expand their underground base of operations. Your growing influence opens up interview opportunities so you can reach a wider audience. In time, you’ll also unlock another room that lets you convert fan hype into new skills. So make sure to check every vending machine, lever, and street light.
Sadly, No Straight Roads suffers from a few frustrating issues. The first of these I encountered during my approach to the second boss fight. Invisible walls blocked what looked like clear pathways for me to move through, and instead I took a lot of damage before figuring out I had to keep away from the “edges” of these paths.
My second problem showed up when it was time to face-off in a rap battle. Typically, when images scroll towards you in a rhythm game the goal is for you to hit them in time with the music. After a dozen attempts and thinking my game was glitching, it was time to hit up the PR rep. It was then and only then that I was informed I should be avoiding those bull markers. I’d been so focused on not messing up that I didn’t notice I was taking damage. There was no in-game instruction on how to play this mode and no tip pop-up when I’d had too many game overs.
The last issue I ran into ultimately made me put down the controller and walk away. During a later battle in the game the camera kept shifting perspective and pushing Mayday and Zuke off screen. I wasted precious time trying to move them back up stage only to have the awkward perspective see me destroyed by bombs no matter where I had Bunk Bed Junction positioned.
My three strikes rule had been triggered. It was time to put No Straight Roads aside for something else. It’s not a bad game, and if Metronomik updates it to address my concerns I would be glad to get back into the groove of things. The story is engaging and the music sticks in my head for hours but poor controls and bad camera angles have ruined what should be a fantastic game.
No Straight Roads review code provided by publisher. Version 1.01 reviewed on a standard PlayStation 4 console. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy.