[Review] No Straight Roads – Nintendo Switch

Written by Kevin Orme
  • Developer: Metronomik
  • Publisher: Sold Out
  • Price: £34.99 / $39.99
  • Release Date: 25/08/2020
  • Code provided by Sold Out

Introducing: No Straight Roads Switch Review

Do you ever have those moments when you feel like something was tailor made for you? Like, you watch a movie or read a book and it just resonates with your entire soul? For me, it was watching “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World” in theaters for the first time. A combination of over-the-top comic book action, chiptune, and hilarious writing was everything my heart knew it needed. There is nothing quite like those moments when the stars align, and I can only hope you can experience a moment like that in your life.

However, it’s kind of a whole new experience when you get that perfect storm of greatness not only wraps everything you love into one convenient package, but it also has a message that feels like it speaks you. It’s for these reasons that I could not be more excited to a have played this wonderful gem: No Straight Roads. It’s got what I like: Sticking it to the man, Rock and Roll, and kicking the ever-loving snot out of a bunch of self-righteous jerks.

C’mon friends. Let’s talk about No Straight Roads!

Less Talk, More Rock

Welcome to Vinyl City, a city powered by the power of music. Literally! The power source of the entire city is music, provided by the NSR corporation, See, the NSR corporation holds an American Idol style audition (called “Light the City”) looking for new talent to give additional power to the city. It’s here where we meet our main characters: Mayday and Zuke – two halves of the badass rock band “Bunk Bed Junction”. After using their killer skills to clear the challenges placed before them at their audition they are told by all six of the judges that, despite their amazing performance, Rock is no longer permitted within the city. The only thing the people demand is E.D.M. (Electronic Dance Music, for those not in the know). Feeling dejected, Mayday and Zuke leave the studio where they were denied and decide to grab a bite to eat, but what’s that? The power cuts out! Those judges are supposed to be the ones bringing that power! THOSE JERKS!! Somebody should put those jerks in their place. Maybe… TWO somebodies…

The two heroes of our story decide to go and kick all of the respective butts of each of the head honchos of NSR. With Mayday’s guitar and Zukes drums (and occasionally with their helping alligator Elliegator) the pair decide to crash the concerts of their foes and beat the ever-loving snot out of them. Along the way the bombastic bandmates garner fans, revitalize the city they live in and kick some jerk’s faces in. All while rocking as hard as they are able.

Hit ’em With the Beat

In order to be the best band in Vinyl City, you literally have to beat up the competition. So how does that work in No Straight Roads? You control either Mayday or Zuke (if you’re playing solo) to first explore the city around you. At the edge of each block of the city you find a concert of some kind going on and a simple button prompt that says “Hijack”. It’s what you came here to do, so get to hijacking that concert! Here’s where the meat of this game lies: fighting the big baddies. See, each of the heroes of our story have different ways of beating up the competition. Mayday is your power hitter. With her guitar she can lay out some NASTY damage on foes, but her moves are slower and take some time to recover from. Zuke, on the other hand, is your faster combo fiend. Zuke can lay out weaker hits in higher volume as well as parry special pink-colored attacks back at foes. Both attack strategies are valuable, so switching between the two of them (as simply as pressing the L or R shoulder buttons) is important and you will be doing it a LOT. Also, both characters have the ability to gather ammo that enemies drop to shoot at airborne enemies. So, between the two characters there is a lot of action going on in each fight. Bosses are throwing garbage at you and you are balancing power attacks, parrying and dodging. Occasionally, there will be small constructs on the ground that can be transformed by either character to help in attacking the bosses (Mayday transforms them into offensive things and Zuke makes defensive things.) In short, there’s a lot of mechanics at work when you fight.

After you defeat a big bad from NSR, Mayday and Zuke finish them off using a climactic finisher and you move up the leaderboards in the city, but something else happens: You get fans. Fans are more than just people who love your music in this world. They are also a source of YOUR power. As you head back to your base in the sewers of Vinyl City, you can redeem power from your fans to increase the abilities of the heroes. More fans means more abilities! More abilities means you are better equipped to lay the smackdown on all who oppose you. Better beatdowns mean more fans. I think you can see where this is going.

Jamming Out With The Band

As you can probably guess by now, the music of this game is super important, so we should probably talk about it. There are some people who might call portions of this game as “Rhythm sections”, but it’s not in the way that you normally see them in games of that particular genre. Consider this: every enemy and boss in this game functions on the same rhythm of the songs. They attack on certain beats, have rhythmic tells and only work when the song tells them to. E.D.M. is very heavy on beats and repeating phrases and lines. Rock, however, isn’t as strict on that front. So, while the enemies all follow set patterns and attack on certain beats, Mayday and Zuke can jump and attack as they please. It can be a bit jarring if you’re expecting everything to work on the beats as you would expect from a standard rhythm game. Your job as the heroes is to disrupt what the NSR corporation is doing. Admittedly, this took me until I started writing the review to notice, but seriously, it’s a neat thing to catch when you do.

The music is so tied to everything that you do that it changes dynamically when you play. Depending on the character you are actively controlling, either the guitar part or the drum part accompanying the main song will be emphasized. It’s a pretty neat little touch and I’m glad they did it. Every new area and boss is a new kind of E.D.M. track which gives a new life to the battles around you. The first boss, DJ Subatomic Supernova, is a galactic techno-jam. You fight a massive Hatsune Miku-style Virtual Idol named SAYU to some Vocaloid style beats. There’s a Robotic K-Pop boy band! You can definitely tell that the team behind this game wanted to go crazy and they certainly did. The variety is nice and each new track is a banger.

The Beauty of the Music

If I could pick what art styles this game reminds me of, it would probably be the following combination: The character designs from Psychonauts combined with the world of Jet Set Radio Future. Everything is a treat to look at. Battle arenas are detailed and unique. Bosses are crazy and always bring in this feeling of being larger than life. Each new district of Vinyl City you unlock has a distinct flavor and life to it that ties into the artist who controls it. I can’t tell you how excited I get when I open up a new area. It’s really cool to see how the designers made this game have a unique feel to the world they made. Excellent work, team!

There’s a lot of little touches that the team put into little things too. I talked about the boss fights, but I want to go into them. Each one is different in the best kind of way. For instance, let’s talk about MAYU, the virtual idol. How do you fight a digital being? Mayday and Zuke ask the same question while being briefed on the situation. Instead of something easy like “destroy all of the projectors so she can’t appear”, No Straight Roads decided that the team of Voltron-style special effects employees who make up her various aspects are working together to keep her moving. By sabotaging their work individually, you eventually take her down. When you fight the Robo K-Pop team, it’s all about learning how to stop their fans from energizing them. Each fight is a beautifully designed new experience and the world matches it. This is a world you wanna hang out in.

There are so many examples of gorgeous design in this game. Like, DANG. You can probably see from the screenshots I’ve posted along with this section that this game is really pretty. I’m always excited to see a new logo for a boss or the album art when I beat a chapter because they’re all so good. Even better than seeing the unique album art of the bosses is when you defeat a boss you get to see the Bunk Bed Junction alternate cover for the same art. Trust me. Gems. All of them.

Missing the Rhythm

Unfortunately, this game isn’t entirely perfect. As I played, I found that sometimes when I would switch from one character to another that I couldn’t do anything but move. None of my button presses were reacting to what I was telling them to do. It was fixed by switching back to the other character, but it’s still super frustrating. Especially where after you swap which character you are controlling there’s a five-second cool down, which can mean a lot when fights get crazy and, you know, where it shouldn’t be doing that.

The framerate can stutter a bit when things get crazy, but that can be due to the Switch having less horsepower than its competitors. This happened in both docked and handheld mode. Speaking of which, if you can manage it, this game looks a lot better in docked mode than it does in handheld. It’s nothing that will ruin your experience playing through the game, but this game deserves to look as good as it should. Other than these two issues, the game runs great. There are a few things I could gripe about other than these, but they’re all really small and don’t warrant much discussion on my part.

Thank you Vinyl City! Good Night!

Man, I really like this game. No Straight Roads is fun and keeps my interest when other big hitters can’t. Maybe it’s all the bright colors and crazy music, but I can honestly say that I have been having a great time with this game and the world it takes place in. I’m very excited to dive deeper into the fray and ensure that Rock lives on!

Pros

  • Killer soundtrack that keeps on giving
  • Fabulously beautiful in every aspect
  • Memorable characters and a great story to boot

Cons

  • Slight performance issues (minor, but noticeable)
  • Death comes quickly for the unprepared
  • High price tag

Verdict

No Straight Roads rocks hard and fills me with unending joy. Play it.

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