Report Card: No Straight Roads (Review)

Music is an aspect of a game that can truly enhance the experience of a game.  The question for today is can music alone make a game good?  Does good music always equal a good game?  If a game is based around its music, but the player isn’t playing an instrument, is that enough?  This is what I needed to determine while playing No Straight Roads.

No Straight Roads is an action-adventure video game developed Metronomik.  You play as the two members of a rock band that are determined to bring rock back to a place where EDM is the only music allowed.  The story feels like it is just there to explain why each fight is the team interrupting a concert.  What threw me off a bit is that most of the music in the game was not EDM.

As you dive into the game, you are informed that paying attention to the beat matters.  The enemies will move with the beat.  They will attack with the beat.  You must pay attention to the beat.  I very quickly realized this was not important.  Don’t get me wrong, the enemies move and attack with the beat, but you don’t have to listen.  All you need to do is watch the screen and you will know when things will happen.  I tested this by turning off the sound and the gameplay didn’t change.  This fact disappointed me more than anything. 

The downside to turning off the sound is that the music is very good.  There is a wide variety of music, not just EDM like the story would have you believe.  Some games you might turn the volume up so you can hear the footsteps or environment sounds.  In No Straight Roads, you turn it up so you can rock out to the soundtrack. 

Sadly, for me, the soundtrack is the only great part of the game.  The rest is just mediocre to bleh.  This game is effectively just a series of boss fights, preceded by taking out a few robots that guard the path to the concerts.  This is not the first game to play this way, but it could have used more to do. 

There are really two issues that make the boss fight only gameplay problematic.  The first is that I found most of the fights more frustrating than fun.  The first two fights you have are very difficult to the extent that they feel unfair.  Each fight has multiple parts and is quite long.  If either of your characters dies, you must start the fight at the beginning. 

The second issue is that the only way to grind to a higher level is to replay these boss fights.  About five or six fights in, I realized that I had no chance to win.  My only hope was to upgrade the characters’ skill trees.  To do this, you must gain more fans and that happens when you take down bosses.  As it turns out, even the more fun fights suck when you must do them multiple times. 

Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t need to grind to a higher level if I was better at the game.  The level that broke me, and forced me to grind out previous boss fights, felt completely unfair.  I would know something was coming but never had an indication of when or where.  Out of nowhere I would get smashed and lose a lot of my health.  Even when I tried to concentrate on the beat of the music, it never felt like a clear indication of what was to come.

I am not going to claim that all the boss fights were terrible because there were a couple that I enjoyed.  These fights had great music and a clearer indication of how to survive them.  This doesn’t mean that I beat them all in one attempt, but they didn’t make me want to break my Switch.  Honestly, this is all I want.  Fights that I must work for but are fair without having to grind to get to a higher level.

So, the boss fights were not fun, and the grinding was infuriating.  At least the world between bosses must be good.  Well, not really.  The world is there for a few reasons.  The first is a means to get from your base to the concerts, where you fight the bosses.  The roads you run down are cool looking but that doesn’t really matter.  It also allows you to meet a few characters that join you but honestly don’t help much. 

The most important thing about the world is that you pick up energy canisters and special abilities.  The canisters can be used to power items around the world.  Powering these will add a few fans and help a little with increasing your skill tree.  Special abilities can be equipped to help in battle.  It felt like these were just thrown in without a lot of thought.  Just kind of a bland world with lots of lights.

At this point, you might be asking yourself if there was anything I actually liked about the game.  The combat moves were ok.  The main attack is swinging your instrument.  It felt precise and I can’t complain about that.  Each character has special attacks that can be equipped.  These looked cool but I never really got them down very well.  Some enemies dropped music notes that are used to shoot down flying robots.  I enjoyed that but it was auto aim and took no skill to hit the enemy.  Overall, I cannot complain about the combat moves.

I have one last major complaint, and this is a big one.  The multiplayer was garbage.  I tried to play with my son and there was an instant issue.  The camera stays on whoever is player one.  This meant that my son could easily find himself off the screen without any indication of how to get back.  Eventually, if I went far enough, it would teleport him to me.  The honestly made multiplayer in the world pointless.

In combat, it wasn’t a lot better.  Luckily, during the boss fights, the camera shows most fight areas.  The second player can still get off the screen, but it’s easier for them to return.  The one upside to multiplayer is that one player can revive the other.  Sadly, this did not help much in the later boss fights.

Attempting to review No Straight Roads has been one of the most difficult things I’ve done for The Mega Dads.  I can’t decide if the game is this bad or if it just didn’t click with me.  I’ve never enjoyed grinding in games and grinding out long fights over and over again was my hell.  Maybe other gamers would find this to be enjoyable.  I just don’t know. 

The one criticism I don’t think anyone can argue with is that the rhythm of the game is supposed to matter, and it just doesn’t.  I was looking forward to feeling the game and taking actions accordingly.  Instead, all I got was a game with good music.  With all of this in mind, I have to give No Straight Roads 2 stars.

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