When it comes to Rhythm, I have none. I am absolutely terrible at anything to do with timing and placement – a massive butterfingers if you will. So I was curious as to how I would perform within this stylish universe, developed my Malaysian studio, Metronomik and Co-directed by Final Fantasy XV Lead Developer, Wan Hazmer. Certainly a departure from a standard industry Rhythm title, No Straight Roads is dependent on its narrative and plot progression that propels its story forward. No doubt that it will make an impact in the industry, amalgamating two categories into a unique genre, and establishing a cast of lovable characters that will be carried as mascots for Metronomik for years to come.
My reservations for the title aren’t within its presentation or narrative, but have more to do with its pacing. My initial concern may have been displaced by the title’s “small beginnings” approach that essentially places our protagonists at the forefront of our campaign. My experience may have been marred by its empty overworld that the title introduces you to from the onset. These worries were washed away after leaping into battle with its creative climb, and its shift in action sequences that rapidly accelerates the tempo and turns it up to 11. No Straight Roads’ charm and flair comes from it bold aesthetics and contemporary soundtrack that enriches its gorgeous setting.
Taking place in Vinyl City, the city of lights and music, our protagonists Mayday and Zuke are readying themselves for the biggest audition of their lives. The two ambitious rock stars are set to take center-stage to be judged by Tatiana, the CEO of NSR. The pair introduce themselves as indie rock band Bunk Bed Junction to the amusement of the panel, and proceed to take a number of challenges head-on. At this point, we’re introduced to the title’s core gameplay loop, which essentially tutors the player into moving with the beat, and avoiding oncoming threats and hurdles. Using Mayday’s electric guitar akin to a simple hack and slash item, and Zuke’s drumsticks as a daisy-chain of combo strikes, the two unique styling’s between the pair are put on display.
Bemused by the duo’s unquestionable abilities, the CEO and the NSR board dismiss the indie band due to their “outdated taste” in music. NSR are only requesting those who specialise in EDM. The pair are banished from the NSR, but plan to revolutionise the town with their rock anthems, and inspire those to not be influenced by other’s and to have a choice in loving their own taste in music. How do they plan to do this? To takeover the NSR and essentially override their entire record label. The NSR control Vinyl City, in separate districts ruled by a multitude of artists who serve as the title’s boss battles. Battling through each district, you will encounter many a musically inclined maestro.
Moving within the beat, enemies attack with a timed motion that is easily perfected. Just beware, you may get caught off-guard with random strikes that can throw you off your timing. Akin to the Crypt of the Necrodancer, your motions will only level your characters further, the only omission being that you don’t actually move with the beat in this title, its a completely linear pathway with an open field. Its flexibility allows you to gauge the enemy’s pattern before initiating your attack. It does take a little time for the title to boast its versatility, but once you head in for its choral collision course, you’re in for a symphonic spin.
Freely switching between our hero’s, Mayday’s guitar lands a steady blow that will defeat enemy’s quicker but also weighs her down. While Zuke’s drumsticks allow for a quicker pace with lighter attacks. I found myself using Zuke more than our counterpart in roaming Vinyl City, but switching out to Mayday during boss battles. It’s a unique balance that presents itself quite well. Equipping various items will quicken your encounters with weaker enemy’s but will even the odds as you steadfast your approach into boss battles; generally a traditional leveling system seen in any platformer/adventure title. Using Mayday’s guitar as a boomerang to circle a hoard of enemies in one foul swoop was a gratifying feat.
As you traverse through this dazzling city of incredible retrowave aesthetics, you will encounter many citizens who will advise you on upcoming encounters with tips and tricks, or just general conversation. Some memorable, some not so much. Using energy cores will help grow your fanbase, but I believe that this mechanic’s true purpose hasn’t been revealed just yet; more on that to come. There are a few unattainable items that I was intrigued by that were teased in this preview, so I can’t wait to see what some of these additional features are in NSR’s full release.
If I’m honest, the preview is a little austere and subdued compared to its promised release this coming August. But if anything, promises to deliver an outstanding performance with its vibrancy and flair. Its charming cast will come center stage and rock your socks off with this melodic experience that sets to challenge the erratically arrhythmic, such as myself. My initial impressions were a little precluded by its vanilla gameplay from the onset, but I’m glad I pushed through this preview, right into its marvelous display of energy. No Straight Roads is surely a title to look out for, later this year.
No Straight Roads releases August 25, 2020 for PC, PS4, XBOX One. Nintendo Switch will receive a release at a later date.
No Straight Roads - Five Star Games (AU)
Embark on a music-based action-adventure as indie rock band members Mayday & Zuke and lead a musical revolution against EDM empire.