The idea of punk rock being pushed to the wayside in favour of EDM lends its hand to a quirky dystopian in all its upbeat funky style. It’s infectiously electric and that on-the-nose level of wacky storytelling is both brilliant in its child-like wonder and its call-back to the days of old. However, No Straight Roads bends in on itself rather disappointingly as, whilst it reminisces with the glory days of jumping beat-em-ups, with Daxter-like characters and Ratchet & Clank visuals, the writing is often lacklustre and uninspired whilst the platforming borders on mundane and monotonous, with combat being a treat that’s rarely explored to its fullest potential.
One of the major selling points when it comes to this music-extravaganza is its rhythmic combat but the intertwining between the beats of the score and the punching of your foes rarely feels organic, rather serving as an aesthetic with light integration as opposed to a core aspect of the punchy fights. You don’t need to be in-tune with the rock to actually win any combat sections which is sourly disappointing and blatantly clear from the get-go with the slow-paced tutorial that pushes you into the action at a snail’s pace.
That being said, boss fights are a delight, not only sporting charming and unique designs that feel ripped right out of a classic PS2 title but also managing to sport their own punchy quirks that make for truly engaging fights. Keeping up with their move-set and staying out of dodge to hack and slash their health is a treat. Spliced with uninspired platforming does wear down the pacing but at least it makes reaching one of these gigantic sparkly foes a breath of fresh air.
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The various hubs available are drop-dead gorgeous in all their neon futuristic techno style, but at the core, they feel hollow and could easily be sent to the chopping block with little left to miss barring the visuals. It’s a shame to see such artistic prowess being undercut by shoddy design as navigating through these lifeless centres gets dull fast.
Story / Personality
Writing isn’t exactly the strong suit to put it lightly with the villainous clichés being the exception, basking in their maniacal dystopian presence in a perfectly juvenile manner. They elicit an air not unlike that of Chairman Drek. They’re imposing and yet rich with personality which isn’t just present in their designs but also in their fantastic voice acting and dialogue, but the good guys falter where the bad guys stand tall, as it feels as though the writers were aiming for that childish relatability that so many platformers go for, whether that be Crash Bandicoot or the lovable Spyro. That’s likely because they’re mostly underdeveloped and pushed to the wayside. The green-skinned forgettable protagonist is a perfect example, being underused more so than Evie in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate. That being said, the way the story is expressed is fantastic with a variety of cutscenes that play with 2D visuals, the glorious 3D cyberpunk world and everything in between.
Graphics / Art Direction
What ultimately works in No Straight Roads’ favour is its beautiful designs, from the crystal-clear neon-clad lights of the skyscrapers doubling as lighthouses to the starry night sky that feels sublime in its beauty. As opposed to other rock beat-em-ups like Brutal Legends, it has a distinct visual quirk that it embraces to its fullest which is only brought to life even more-so by the familiar yet oh-so different character designs that could easily be ripped from a charming animated hit.
Music / Sound Design
No Straight Roads is a game all about score. The music is upbeat, energetic, youthful and positively infectious, from its consistently high tempo to its naughties punk inspirations. From the original score to the tie-in soundtrack, there’s a personality built up that retains its character throughout. It’s a shame the combat doesn’t embrace the beats of the drums and the constant twangs of those sweet sweet guitar riffs but that’s no fault of the music.
Final Score: 70%
It takes some perseverance to get into this God of War feeling beat-em-up but once that initial hurdle is leapt over, the unfolding world of No Straight Roads is well worth peering further into. It fails at expressing its hook, line, and sinker that could have made it a standout title but it still works as a fairly entertaining hack-and-slash platformer for all ages.
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