No Straight Roads is an upcoming action-platformer by newcomer Metronomik lead by the former lead designer of Final Fantasy XV, Wan Hazmer. It combines the best elements of the action game and the rhythm game genres into a fun and stylish symphony of lights, sounds, strikes and projectiles.
We got to try their latest demo during Taipei Game Show 2019 and here’s our hands-on impressions!
For Those About To Rock
The concept of No Straight Roads is pretty straight forward, it melds the frantic combat of an action game with the meticulous timing and musicality of a rhythm game. Stages are laid out as long hallways with hazards in the form of giant notes coming straight at your characters in sync with the level’s music. This also cleverly mimics the top-to-bottom gameplay found in traditional rhythm games. Your character’s attacks let out sick guitar riffs or infectious drumbeats, which when played right, accompany and accentuate the level’s music, enemies and hazards. Music rules the world of No Straight Roads and you would do well to listen.
You play as two characters in No Straight Roads, the guitarist Mayday and the drummer Zuke, that you can switch with on the fly, each with their distinct personalities and movesets. They have the typical array of attacks, double jumps and rolls that you usually find in a action platformer. Executing theses moves feel snappy and tight even in the early build of the game that we played.
There’s also a projectile system in which you can also collect tiny musical notes that you can then shoot out as little homing missiles at enemies and deal a small amount of damage. You can also parry purple notes to launch a barrage of homing missiles back at your attacker.
One unique gameplay aspect that No Straight Roads brings to the table is the ability to change and alter stage props by playing music. You achieve this by getting in range of a prop and holding down the triangle button to play music. You’re character then shreds their instrument of choice and performs a quick solo for a few seconds. Once they’re done, the original prop will be transformed into something that will benefit you.
This transformation also depends on the character you use, so the more aggressive Mayday transforms props into offensive items like giant gatling guns that shoot at enemies, while the more laid back Zuke turns stuff into defensive objects like giant fans that shred hazards and turn them into ammo for your projectiles.
Tuning Up The Band
The demo build we played at Taipei Game Show 2019 was a pretty good picture of what No Straight Roads is bringing to the table: a colorful and quirky art style, fun and stylish gameplay and a charming cast of characters. After a short tutorial on the controls we found ourselves in the main aisle of a very large operatic music hall in absolute silence. Faceless figures sat in their red velvet seats who paid no mind to our brightly colored guitarist and drummer as they made their way to the front stage.
As music began to creep up, the ornate decorations of the halls began to pulsate with bright lights in time with the music. As we got closer to the front the music began to ramp up and sure enough, the various stage hazards and enemies begin showing up.
We eventually managed to fight our way through to main stage where a petulant little child was playing on the grand piano. After exchanging a few words with Mayday and Zuke, the girl throws a tantrum and out emerges her colossal, otherworldly mother rushing to her defense. This was the demo’s main boss fight.
The Mother then suspended the whole piano along with the child in the air on giant puppet strings. Defeating this form of the boss required us to transform the various stage props on hand into ranged weapons or ammo for our projectiles so we can hit its giant piano weak spot.
Her attacks involved summoning notes to the piano’s cue and throwing tiny harmful notes at us before dropping the bass by slamming the ground with her giant palm. Her second form destroys the Music Hall altogether and incorporates some slight platforming to avoid her blows. Once she was beaten, the demo was over.
Music Makes The World Go Round
I came away from the No Straight Roads demo, enjoying my short time with it. The action was fun, fast and responsive. The bit of game that we were able to play was also quite well polished, despite it being an early build. Although there was a part of the boss cinematic that felt a little unfinished to me.
I enjoyed the art style being bright and colorful and charming. It works well together with the tone and feel of the game’s music and sound design. I could tell that harmony between these two elements was a prime concern and it works based on what we saw.
Despite the games quirky art style and its tight controls and gameplay, the main star of No Straight Roads is definitely its musicality. The levels’ pulse pounding music, which incorporates classical tunes with contemporary upbeat EDM stylings, not only frame the action but also informs it. Enemy attacks and stage hazards all follow the level’s music and accompany it with musical melodies, and beats of their own. Dodging, Counterattacking and/ or shredding your instrument to transform the environment adds to the pulsating chorus of the stage. It felt like the various gameplay elements of No Straight roads were different sections of an orchestra and when you play your part right and everything clicks, you make beautiful music together.
No Straight Roads comes out on PS4 and PC in Spring 2019
Metronomik has also released a special introductory video that offers more details about the characters and world of No Straight Roads. You can find that here