No Straight Roads is a rock ‘n roll adventure exploring the fragility of power and the importance of heart of the face of hardship. In the game, players take on the dual roles of Mayday and Zuke, two punk rockers determined to take down the corporate overlords controlling the electricity of Vinyl City through the power of EDM. There’s an order to Vinyl City and Mayday and Zuke are determined to bring it down in the spirit of classic rock.
To defeat the No Straight Roads (NSR) and its puppets, the protagonists (who form a band called Bunk Bed Junction) take on the champions of each EDM-powered district in intense single or co-op player battles. Each boss battle Bunk Bed Junction undertakes leads them closer to victory and freedom for Vinyl City.
While there are open world exploration segments in the game, these largely serve as brief respites between the game’s major bosses — mostly, you’ll be spending this adventure tracking down new bosses and challenging them for their musical thrones.
The first two bosses, DJ Subatomic Supernova and pop idol Sayu were featured in Kotaku Australia’s original preview of the game, but these are just the beginning of the boss-shaped iceberg in No Straight Roads. You’ll need to conquer an army to set things right.
Mayday and Zuke each have unique combat abilities, with Zuke hitting faster and with less damage, and Mayday being the heavy hitter. As a single player, you’ll alternate between characters to make the best use of their strengths. The further you go in the game, the more abilities you’ll unlock.
How bosses work in No Straight Roads is simple to understand, but difficult to master. To reach each boss, you’ll need to traverse a platform-based obstacle course littered with roving drones, bouncing bots and laser beams. Enemies attack on the beat, so listening to the game’s rocking soundtrack will help you find breaks in enemy defences and move forward. Music is as integral to the game’s design and combat as it is to the narrative. You’ll need to live and breathe it to make your mark.
Beyond each of the multi-stage obstacle courses lies a new boss — and it’s during these battles where the high speed action of the game kicks off.
Each boss in the game has a unique music-based attack pattern you’ll need to figure out before you can progress. While these fights can be confusing, the game presents hints along the way about how you can take down certain bosses. When you finally figure out their weakness, it’s an incredible and gratifying experience.
The game’s sense of personality and flair comes to life in these battles as the catchy soundtrack, gorgeous character designs and fun combat combine to create epic, toe-tapping spectaculars. No two boss stage is the same, making every encounter a pleasant (but often challenging) surprise.
No Straight Roads isn’t a hard game — but it is complicated. Working out each boss pattern and how best to exploit their weaknesses takes time and multiple deaths before it all starts making sense.
DJ Subatomic Supernova, the first boss of the game, requires you to destroy planets to gain projectiles, parry heavy-hitting attacks and avoid laser beams. The Sayu boss fight requires you to traverse an underwater reef and corrupt the pop idol’s data files. Later battles need a combination of perfect parries, dodging abilities and good reflexes. You’ll need to learn fast to thrive.
There’s a balance here between skill and AI attacks, and while bosses are fun, No Straight Roads isn’t always fair.
Enemies can attack quickly and deal devastating blows difficult to recover from. Missing a beat or putting a foot wrong can cause near-instant death and if one of your characters dies, both are defeated. It means you’ll need to pay close attention to the game and listen for those all-important audio cues and hints. Once you have the hang of it, No Straights Roads opens up as a creative and stylish musical adventure.
On the Switch in handheld mode, No Straight Roads’ textures and lines are occasionally choppy or heavily pixelated. It leads to muddy blobs in the later part of the game where backgrounds and character models should be. But despite the occasional graphical downgrade, the game’s performance was smooth throughout.
The PC preview did not have these graphical issues, so it’s likely just a minor caveat for Switch users. It doesn’t impact the overall experience of the game massively.
No Straight Roads will take you between eight and twelve hours to complete, depending on how much you want to grind for abilities. You don’t strictly need upgrades to progress through the game’s boss gauntlet, but they certainly help in the long run. (The double jump, glide and insta-heal abilities will serve you very well at more challenging difficulties.)
Rather than being a one-note wonder, No Straight Roads is consistently fun and challenging throughout. Mayday and Zuke are spirited protagonists and they carry the game’s anti-corporate adventure all the way to its satisfying conclusion.
The game also presents a very self-aware narrative and doesn’t shy away from the issues inherent in the rock vs. EDM debate (a war that’s long raged on). It’s a game with a stylish, flamboyant message, and absolutely well worth your time.
No Straight Roads is available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PC via the Epic Games Store and Xbox One.