No Straight Roads Review

Richard Walker

Some things are best left in the past. Among them are boss battles that go on for far too long, where failure means going right back to the beginning of an encounter. No Straight Roads does this, and it's 2020. We're not in the 16-bit era anymore, where checkpoints don't exist – having to retread entire sections you've spent ages persevering through isn't anyone's idea of fun, but developer Metronomik isn't particularly concerned about something as accommodating as a mid-boss checkpoint. Beneath the inviting cartoon veneer of NSR lies a demanding, frequently irritating experience, albeit one with occasional flashes of fun.

A hack and slash game laced with some fairly ill-defined and easily ignored rhythm-infused elements, No Straight Roads is essentially a series of infuriating bosses interconnected by the hub city region of Vinyl City. A place where rock music has been outlawed by the oppressive EDM Empire, it falls to indie rock band duo Bunk Bed Junction to smash the system and defeat a series of electronic music artists, in a visually appealing, often stunning-looking game positively bristling with energy and eye-popping colour.

NSR's visual design is genuinely striking, from stylised protagonists Mayday and Zuke (who in single-player, you can switch between on-the-fly), with their huge hands and weird hair, to the game's massive bosses, drawn in large, chunky shapes that fill the screen. There's not really anything quite like No Straight Roads in terms of its look and art style, and that's something that Metronomik should truly be lauded for. It's just a shame that the game's procession of boss encounters are so busy, lengthy and repetitive, sucking any enjoyment away with each retry throwing you all the way back to the beginning. It's truly confounding that such an egregious mechanic still exists in a modern game – we thought this kind of thing had been confined to the age of the video game cartridge.

There's ample opportunity to prepare for each boss (following the first boss fight, against DJ Subatomic Supernova), with your sewer HQ: a place to apply stickers – found in flight cases around Vinyl City – to your instruments (Mayday's guitar and Zuke's drums) for various buffs, or mods that grant new moves, unlocked upon defeating bosses. It's in the sewers you can also hold underground gigs to unlock new abilities by accumulating fans via Mayday, Zuke, and shared Bunk Bed Junction skill trees; feed your pet alligator; or learn more about the enemy you're about to face. Exploring Vinyl City, you can use canisters of ‘Qwasa’ to turn the lights back on, chat to its oddball denizens, or look for hidden stickers.

Focused as it is primarily on combat, NSR's various fighting mechanics are fairly accomplished, with basic attacks, parries, dodge rolls, and other systems at play, making for a rather gratifying overall experience on a minute-to-minute basis. And you'll need to use everything in your arsenal to overcome each boss, collecting ammo to shoot projectiles, evading traps and incoming attacks, cutting smaller enemies down to size. Often, there's far too much going on all at once, however, and it only requires one of Bunk Bed Junction's duo to fall in battle to initiate a load screen and subsequent frustrating traipse back to a boss's first phase.

On the approach to each boss, there are tedious, smaller enemies to bypass, as well as various obstacles on your way through several security levels. All of NSR's bosses invariably demand a similar approach, too, evading projectiles before hurling your own missiles back. You can parry purple objects and ping them back at foes, and temporarily transform static points into helpful turrets, but, by and large, boss battles essentially unfold in a fairly similar fashion. While they look fantastic and whip up all manner of pyrotechnic effects, and each soundtrack gets the blood pumping, there's something strangely anodyne about the whole affair – even if managing to off a boss with a cry of ‘Bunka Junka Shakalaka Bam’ can feel rewarding, if only because it brings an end to the preceding slog.

It's telling that the most enjoyable boss battles are the one where you directly engage enemies, like robotic boy band 1010 and colourful pop diva Eve. Other encounters against the likes of piano prodigy Yinu or manufactured digital pop star Sayu are somewhat less engaging, despite clear efforts to make each stage and each battle unique. And while No Straight Roads has a lot of genuinely interesting ideas, presented in a hugely appealing package, it's questionable whether it's actually worth putting up with Mayday's exuberant squawking and persevering through the game's string of annoying bosses.

The small mercy is that No Straight Roads is quite short, although there's ample replay value on offer should you wish to fight a boss again to achieve a better score, attempt it with a different soundtrack, or try to complete it without getting knocked out. A gorgeous game to behold, No Straight Roads certainly isn't without merit, from its distinctive art style to its fantastic soundtrack, there's a lot to like here, but it's unfortunately marred by some poor design decisions that ultimately turn the game into something of a chore, when it could so easily have been a joy. Bunka Junka, indeed.

No Straight Roads

After a rocky start, No Straight Roads settles into a rhythm, but its action is off-key, in spite of its edible looks and funky soundtrack. Regrettably, No Straight Roads is an action game that doesn't quite hit the high notes, with execution that falls some way short.

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NSR's soundtrack is great. Even the EDM tunes that you're supposed to hate are toe-tapping, while the voice work is full of energy and a palpable sense of fun.


Bold and colourful, the game's look belies the challenging procession of bosses in each of Vinyl City's levels. A very nice-looking and well-presented game.


NSR's combat mechanics are pretty solid and playing in co-op works well, but (if we haven't hammered it home enough yet) the boss battles are a real pain.


Those boss battles make up the majority of No Straight Roads' 8-10 hour runtime, so you can only imagine the amount of frustration that awaits.


Plenty of achievements for completion and certain milestones, as well as a few for returning to bosses and beating them without being knocked out. A tricky list.

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