No Straight Roads: Battle Of The Bands



In NSR, Mayday uses her guitar to bludgeon her enemies. Coachella is going to be crazy this year. Photo by Nintendo

Samuel Pappas, Contributor

You know that feeling when you lay on your bed for three hours and listen to the same album you’ve heard a thousand times and contemplate your place in the universe? Have you wondered what that would be like as a video gamer?

Well, keep wondering because “No Straight Roads” is a rhythm-based hack-and-slash game from a Malaysian based developer, Metranomik.

The plot is simple. Mayday and Zuke’s band, Bunk Bed Junction, was publicly mocked on television by the EDM producers of NSR, so our heroes decide to go on a crusade in the name of rock and roll. This element of the story is woven into the game in a fun way. As you fight the boss and gradually whittle down their health, the music changes from club music to classic rock. When the boss runs out of health, Mayday and Zuke deliver a finishing blow reminiscent of the “All-Out Attacks” from “Persona 5.”

In NSR, gamers play as Mayday and Zuke, two up-and-coming musicians who use the power of rock to strike back at the electronic dance music (EDM) authority of Vinyl City. Enemies and bosses attack you in patterns based on the beat of the song playing in the background, so jamming along to the wonderful soundtrack helps you get better at the game.

Every boss feels unique and has a magnificent presentation, but when it comes to the core gameplay of running, dodging, attacking and exploring the levels, things fall apart.

The camera stays at a fixed angle, making it impossible to see enemies behind you. Jumps allow for minimal course correction when a character is already airborne. Fighting ranged enemies is a chore since only specific foes drop ammunition to fight them. The list goes on.

The game is also plagued by a multitude of bugs and glitches—missing textures, infinite boss phases, falling off the map, etc. None of them ruin the experience on their own, but they do put a damper on things.

NSR sidesteps the gameplay issues by letting you restore your health to full and try again whenever you die, at the cost of reducing your rank on the Boss Fight to a “C.”

The game isn’t difficult per-say, but if you’re the type of person who likes to get high scores in games like “Devil May Cry” or “Bayonetta,” then NSR will aggravate you to no small amount.

Metronomik’s debut title isn’t taking any awards home in the gameplay department. It’s clunky, but if you’re on board with the style and characters, then the gameplay is just serviceable to bring you to an end.

Every time the gameplay was starting to wear on me, NSR brought me back with it’s fun, cheeky character interactions and expressive animations.

NSR has the texture of an anime from Studio Trigger. The battles are larger than life and filled with intriguing imagery that brings the settings to life. Mayday and Zuke also get a surprising amount of development as they defeat more bosses and liberate more of Vinyl City. Some dialogue-heavy sections can overstay their welcome and many of the background NPCs feel like they could have been better utilized, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy NSR.

It’s rough around the edges. The gameplay is formulaic and bland in many places. Still, when it came together, I was moving my head to the beat and feeling the adrenaline build up as that familiar rock tune signified the boss was almost defeated.

Mayday and Zuke fight back because they love music and being a part of the culture of their city, but passion can’t take you everywhere. I won’t spoil the ending, but Bunk Bed Junction learns the value of music to inspire change within their community.

It’s a feel-good game with a wide range of musical styles and influences that shape the game as a whole. The entire soundtrack has even been dubbed in multiple languages with a level of care and dedication put into each localization that I’ve never seen in a game before.

For $40, you could do a lot worse. I wouldn’t recommend NSR to everyone, but if you are in the mood for an upbeat, inspiring journey with some great music to boot, then go rock the town.