As I stepped away from Rad, its electronic synth waves still ringing in my ears, it seemed like a great opportunity to overthrow EDM and get hands-on with something new at EGX Rezzed. Developed by Metronomik and due out sometime in Spring 2019, No Straight Roads is an enthusiastic adventure game that takes the fight directly to electronica.
Thrusting players into a vibrant dystopian future, No Straight Roads is a definite confirmation that dour is dead. This near-future alternative dystopia is less about mean streets and cyberpunk aesthetics, coming visually closer to titles like Jet Set Radio and Persona. It’s clear to see where the vibrant aesthetic comes from too. On meeting co founders of Metronomik, Diam Dziauddin and Wan Hazmer, it is obvious that this homage comes from a passion for these unabashedly fun games. The two know what they are doing as well. Wan is easily attributed as the lead designer behind Final Fantasy XV and Diam has a plethora of iconic design work behind him that includes Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood and several Street FIghters. Between them, they have a treasure trove of experience and have helmed Metronomik to build the bustling Vinyl City, shown in the trailer below.
The slice of Vinyl City, the backdrop for No Straight Roads, that I got to see at EGX Rezzed is all solid shapes and bright colors. It is from here that a small team of misfits fight the rhythm and power of an overwhelming EDM army with the power of rock. However, the unusual aspect of this particular music game is that wielding power chords and dropping in breakbeats does not require a third pair of hands and the reactions of an e-sport professional.
It was always the intention of Metronomik to construct a music game that does not require the same level of skill or dexterity as most rhythm challenges. Whether you are all fingers and thumbs in Superbeat: Xonic or just can’t dance, No Straight Roads is easily accessible. As I quickly discovered during a 15-minute demo of No Straight Roads, the characters fronting this game don’t just look the part, they pick up most of the playing slack. Dropped into an opening tutorial, I took control of two on-screen characters, one guitarist and a drummer, as I played through a short action adventure that mixes this 3D action with 2D story cells.
The initial tutorial allowed me to zip around the screen as if I belonged to this bold world’s beats. Controls felt responsive and didn’t take too long to get to grips with. Nothing felt particularly out of place here and while players can, of course, run jump and fight their way across a range of obstacles, they can also play instruments like a weapon. Smashing the attack button might thrash a guitar to destroy specific objects. With another button press characters even begin to rock out. There is no preamble and no tapping to time to this performance. Just holding down an action button activates a channeled performance that results in a unique character skill, from depositing an offensive turret or to speeding up allied movement. This very quickly provides a good level of unique utility for each of the characters, which can be hot-swapped during the action, and makes for a fun moment. Correctly developed it should also allow experienced players a good level of flexibility in tackling each of the game’s unique levels.
It was always the intention of Metronomik to construct a music game that does not require the same level of skill or dexterity as most rhythm challenges. Whether you are all fingers and thumbs in Superbeat: Xonic or just can’t dance, No Straight Roads is still easily accessible. As I wound my way through the opening tutorial with the two on-screen characters, one guitarist and a drummer, I zipped around the screen as if I belonged to this bold world’s beats. While players can, of course, run jump and fight their way across a range of obstacles, they can also play their instruments like a weapon. With a single button press, characters can rock out. There is no preamble and no tapping to time. Just holding down an action button activates a channeled performance that results in a unique character skill, from depositing an offensive turret or to speeding up allied movement. This provides a fun moment and a good level of utility to each of the characters, which can be quickly hot-swapped in the middle of any action. Correctly developed, these traits should not only provide a cool interlude to any platforming action but also allow experienced players a satisfying level of flexibility in tackling each of the game’s encounters.
This flexibility is always something that Metronomik intended on. Co-founders Diam Dziauddin and Wan Hazmer described how
“during the game, we already have choices in the way that players can complete challenges. In some of the battles, you will find projectiles that you can either avoid or choose to reflect back at bosses. This is an example of how we’re allowing our players that have more experience with Rythm games to still take on a challenge”.
My hope is that this is reflected throughout the rest of the game and its achievement system.
For now, I had to be satisfied with a DJ Boss battle that drags players into an EDM discotheque, overseen by a huge glitterball overlord that looks something like a bedazzled Deadmau5. What proceeds is a space-themed challenge where players orbit a rotating dance floor, crushing out environmental objects and spewing notes back at the boss as projectiles. As planets light up and explode around an arena, the anthropomorphic glitterball sits poised atop a podium, spinning decks and throwing shade on your struggle. The gloating chrome head is a great visual idea and the voice acting behind it ensures that it’s not just the excellent musical accompaniment that keeps you smiling. This encounter is particularly forgiving but it provides a great spectacle and also happens to be simply fun. Bright colors, cool tunes, and seemingly hectic surroundings all make this an engaging experience. Previous iterations of No Straight Roads that hit GDC included a piano challenge and when I spoke to Diam, he confirmed that future content will find more of these challenges. Metronomik is still working on even more unique instrumental themes and while they can’t go into more detail right now, it’s sure to be an interesting gig.
These boss style encounters are some of the challenges that await players as they trek through their wider mission. As a group of rebel rockers, players will aim to subvert the rule of EDM on their city. From an actual underground lair, the game’s protagonists can creep out onto the streets of this city under siege. They can explore the surroundings, pick up challenges, play gigs, and work to support the growing rock resistance. It gives a definite impression of a game that takes inspiration from the Persona and while I don’t have more information on how progression or the cityscape system changes over time, I’m intrigued by this concept.
In the end, No Straight Roads really struck a chord with me. It is less a battle of Rock vs EdM and more of a love letter to both. The game feels fluid, well constructed and it’s no real wonder why. Both Diam Dziauddin and Wan Hazmer are both incredible talents with a solid team around them. No Straight Roads was another blistering addition to the foreground of EGX Rezzed that came out swinging with blistering colors, cool music, and a great twist on an established concept. It takes a musical theme and rhythm mechanics, burying them in a very accessible format. Even if it doesn’t dethrone EDM, No Straight Roads looks set to overthrow your boredom. I might be rooting for the Electronic empire, but I’ll be checking it out when it arrives on PlayStation 4 and PC during Spring 2019.