Death Road to Canada is a tough game to define. The website describes it as a randomly generated road trip action-RPG, but I’m betting that there aren’t many games that will fall into that genre title. I could keep throwing adjectives at the game to try and make it clearer, but I’m not sure where I’d stop. The game looks and plays like the illegitimate offspring of the Legend of Zelda and The Walking Dead.
The game is available now from Rocketcat Games on PC, Mac and iOS and up next on PS4, Xbox and Switch and I have been playing it on the Sony platform. Any game that gets released at the same time as an AAA title (this comes out on PS4 very close to God of War) is going to struggle to shine or stand out in the marketplace, but a week before both games got released I found myself sat on my couch, controller in hand, but instead of waiting for Kratos to hit the screen, I was playing Death Road to Canada.
Following a zombie apocalypse, you find yourself and buddy in a car heading to Canada because you heard it is safer there. It takes 14 days to drive to Canada and along the way you’ll need to scavenge for resources, escape zombie hoards, search for weapons and look for others to join your team. Your character can be randomly generated, or you can specify their look, characteristics and traits. Some are more useful (surgeon or mechanic) than others (paranoid).
As you drive north, your car uses gas, and falls into a state of disrepair. You’ll receive injuries from your encounters and every day each member of your team will consume food. Luckily, you can heal with first aid packs and scavenge for gas and food. Depending on what traits the people in your team have, the effectiveness of these resources may vary. As your team gets exposed to new experiences and you make decisions on the next part of the game, your characters traits will start to become more apparent. For example, you might have to sleep outside one night and discover that one of your buddies likes to moan, or if you have a charming trait you may be able to get resources or training for free. New experiences unlock new skills and strengths lie most RPG’s and after a few days your characters go from being a poorly equipped apocalypse noob to a regular Rick or Michonne.
The depth of the gameplay only became apparent after a while of playing it, your traits are imperative to the decisions you make, and some fights need to be walked away from. As you progress you meet more people and can get them to join (up to 4), so sometimes it pays to leave somebody in the car in case the rest of you don’t come back. As long as one person in the team survives any mission the game continues, and you live to fight another day. Couch co-op is fun, the second player can choose which of the team they want to be or let the AI take over.
There is a huge range of weapons, from umbrella to assault rifle and everything in between. You can carry 3 at any one time and dish out your own style of justice to the undead as you go.
Graphics and Audio
This game is beautifully rendered in 16-bit style graphics and animation, it could have been smarter or better looking but it really doesn’t need it. The game has a tongue in cheek style to its narrative, with characters traits becoming apparent in their dialogue. The text scrolls up the screen with a corresponding thumbs up or down and you feel like you are playing a game from the late 80’s but with a bang up to date sense of humour.
The game runs with a small amount of screen flicker and the occasional disruption to really give you the feeling of playing on a 14inch CRT TV set. It’s completely unnecessary but a lot of fun. It’s nostalgic, but not just for the sake of it.
The audio soundtrack matches the graphics well. A mixture of and Amiga-level synth-pop with appropriate noises and alerts add to the old school vibe.
Death Road to Canada has serious playability and it’s a title you could go back to a thousand times and play slightly differently on each one of them. You do start to learn the outcomes of some of your choices, but depending on your characters traits, the end result may differ. I understand why it has been successful on PC, Mac and iOS, it’s a portable game that you could easily load on your lunch break for a quick game, but consoles like PS4 and Xbox don’t have that functionality. I think this will be a massive hit on Switch! As well as the standard game modes, you can unlock longer and shorter road trip lengths and a hard-core version as well.
I was really pleasantly surprised by this game. It I charming and witty and the combat plays second fiddle to a good RPG. The ability to switch characters in the game or meet up with new people and get them to join the crew means the story never really ends, it evolves and changes each time. If you make a bad choice or get all of your people killed, you go back to day 1 and start all over again for a brand-new adventure. Death Road To Canada is a lot of fun. It’s easy to learn, difficult to master and, just like the zombies in the game, death isn’t the end. It just makes you want to get back into it and play some more.
Death Road To Canada gets a Gold Thumb Culture Award.
If you want a game you can switch on and play for a quick 30-minute blast this game is ideal, but don’t be surprised if 3 hours go past!
Disclaimer: We received a digital code to carry out this review