‘No Straight Roads’ drops the beat and the ball

Main characters Zuke and Mayday’s designs are composed of complimentary colors to represent the opposing personality traits of the duo. (Courtesy of Metronomik)

Know what to expect when you hit the stage with “No Straight Roads.”

Developed by Metronomik and published by Sold Out LTD. “No Straight Roads” is an action-adventure game released on all platforms on Aug 5.

The game puts players in control of guitarist Mayday and drummer Zuke, an indie rock duo who stage a rebellion against the EDM Empire, NSR, after they ban rock music across Vinyl City.

Players can swap between the characters mid combat or play local co-op as they rock their way through the six districts of Vinyl City.

The first thing that will stick out to new players is the music.

The music tracks of “No Straight Roads” encompass a variety of genres. From classical to funk, each track is uniquely energetic and integrated into combat.

Enemies in the game attack to the beat of the music, so players must listen carefully to find openings in the enemies’ defenses and dodge their attacks.

Skillful players can also parry projectile attacks by timing a mouse click with the beat. Parrying the pink projectiles will send a flurry of strikes right back at the opponent.

As the battle rages on the music doesn’t just progress with each phase, but also shifts between rock and EDM as the player struggles for control over the battlefield.

“No Straight Roads” is as much of a pleasure to the eyes as it is to the ears.

The districts of Vinyl City are vibrant and unique. From the bright pastel colors of Akasuka to the more natural browns and reds of Natura, each area is tailor-made to match their respective boss just like their music tracks.

Additionally, the characters in “No Straight Roads” are equally as colorful as their districts with expressive body language carrying their personalities through each cutscene.

However, where “No Straight Roads” rocks out in style, it falls disappointingly short in gameplay

“No Straight Roads” is a short experience, being beatable in less than six hours.

Being mainly a boss rush, the majority of gameplay will be spent fighting one of six bosses and traversing the short, linear dungeons leading towards them.

Many of the boss fights feel underwhelming or even frustrating due to their lack of polish.

Some fights will rend the boss invincible, but frozen in place for several seconds as they wait for the correct beat to attempt an attack. During this downtime, players have little agency as they wait for the boss to restart their phase.

The parrying mechanic is also severely underused. The game never requires the player to use the mechanic. This wouldn’t be an issue had it not resulted in bosses only having one or two sparsely used attacks types that can be parried.

What could have been an engaging option for skilled players to push boss phases faster might as well not exist in its current state.

The dungeons leading to these boss fights are equally underwhelming.

Each dungeon section features the same few enemies; immobile robots that slam the ground around them, ground and flying robots that fire projectiles and slow-chasing bumper robots that strike nearby players.

Many of these robots aren’t in total sync with the music like the bosses are. Shooting robots never aim their shots at the player, occasionally firing bullets that can be parried but are not properly telegraphed.

The bumper robots are the least offensive of the three. While not much of a threat, they do attack to the rhythm better than the other robots and have a unique variant that teleports behind the player on one beat and attacks on the next.

On PC, the game also has many optimization issues.

Menu buttons are not aligned with the mouse cursor, making menu navigation a chore.

The game also fails to respond to certain inputs in the menu as well, occasionally locking the player on a black screen.

Compare “No Straight Roads” gameplay to 2017’s “Cuphead” by StudioMDHR.

Although both games are in entirely different genres, game engines, and gameplay styles they share much common ground.

Both games present players with their unique art direction and charming music, short gameplay focused on boss rushes and a pink projectile parrying mechanic.

Both studios are also fairly new in the industry, Metronomik being created in 2017 and StudioMDHR in 2013, each with a single game under their belt.

The main difference, however, is the amount of polish that went into “Cuphead” versus “No Straight Roads.”

The density of “Cuphead’s” content makes its mistakes more forgivable, counterbalancing its lows with its highs.

While “Cuphead” also had many day-one bugs and has a few unengaging bosses it also has a larger collection of content; with nineteen boss battles compared to “No Straight Roads” six. These boss battles also have more personality and keep the player on their toes with an endless barrage of attacks.

Meanwhile “No Straight Roads” struggles to hold its players attention with its slow, clunky boss battles only pulling players back in for a moment when a new music track plays and shifts the boss into a new, but equally unengaging phase.

While “No Straight Roads” can be appreciated for its amazing music and creative art style, its lack of content, overall gameplay mediocrity, and lack of polish keep it from being the rock star it aspires to be.