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Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Review: Death Road to Canada

Review: Death Road to Canada

O Canada, We stand on guard for zombies...

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Death Road to Canada
Rocket Cat Games | Nintendo Switch | Digital Only
1-2 Players (Local Only)
Reviewed by: Curtis Chapman

* Review Code Provided by: UKIYO Publishing *

You and a friend better brush up on your Canadian National Anthem and dig out that Celine Dion album as Death Road to Canada by Rocket Cat Games is out now and available digitally from the Nintendo eShop, currently priced at £9.59. Fancy a trip north with Santa, a dog and a bright pink Megaman in tow?

There have been many titles that simulate the struggle in the age of tale of forced immigration and the heartache caused by leaving cherished places and love ones behind for a chance at a better life in pastures green. Death Road to Canada attempts to throw a new simulation into the mix; Instead of your plight being a familiar one, like that of a colonial resettlement or the search for a new home after being displaced through some kind of fascist regime, you are instead thrust into a last-ditch effort to find solace north of the border after a zombie outbreak has left the USA with no safe place to hide. Throughout your journey you will meet quirky playable characters to add to your party (if you so wish), barter for goods and services at settlements that have cropped up alongside the highway, and loot through zombie-infested locales in a desperate search to procure enough of the bare necessities required to complete your treacherous journey along the Death Road.

Death Road to Canada Screenshot 1

The game itself is split into two distinct phases; the bulk of your travels will take place on the highway, either by car on foot. Playing out similarly to the 1971 educational classic, The Oregon Trail, your current supplies are displayed on the screen and are occasionally automatically deducted based on the size of your party, simulating the need to eat and fuel your current mode of transportation. Occasionally the game’s engine will randomly create bite-sized scenarios for you and your team to react to; These text-based encounters will present you with bizarre and, at times, ludicrous situations and then have you choose which of your current team members you feel would be best suited to tackle them, taking their overall stats into consideration when determining the chosen outcome. These outcomes can both help or hinder your characters, however, with some upgrading your base stats or granting you supplies, while others hurting or even killing off members of your team, so decisions must be made wisely. Every so often the game will give you the option of choosing where to stop to scavenge for supplies, taking the game into its second phase.

When entering an outpost or a zombie-infested area to find supplies the game changes to a top-down twin-stick shooter affair, allowing you to collect weapons and items necessary on your journey. Combat is enjoyable and the sheer volume of zombies on the screen at times does little to slow down the game. There is no set time limit during this phase, although dawdling too long will quickly find you overwhelmed by zombies, with them possessing the ability to move between rooms and break down closed doors. When you are ready to leave an area you simply return to your car and head back to the highway, for the cycle to repeat until you reached the Promised Land. Initially, the choices you have to make and the difficulty of the loot stops will feel fairly rudimentary, but as the days tick on and the zombies increase it becomes harder to find the required supplies and the penalties for failure become more severe. Planning and preparation will be required to ensure you manage to survive all the way through your journey.

Death Road to Canada Screenshot 2

One of the most enjoyable elements of Death Road to Canada is the ability to populate the world with characters from your own imagination; giving them a name, completely customising their appearance and equipping them with skills that you feel would define them. These characters can either then be used as your main starting characters or saved into the long list of characters that you may have the chance of meeting on your journey down the road. On your travels you will also collect "Zombo-Tokens", a rogue-like mechanic that will allow you to purchase and upgrade character skills in between playthroughs and giving you more variation in your custom creations.

You don’t have to brave the Road this journey on your own however as the game features local “jump-in, jump-out” co-op play, allowing two players to hot-swap between any of the characters who are currently traveling with you in your party. While the AI does a good job of moving and attacking with the teammates currently not under your control, it pales in comparison to the skill of a second human player, making the game somewhat easier when played through with a friend.

The strangest and most welcomed contrast comes when comparing the difference between the underlying theme and its audio track. Instead of the usual miserable and dulcet tones that are usually associated with any game involving zombies, Death Road to Canada’s music is whimsical, upbeat and at times often have you forgetting about the horrors and devastation you are encountering on your journey north. The music itself is well produced and does an excellent job of helping to make light of some of the grim realities of the situation.

As well as the standard game mode, the title also contains 9 other variations of play that range from different journey lengths, trips that contain rare or only those survivors that you have personally created, to even a difficulty that is so intense that it will give even the most seasoned player a run for their money. With so many different ways to play, all compounded by the random nature of each playthrough; no game will ever feel the same.

Death Road to Canada Screenshot 3

Death Road to Canada is a title that oozes character and charm, with its simplistic 2D styling’s and offbeat music complimenting the wacky nature of the people you meet and fast and unusual situations you find the game throwing your way. With an almost infinite amount of replayability, granting the player the options to completely customise the randomised experience to their liking and skill level, there is more than enough content to keep anyone playing for a long, long time.


+ Loads of gameplay variations, all randomised each time
+ Cute & Zany Soundtrack to acompany the mass zombie killing.
+ In-depth character creator.

- May be too unforgiving for some.
- Could use a few more gameplay mechanics.

Verdict: Almost There - Highly Recommended

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