Review – Death Road to Canada

Death Road to Canada game screenshot 3, courtesy Steam
Review – Death Road to Canada

Platforms: Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Steam

Game Name: Death Road to Canada

Publisher: RocketCat Games

Developer: RocketCat Games

Genre: Action, RPG

Release Date: July 21st, 2016

Death Road to Canada from RocketCat Games

Death Road to Canada is a lighthearted road trip simulator about a drive from Florida to Canada…during a zombie apocalypse. Delivered as a mixture of random text-driven encounters and frenetic – if clunky – combat, it’s a refreshing take on Roguelike-inspired games and zombie simulators alike.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine, Eh?

The basic premise is that a small group of survivors – the default is two, though you can recruit up to four – are making an odyssey up the titular Death Road to Canada for relative safety from the undead hordes. As you guide them on their way, you’ll need to keep them fed and happy, not to mention keeping their vehicle maintained and fueled. It’s a long walk to Canada.

Death Road to Canada game screenshot 3, courtesy Steam
Death Road to Canada: screenshot courtesy Steam

Death Road to Canada relies heavily on random character generation. Each character has a number of traits – from RPG standards like Strength to more nebulous concepts like Loyalty – plus special perks. One character might start out with advanced medical skills, for example, while another might begin the game with a muscle car.

Adding to the complication? Characters can lie. That guy you picked up to join the party who says he’s a sharpshooter? It might turn out that he can’t hit the broadside of a barn, so think about whether or not you really need him with you, or if he’ll just turn out to be another mouth to feed.

Shiny Random People

All of these factors are further affected by the random encounters that make up about half the game. You’ll meet random strangers, get lost in the woods, fight bandits (or give in to their demands) and even whack zombies with golf balls. Each encounter, presented through text with multiple choice options, will through some opaque mechanism of the random number generator both affect and be affected by your group’s statistics.

Death Road to Canada game screenshot 2, courtesy of Steam
Death Road to Canada: screenshot courtesy Steam

None of this would be particularly interesting, of course, if it didn’t affect the combat scenes that make up the other half of Death Road to Canada. Combat, which takes place from an overhead view, is where you get to bash zombies. It’s also your best opportunity to stock up on food, gasoline and – of course – weaponry.

Somehow, the combat manages to be both frenetic AND clunky. Relying heavily on improvised melee weapons like frying pans, pipes and brooms, the trick is to time your swings. The heavier your implement, the faster you get tired and the slower your swings. Eventually you’ll pick up firearms, as well, but unless you have decent aim, that’ll present its own set of problems.

I’ve Got My Crew, I’ve Got My Zombie Crush

The real trick is managing your crew. They’ll follow you around bashing zombies for you automatically, but you’ll have to be careful where you lead them. Get your buddies killed, and you’ll be in real trouble. Much of the time, this means bypassing a zombie horde – or racing through a building scavenging what you can – is preferable to taking the zombies head on.

The combat locations are also pleasantly diverse, ranging from survivalist cabins to abandoned big box stores to suburban apartment buildings. Each has its own choke points and likelihood of housing valuable loot, and each is diverse enough to make exploring – bashing zombies as you go, of course – a treat instead of a chore.

Death Road to Canada game screenshot 1, courtesy of Steam
Death Road to Canada: screenshot courtesy Steam

Automatic (Fun) for the People

Any game as dependent on random number generation as Death Road to Canada is bound to have its frustrating moments, and you can indeed get a string of bad runs here, but overall the experience is fun, even addictive. Even the clunky combat is fairly easy to pick up with a bit of practice.

From the chiptune soundtrack – a bit reminiscent of the incidental music in Sonic the Hedgehog – to the characters’ pixellated, oversized heads to the surprising variety of zombies, Death Road to Canada exudes a fun, lighthearted take on the zombie apocalypse. And while there are definite comedic moments, the game doesn’t rely on forcing jokes down your throat, instead opting for a gentle undercurrent of surreal humor throughout.

I don’t think any well-balanced person really wants a zombie apocalypse, but Death Road to Canada makes the concept seem almost fun. In any case, it’s a nice change of pace from the current season of The Walking Dead.

[xrr rating=”4.5/5″]

Watch the official trailer for Death Road to Canada below: