Let’s face it. We all form an opinion of a game based on a few seconds of video, whether it’s of game play or a cutscene. After watching the preview for this game, I immediately knew Death Road to Canada was going to be addicting and easy. We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Starting up the game I knew next to nothing about the journey in which I was about to embark. Then again, that’s probably because the story is completely randomly generated, unexpected, and usually hilarious.
I was greeted on the “Start” screen by some old fashioned country rock music. The background music throughout most of the game was light and whimsical, which added irony. First and foremost I decided to check out character creation. Keep in mind this game is specifically designed to appear in 16 bit graphics, so not many details were offered about the character’s features. In fact, I had a difficult time telling the difference between female and male. However, I was still surprised by the amount of options provided. I could change their face type, hair, skin color, hair color, clothes and height. There are 80 slots provided for saving these characters! Then I moved on to perks and was offered a wide variety, from Mechanic to Gun Collector. The character you make can also be saved and used for later. During the game play you collect Zombie Points to level up the skills that are offered and applied to any character given that trait.
In two player, role options are available, such as leader or follower, and second player can be a random or saved character. With the characters chosen, it was time to begin my trek to Canada.
Three different games modes are available right away: “Normal” for regular play, “Familiar Characters” for when you want to meet your creations along the road, and “Rare Characters” where you meet strange people with special traits and weapons. We ran into a pink-haired anime girl whose face melted after a few days, and a man who exploded after farting too many times.
The locked modes are “Short Trip to Heck”, which is a game of 9 days instead of 15, and then “Long Winding Road”, which is 25 days. Finally, we have “Deadlier Road”, or hard mode.
Remember how I expected this game to be easy? I died instantly, quite by surprise. This might have been because of choosing the BERSERK! skill first, which started me off with less health! Such a fine detail, definitely liked that. When I died, I immediately assumed control of player two, much to my counterpart’s dismay. Instead of continuing, went back to create Ganondora, with Fighter Skill and a Mysterious Past, and started a new game.
The game plays out with a simplistic RPG style story-telling, with multiple choice options for the feel of a choose-your-own-path novel. The further you travel, the more you learn about yourself and your companions, like composure, morale, and skills. I chose where to stop for supplies, which then dictated if I encountered a few hungry zombies or dozens of lazy zombies. I stopped at a gym, hoping to snag large amounts of gasoline out of the toilets, and ended up exercising for an hour to raise my athleticism. Down the road, when I wasn’t running out of gasoline or being low on medical supplies, I could choose to camp with other survivors and risk being robbed, or I might run into some bandits that I needed to persuade to let me pass unharmed. There are also trading camps where you can trade food for supplies or gas for food.
There are a few neat effects that might easily go overlooked if you aren’t one to focus on detail. If you’re bleeding, the zombies will smell you and chase you faster. When the character is exhausted, their face will flash red and even begin to drip huge drops of sweat. If using a melee weapon when you become exhausted, you’ll swing much slower. Visual effects, such as grain, glitch, and scratch, are offered to give the game more of a horror film feeling, but I turned those off in favor of clearer graphics. Another detail that can either be viewed as frustrating or interesting is that player two was only able to rejoin once we came across an NPC and allowed them into our party, but this could happen sooner or later in any given randomly generated story. Speaking of two player, only the leader can continue through doorways, so make sure you trust your co-op partner. Since we’re talking about the Nintendo Switch, I’d like to point out that Death Road to Cananda plays fluidly either with the console docked or handheld.
The most extreme part of the game was exploring the city at night. If you aren’t carrying a flashlight, forget it. Everything is pitch black. The music becomes dramatic and menacing, intended to increase your heart rate. I panicked, repeatedly telling myself this was the end, I was going to die. I was definitely afraid.
In summary: The towns I explored were entirely random, the story was always different, and the random encounters constantly varied. This game was difficult to put down, especially in solo mode. Time just escaped me! As much as I enjoyed the game, the level of frustration that comes along with the standard difficulty forced me to take a break, even if I can’t wait to play it again. I highly recommend playing this game with friends to make the story more interesting, and to see who stacks up to a zombie horde. Trust me, you don’t want me in your zombie survival team!