This is Halloween and what better time to do a special! Although this isn’t really a special of sorts it’s more a game I’ve wanted to review for years with a loose tie to Halloween (zombies right?) Death Road to Canada is a randomly generated action-RPG so is this a game you want to be rolling the dice on or just another YouTube bait game with no substance? Lets roll!
If you’ve ever played The Oregon Trail (or the zombie spin-off Organ trail) you’ll know what to expect here it’s a very similar setup but with more fun involved. A leader sets out to get to Canada and along the way recruits a team, collects gas, health kits, food, ammo, weapons and cars to survive as they go. The biggest challenge isn’t the action scenes with a simplistic run and smash zombies loot mechanic but the dice rolls. As you progress between each zombie slaughter random events will happen to your crew and you will need to guess the best possible outcome to each scenario, typically resulting in either a bonus or more likely a detriment. Almost all of the stats are hidden at the start of each run and you’ll only learn what they are by trial and error. This may all sound super tedious but the gameplay loop is incredibly enjoyable. The entire game is balanced enough that each attempt is drastically different and you’ll find yourself getting attached to a story only to lose due to a stupid/unlucky choice and starting again.
There’s some cracking visual design at work with Death Road to Canada. It slips between 2D sprite graphics for the action and old IBM adventure for the text but it all clicks together so nicely that it works well. For a heavily text-based adventure the text is easily readable and well written so expect to be reading how your party is progressing with each invisible dice roll. When the action hots up you’ll find you’re easily able to see where and what needs doing, most of the time. Very rarely you’ll take damage or lose a member due to being swarmed by zombies you didn’t see coming but this usually happens due to poor crowd control more than anything else. Customising characters is a little limited but it’s enough to make a game that’s a lot more enjoyable than generic characters.
The quality of Death Road really shines through into the sound design as well. There are some great music tracks here that are still enjoyable on your 50th playthrough. The sounds and zombies all work nicely and nothing is so pronounced it overwhelms the rest. It all bleeds into itself nicely in a sort of sickly horrific zombies are cool at Halloween kind of way. Don’t expect any voice work but the text all has specific noises similar to animal crossing where you can tell the noises apart. Plenty of combat noises are recognisable (a weapon breaking for example) and help you navigate the swarm and loot quickly.
It should be obvious by now but you’ll get the most out of Death Road on multiple playthroughs. Longevity is key here with finding Zombie Points in rare locations, events and moments that outside of the run (from the main menu) can be used to boost base skills. Boosted skills can be slotted in for customising people to make it an easier experience. There are multiple types of story runs to with some zany extreme characters and others with insanely difficult challenges. Your first playthrough to a game over screen might only take an hour but there’s plenty to do here. The only downside (if you care about them) is that the trophies/achievements are ludicrous and you’ll be hard pushed to ever complete any but the absolute basics.
This review is pretty short and to the point but that’s because so is Death Road to Canada. It’s a game that’s been made not to be expansive and huge for long plays but refined into short enjoyable bursts of fun. The multiplayer is a little iffy with your friend only really tagging along instead of the Ai but the Ai does a good enough job regardless. I think it’s best summed up by the fact the game is nearly 2 years old and I’m still playing it. Death Road to Canada is spot on zombie fun that’s enthralling as much as it is infuriating and what more do you want for Halloween?
8/10 – Death Road to another run