Tuesday, May 8

Review: Death Road to Canada [Nintendo Switch eShop]

There are some keywords and concepts that get thrown around in games that tend to instantly generate interest. If your elevator pitch includes one of them you could get a spark of interest, but if you manage to get more than one into the pitch the level of intrigue can grow. This is very much the case for Death Road to Canada, which has an immediate appeal by throwing together survival, zombies, and roguelike. The key is whether these elements, when combined, end up being appealing and in this case they can be but I’d wager it depends on what you’re looking for.

Every time you set out on the Death Road to Canada you’ll have some degree of control over your fate through your choice in who to start your journey with. This is actually an area that I really appreciate and may be one of the game’s best qualities. You can certainly choose to roll with a random choice of both your leader and a buddy (if you decide you want to, you’re free to go solo as well) or you have the choice of building an entire cast of custom characters you can save and start every game with. Between this and then the type of game you opt for (I tend to enjoy the Rare Characters mode since you can get weird and funny companions from games and popular culture) you at least are able to exhibit some control over the experience in how you set out.

From that point on the roguelike elements take over and you never really know what will happen. At a high level your main concerns are pretty fundamental, you’ll want to keep supplied with food, medicine, and gas. The availability of each of these will tend to keep your morale from collapsing as quickly but finding those supplies and keeping them is tricky and often dangerous. If you go into a town do you opt to explore the less dangerous-looking apartment building or do you hit the mega-mart that appears to be overrun with zombies? If you’re ambushed by bandits who demand a chunk of your supplies do you hand them over, perhaps try to negotiate, or attack? While the events are random, and their outcomes are also subject to some degree of chance the people in your group have attributes in abilities that can add choices to the mix and sometimes improve your chances as well. Do you have someone who has medical training to help make more efficient use of the healing supplies when you have them? Perhaps someone who can help repair your vehicle? Of course while there are beneficial traits a bad incident can also expose negative ones as well, which can sink their usefulness. Nothing but struggle and challenge is a certainty in this world.

In terms of criticisms I actually don’t have many specific ones, for the most part the game delivers what it sets out to do, and with both humor and a sense of flair. The most critical thing I could say about it is that though in the moment there’s an excitement to it and a desire to do “just one more run” once you step away the pull isn’t quite as strong. It’s engaging and fun but I’m not sure it’s quite as addictive as some of its roguelike brethren either. What I believe this is pointing to is that while all the elements for enjoyment are there this game boils down to taste and whether its specific combination grips you. Chance and elements beyond your control are both exciting for their unpredictability and at times aggravating. This is absolutely true to the roguelike formula but with so many variables hidden away tied to the people you encounter and add to your group it feels tougher to manage and account for to a degree.

For people who thoroughly enjoy all of the key elements Death Road to Canada offers I have no doubt there’s fun to be had. Even if I wouldn’t necessarily call the game “deep” there’s quite a bit of content, different ways to play with variables to keep the experience fresh, and almost always a surprise or two in any given run. For anyone who isn’t a big fan of the survival and roguelike elements, though, they significantly influence the experience so it’s hard to say it can break out of being a more niche title. However, if you enjoy zombies, pop culture jokes, some exploration, and action you may be able to survive and have a great time on the Death Road to Canada.

Score: 7.5

  • Character creation and various options to change the type of run you can have
  • A fun sense of humor that comes through in a variety of ways
  • Though visually pretty simple the film grain qualities and color tones work nicely

  • Heavily roguelike, making every run subject to total (and often cruel) chance
  • Combat is simple and repetitive to the point of getting boring after a bit
  • Though there is progression between games it is limited in effectiveness