After a troubled road to release (pardon the pun), “Death Road to Canada” finally sees the light on the Nintendo Switch. While it draws heavily from classics such as “Oregon Trail”, the roguelike aspect, the randomly-generated content, the kicking tunes and the fun characters and NPCs make this little game stand on its own two undead feet.
I’ve been following “Death Road to Canada” for a while, not least because I’m Canadian. But let not that hint at me being biased, because I truly wasn’t. The game looked great and it sure appealed to my Canuck pride, but I went in cold-headed and ready to give it a fair, honest shake.
And then the music started. You know you’ve got something special when even the tutorial is fun. How’s that possible? I’m making a game and my tutorial feels like walking through a mile of lit coals. “Death Road to Canada” makes learning the basics of the game not only fun, but quick, too. And it gets you used to losing characters as well, because your tutorial characters don’t come with you into the real world.
You start alone (with an optional buddy) -SIDENOTE: Did I mention you can play this in couch coop? It’s like Contra but with Zombies and a bit of adventure and… well, you get the idea – and you choose your traits, and go out into the wide, blood-soaked yonder. If that sounds familiar to you, then “Organ Trail”, the fantastic and deadly rendition of “Oregon Trail” might be in your HLTB history of played games. I’m not saying it’s unoriginal, though! Really, quite the opposite: while it builds on a familiar formula, this game adds its own twists in pretty much every department.
The zombies? They are slow(ish), so no need to mega-run. But don’t let a herd gather up or you’ll be dinner! The music? Oh, man. The tunes are fantastic! A mixture of chiptune (and I mean Megaman-level kind of good) and old-timey stuff will keep you company on your perilous journey. The characters? Oh, you know… a girl with superstrength… a wizard, a dog that drives… wait, what? Yeah, you can get up to some crazy shenanigans in terms of NPCs and party characters.
It’s permadeath so don’t get too close to your peeps, though! Also, be mindful of your party. While on the road, you’ll have to balance resources (food, medicine, fuel, ammo, etc), while also managing the interactions between your characters! Some are great to get along with, while others require more attention. Yet others are simply a pain to travel with (I’m looking at you, older sibling who made my life impossible during that roadtrip in ’99).
Not everything is super-rosy, though. The locations, while randomly generated, draw from a limited amount of visual resources, so they end up looking a bit same-ish after a while. Even the mega awesome characters and interactions develop a pattern over time. But you’ve got to be hours into the thing and have died quite a few times before you reach that point.
I don’t think that minor gripe should deter people from getting this game, though. It’s a super fun adventure, with a near-endless amount of replay value. Characters are funny, combat is tight, there’s a decent amount of strategy, the tunes are great and the difficulty balance is not bad, either.
What are you waiting for, then? Hop in!