This zombie apocalypse will eat up your time raw, in a good way. Death Road To Canada offers solo or co-op teams who are willing to take up a dangerous road trip a suitcase packed with spare replay value kits. Madgarden and Rocketcat Games create a charming, yet challenging game with randomized scenarios for each playthrough and numerous unlockables including cameos to join your squad for plowing through a pixel army of rotting roody-poo, unsweet candy asses.
As with many roguelikes, the concept of die, die again, is realized in full. In Death Road To Canada, it’s wise to immediately accept the cards you’ve been dealt and you’ll find yourself enjoying the ride a lot more. Much like the RNG itself, the name of the game is how this rolls since it can and possibly applies to two situations: Death Road being the route filled with the walking dead and/or the many deaths you’ll be enduring on that very road. With 3 out of 10 modes unlocked from the get-go there’s alternate ways of replayability here, albeit adjustments to difficulty and entire road trip length. The normal difficulty settings will still try to 1-up you so it’s best to learn how to utilize each characters’ strengths and weaknesses to get the best mileage.
There isn’t an engrossing story to be found, but it’s the randomness of your travels which makes for an entertaining time. The premise is to make it safely to Canada from Florida within 15 days. The music in the menus sets the vibe to expect all with chiptune flair. Before taking off, you can start your session with either randomized characters or ones you’ve created. Experimentation of unique abilities is encouraged. If the thought of someone bothers you enough to perhaps use as zombie bait well then feel free to create them, name them, and bring them along just for that purpose. Then again why not take with you a person you are fond of such as your sweetheart you’d never leave behind? Then again maybe that person is yourself. Whoever it is, a number of perks and traits unlocked will define how your road trip will play out.
Certain attributes will net you better results in particular scenarios. Choosing the Surgeon perk, for example, allows that character to handle medkits more successfully, while the Friend of Dog perk has a better chance of recruiting a dog on your team which of course yes, out of the many dog breeds, they all have one thing in common: the ability to drive cars and wield shotguns, because why not? Choosing a trait will define which type of personality your character has and they all have their benefits, but working towards one goal is essential: raising and keeping a high morale for all. The lower their morale, the more fragile and susceptible they are to losing it. Characters may panic in situations and may have stats lowered in their skills due to it. Chances of making it to Canada are higher as long as you try to manage what might be best for one or more persons. Then again, risky decision making may be worth it. No matter how well you think you are doing, Death Road To Canada has a way with RNG to make you feel like you’ve been screwed because that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. All of these play out in one part of the gameplay: when you’re on the road. These breaks provide the telling of your progress, status, player quotes, item consumption and most times which location of interest you’ll explore next. This is a very modern update to the classic The Oregon Trail which is a nice way of getting that role-playing simulation.
Followed by a lot of hilarious moments, 2nd part of the gameplay involves the actual action. If you are in need of ammo and a choice for a gun shop pops up, it might be a wise idea to head there to scrounge for any ammo and guns you can find. However, if you’re in need of food, perhaps looting nearby restaurant might serve your party better if melee weapons are enough to get you by for the moment. Then again if you can’t decide, you can always head to the local Y’all Mart for general supplies. After you’ve got everything you need, you’ll need to make it back to the car, start the ignition, honk if you please, and then peel out. This little quirk might seem unnecessary, but also gives the sense of you and your buddy about to yell “Hit the gas and let’s GTFO here!”. Likewise, at any time, if you need to, activating the car’s trunk will allow you to store items or switch out items you’ve held onto the entire trip. You’ll always need to make sure you at least have enough food and gasoline since you and your car will be both hungry, but also don’t forget about medkits since even when you manage to not be scratched by a zombie, the RNG might throw something at you.
Just when you think your entire party are all smiles, have plenty of weapons and food for disposal and a decent car with a full tank of gas, all of that can be stripped away in an instant. You may be stopped by bandits on the road and are presented with multiple choices of one you must make which are also dependent on character attributes and can break you. If you didn’t already have to leave your car behind because it’s bone dry, then there’s also the chance you will be robbed of it and some of your supplies. Having a particular character in your party who can handle the situation just might help, however. If not, then it’s running the road on foot which is much harder on your party. Luckily, in these instances, the game will throw you a bone to obtain a new vehicle, perhaps one even better than before. These involve getting past zombies, but also be sure to take off quick as vehicles do take damage from zombies. Every now and then a trader camp will pop up with randomly chosen characters who have rare good stuff, but you will also make a stop there to find nothing of value as well. There are also moments named “Siege!” which means you must survive 1 minute and sometimes even longer before you’re allowed to escape. These moments can be mild sometimes, but often intense resulting in another game over.
The action itself is not your typical hack & slash. There are numerous weapons to be found, as is necessary since the debate of which weapons are best for a zombie breakout is a popular one, and they all behave differently. A screwdriver might be a quick stabbing tool, but weak. A sledgehammer will be a lot slower to swing, but also efficient at taking down a zombie at a distance. Mindlessly swinging as you keep pressing Y also puts you at a disadvantage. Without considering breaks between your attacks, you will wear yourself out which is displayed by how slow it takes to raise your weapon back up before you’re allowed to swing again and your character’s face turning red with drops of sweat. Likewise with guns, you must be facing zombies and wait for the cursor to line up properly before shooting instead of being trigger happy which won’t get you far. A gun expert is more proficient at this, but there’s also more realism at play here. Gun shots produce a loud noise telling zombies where you are exactly. Although there might be a trader who will sell you a silencer. Playing off that idea, players may come across an air horn. This can be used for distraction for attracting zombies towards a particular direction, perhaps away from the person who’s actually about to be food for the dead.
Days remaining until you’ve made it to Canada, as well as the current time in-game, are both displayed. With this in effect, a full day-to-night lighting system is in place. Interiors will slowly become darker until nothing but mere silhouettes are shown. It’s a house party until the lights go out. At the beginning of each game, you always have 3 flashlights in your inventory to place in any of the characters’ 3 slots, 1 for wielding and 2 in reserve being able to switch on the fly at any time by pressing B. If at any time you wish to swap items between players, simply be close to one another and do a Swap Meet via the menu in order to exchange items. Giving the proper items to the one whose skill is higher is something to note. Players can also choose whether the AI should follow the lead or be defensive/offensive. Context actions are done by pressing A which is meant for picking up items and weapons as well as searching dressers, refrigerators, even toilets with a sparkle that indicates it can be looted. Weapons can also break, but with no description or stats it’s all guesswork for what works best. There’s fun to figure out how each weapon behaves, especially rare weapons with unique abilities, but a real life discussion on what works best is entirely subjective to the individual and it would be great if that applied to the game, but since there’s no way of knowing it leaves a bit of disconnect to the entire idea being able to use a copious amount of weapons for the sake of it.
One of the main issues with Death Road To Canada is it can be repetitive in nature and have you question why you haven’t made it to Canada after the 9th time, not by failing miserably, but by the unforgivable RNG which can happen. It will often feel like bad luck has been coming your way. You may make it through a building with so many rooms hoping to find good loot at the end of it, find exactly nothing and somehow you’ve managed to hit a dead end and must work your way out of a horde of zombies and make it back to your car. However, it’s best with a co-op buddy playing on the couch to try and make it to Canada. The hilarious dialog along the way as well as meeting up with special appearances such as a unique cap-wearing character who has a sword and boomerang and numerous other throwbacks to video games and film, the discovery on each playthrough has its worth. Some of the best moments is giggling when you or your buddy try to make it out of a building with many rooms and as you make it to the exit, it will ask if you want to leave the player behind or go back and rescue them. You’ll know who your true friends are. Then again, maybe it makes sense to not have both of you die!
With each game over, progress is carried over if you’ve managed to earn Zombo Points. Accumulate enough and you can unlock abilities and upgrade characters. There’s plenty of replay value here. The only downfall is the repetitiveness and RNG will take a toll during repeating playthroughs per session. This is the type of game to play in 1-2 hour bursts hoping to succeed and try again later.