What is Death Road to Canada?
Death Road to Canada is a 2D action game in which players must scavenge for supplies, fend of zombie hordes and make tough decisions. In many ways, Death Road to Canada plays like a choose-your-own-adventure story. The basic concept is that you are fleeing a zombie outbreak and heading to Canada, where you hear it is safe. The scenario will begin, and the player can often steer its direction based on one of a few choices. What makes the choices so intriguing is that you genuinely don’t know whether the results will be good or bad. You and your crew might stumble upon a campsite with other survivors, but stopping risks being robbed and continuing to drive will make you tired and slow the next day. Each choice has consequences whether that be finding/wasting supplies, a positive/negative change in morale or other character attributes. When you stop in an area, your main goal is to move quickly and search for supplies. New weapons can be picked up and used in the field along with objects that can be used to block zombie paths or as projectiles. Where you end up and how the zombies are acting is completely randomized, a run might last many days or sadly end on day one. It’s that randomness that gives Death Road to Canada lasting appeal and unlimited replay value.
What I liked about Death Road to Canada…
The fact that every character and buddy in the game has their own perk and trait means that different pairings can compliment each other nicely. A character with the Megabuff perk will move slowly but starts with a metal pipe and 3 extra strength points. The Surgeon perk gives an extra point in the medical and shooting categories and starts the character off with a scalpel. Perks can be upgraded with ZOMBO points, which you will find randomly and keep even after your run ends. Choosing which perks and traits to upgrade, and which pairings of characters work best for you adds some depth and strategy. With support for 2-player local multiplayer and 4 characters in a party, there are some nice combinations to be had. Lastly, as situations change, so does the status of your group members. Attitude, composure, loyalty, moral, wits and more are all affected either positively or negatively and their performance in battle will reflect that.
Another area that shows a lot of polish is the presentation; the graphical style, music, writing…each is well done and many times the game made me laugh out loud. Just one look at the screenshots and you can see that Death Road to Canada has a retro, pixel art style. While it’s like plenty of other indie games, I was especially impressed with the variety of character models. There are dozens of unique characters to play as and interact with on your journey. Even the zombies, which traditionally in all games tend to look the same, have a plethora of different character models. The music fits the retro vibe nicely as well, while it can resemble chiptune at times, it mostly reminds me of games from the 16-bit era. Many of the tunes are surprisingly upbeat, which works with the lighthearted tone of the writing. I’m playing on an original Xbox One and the loading times are still impressively quick.
What I didn’t like about Death Road to Canada…
As you can tell from the previous paragraphs, there is a lot to like about Death Road to Canada. So much so that I genuinely have trouble thinking of knocks against the game. One thing that sticks out is the difficulty, especially when first starting out. Things start to level off as you complete more runs, learn the nuances of the partner system and upgrade with ZOMBO points. Despite knowing that, it can still be discouraging to painstakingly scour for supplies only to be overrun in a horde area. While I’ll get into it in the next section, the achievements in Death Road to Canada are not friendly to those who prefer quick completions.
What are the achievements like?
There are 66 achievements for 1,000 total gamerscore in Death Road to Canada. Most of them are very specific and will take hours to achieve. Things like train a perk 50-100 times, kill 100,000 zombies or beating the game with specific characters will take much dedication. Thankfully the replay value is tremendous and the asking price of $14.99 USD (there is a launch discount if you are reading this in May 2018) is fair.
Death Road to Canada is easy to recommend to gamers who enjoy various genres. Kudos to developers Rocketcat Games and Madgarden for blending action, survival, adventure, narrative and even light RPG mechanics beautifully into a single game. I loved the character design, variety, music, loading times…you name it. The ability to have 4 save slots, quit and resume at any point and always be able to steer the direction of the story were huge plusses. Yes, the difficulty is a bit daunting at first, but just like anything else, practice makes perfect (ZOMBO points help too). Casual and hardcore gamers alike will find Death Road to Canada to be a trip worth taking.