If there’s ever a family-friendly zombie apocalypse game to exist, this is it. From Rocketcat Games, a studio of three, comes Death Road to Canada. Its pixel-art aesthetic and happy-go-lucky chiptune music paint such an arcade-y feel on the otherwise pixel-artsy bleak outlook of trying to survive a long roadtrip from Florida to Canada. As RNG-filled as it can be at times, Death Road to Canada still has solid merit in its looting and combat.
‘Death Road to Canada’ Overview
As fun as it sounds, Death Road to Canada is a roguelike where you must try to manage a group of survivors and their quirks on a 15 day trip from the bottom of the US to the top. It has all the perfect mechanics for a zombie survival game; Food, bandits, trader camps, zombies that break cars, sleep, medical and weapons training. So it’s quite clashing when there are as many mechanics as a survival simulator, yet there’s the fun and silly skin slapped on every part of the game.
As for the characters you manage, you have to tend to their mood and composure, loyalty, attitude, morale and more. It’s awkward getting into a situation where someone farts in the car, and the game hilariously asks you to choose someone to blame. Although everyone else’s morale will go up, the sinner will have their mood and morale decreased as a result.
Not quite Zork-text based adventure
The game is filled with these small little interactive text-adventures whilst driving on your journey. Sometimes you’re at the mercy of RNG, and you just accept that you had some trips and tumbles and now your health is at half. Yet, some of these adventures shine with some great choices. You can come across bandits trying to rob your entire crew, yet you notice one of them is injured. If you have a crewmember that has medical training, you can offer to help the bandit with his wounds (as opposed to running or fighting), and come away scot-free. These are the situations that really sell Death Road to Canada‘s choice-based situations.
The main course
Outside of the driving, the meat and potatoes of Death Road to Canada is where you’ll have your crew, weapons out, at various procedurally generated locations. From sporting goods and grocery stores to motel room blocks and random suburbia, there’s no shortage of fun looting and exploring while battling your way through areas you’ve stopped at. While managing your stamina, you can’t go hacky-slash till you drop, but it’s a good thing there are firearms, too. The “zombie forecast” will sometimes have you completely swarmed while you scavenge for food, fuel, weapons, medkits and more, and of course the size of swarms and difficulty ramps up the closer you get to Canada.
Being a roguelike, it’s good for it to be unforgiving. They’re known for their difficulty. To combat this, Death Road to Canada has you earn Zombie Points to put into upgrades to help your roadtrip attempts have a bit more longevity or an easier start. Ranging from starting with medical training to having more health or weapons training, there are many upgrades to help you get through the journey. The problem is that your journey is not always within your control; there’s a certain lack of player agency here.
To choose or not to choose
One of the randomly generated interactive text-adventures you have will be something like this:
“There’s a city ahead, rotten with zombies. Marica knows that walking through a city street like this is a bad idea, but a car waits at the end of it.”
The player is presented with one button: “Walk through anyway“.
The issue here is that I had a crew of 3, each with less than half health remaining, no food, and one was severely sleep deprived as we had to sleep with no car after getting robbed by bandits. I had no choice but to go through the city and sure enough, my whole crew succumbed to the hordes. There are moments where you aren’t given choice, but Death Road to Canada ensures you have difficulty by throwing RNG issues towards you. As painful as they are, they are in stark contrast to the fantastic gameplay of looting and shooting and hacking away. If I were to fail and get eaten, that’s on me, which is the main difference here.
Overall, Death Road to Canada is still a fun family-friendly jaunt through the zombie-filled journey to Canada. As jarring as it is to have full survival simulator mechanics in an otherwise very arcade-y style game, it still holds up to “grab a buddy and see how far you can last on the road”, blaming in-car flatulence on one another. I got as far as 3 days remaining, so I’ll be going back to finish the journey to my actual real-life home very soon. Death Road to Canada is now available for $19.99 on Steam, GoG, Humble, and iOS store. Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PS4 version will be coming soon.