Gaming Video Games

Death Road to Canada Review – or – A Fun Exercise in Frustration

Death Road to Canada

Developed by: Rocketcat Games, Madgarden
Published by: Ukiyo Publishing
Genre(s): Strategy, Survival
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
US Release Date: May 8, 2018

Synopsis: Death Road to Canada tasks players with surviving its brutal, hyper-violent combat with over-the-top, looted weaponry. Scavenging the derelict environment, tough, sometimes hilarious decisions will have to be made along the way, either alone or in its two-player local co-op mode.

You know, before I start writing my review here, I just want to applaud Ukiyo Publishing and partners for delaying the release of Death Road to Canada by a couple of weeks, mindful of the tragic events that occurred in Toronto, Ontario, Canada in which 10 people tragically lost their lives and an entire country was affected by the actions of a crazed individual. Moving back a release date is no small matter – time, effort, and cost have to be considered when deciding whether to push back a release date is appropriate. And mindful of the actions that occurred on April 23, just two days before the planned release date for Death Road to Canada, Ukiyo and team saw fit to do just that and allow for people to mourn before releasing a game that some would have likely drawn much negative attention had it released as planned. So, I want to be sure to applaud and acknowledge Ukiyo, Rocketcat, and Madgarden for their compassion and sensitivity in delaying the release of this game.

With that being said, Death Road to Canada is one of the most entertaining and infuriating games I have played in a long time. Not since Q.U.B.E. have I had this much fun failing and dying over and over again. I mean, playing this game is like a practice is sadomasochism and enjoying every minute of it. I have been foiled in my attempts to escape the zombie-filled roads of the US and make my way to the safety of Canada time and time again, never once getting close to completing the journey. It truly is a modern-day Oregon Trail… and I think that is the best way to really describe this game.

I used to have a blast playing Oregon Trail back in my younger years. My friends and I would sit at the PC, try to plan out the trip as best we could, stock up on what we needed and such, but try as we might, none of us ever made it to Oregon. We died along the way because we ran out of food or water, our ox died and we were stranded, and (of course) we would die from dysentery along the way; but never was the game frustrating enough that we would stop playing it. I think the only reason I stopped playing Oregon Trail was because I just moved on to other computer games that kept coming out. But every so often, I would go back and try my hand at making it to Oregon and surviving the trip. Hell, I even recently bought the Oregon Trail card game so I could play it with my wife and kids at home. And I get that same kind of entertainment and satisfaction playing Death Road to Canada.

Despite playing and failing to reach Canada for about two weeks now, never have I felt overly frustrated while playing the game. Actually, most times when I die I kind of just mumble to myself, “Well, I almost made it this time.” I could be sitting here playing the game, my kids watching and helping me make decisions along the way to help me survive, only for the car to run out of gas, zombies sneaking up on us as we try to get a good night’s sleep, overrunning us as we fetch supplies, or even die to the occasional road bandits. Each time, I love seeing their expressions when death overtakes the group and them either laughing or grimacing as me and my group fail to make the trip. Though this is a one player or local co-op game, playing the game in a group is even more fun as we share in the decision-making process and blame each other when something goes wrong.

And that is something I want to touch on as well in this review – no two playthroughs are ever the same. The randomly generated world of Death Road to Canada always keeps you guessing as to what will happen next. You never start off in the same way, never meet the same group of travel mates and survivors. You always hit different areas, each with their own unique challenges. Nothing is ever the same. I have played through the game at least four dozen times and never have I encountered the same scenario twice. There are similar situations, but the way the zombies react, who you have on your team, or what each particular mission is for each stop is never repeated – and I love that this challenge is in the game because you never get bored of going over the same thing as each game is never the same. It is the biggest appeal to me that this game has as a gamer who has somewhat gotten used to the repeated play and scenarios encountered in most other games. Death Road to Canada always keeps you guessing as to what is next.

Death Road to Canada is an amazing throwback to a simpler form of gaming that I have missed in recent years. The majority of the game is reading and guessing your way through text/scripted scenarios, but you also get to head out on the road and bash some zombie brains in… so long as you are mindful of your stamina and your chosen weapon’s durability. Oh yeah, there’s nothing like fighting your way through a convenience store looking for food and gas only to have your metal pipe break and have a small hoard of zombies chow down on you and your team. Or when you are this close to getting some extra meds for your team only to have your bat break and you have to abandon the quest and get overrun only for everyone to have their morale drop and later get sick and die. Yeah, that has happened to me and more.

Of course, the text is no breeze either as you have to manage your team’s morale, making the right decisions on where to sleep and eat, choose whether to ignore someone or help them along the way only for them to probably betray you on the road… this is micromanaging at its core, but it is micromanaging done right as you have to make the calls that will hopefully ensure your survival at the very least. But you hope to make it to Canada with some of your team as you come to bond with them quickly over all these life and death decisions.

Death Road to Canada is about the most fun I have had trying to survive a strategy game like this in a long time. It is the distant love child of Oregon Trail, modernized for today’s gamers, but done so in a way that reminds me of the best times playing that game. Difficult to beat but never frustrating, Death Road to Canada is one of my favorite games this year and one I think my kids and I will be playing for quite some time together. Thought-provoking, violent, and smart, Death Road to Canada is well worth the toll on this highway through hell.

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