|Developer||Rocketcat Games, Madgarden|
|Genre||Action, Indie, RPG|
|Platforms||PC (reviewed), Switch, PS4, Xbox One, iOS|
|Release Date||Jul 21, 2016, regularly updated|
Have you ever played Oregon Trail and thought: you know what this needs? Zombies. Lots of zombies. Maybe some farting dogs, a guy who fights via an obnoxiously loud air horn, and a giant Mounty robot. Add a minivan and a constant need to find fuel, food, or friends and you’ve made Death Road to Canada, a pixelated cross-country adventure game that dares you to survive the deadly drive up north in the middle of a zombie apocalypse. It’s clever, challenging, unforgiving, and honestly just plain fun.
It’s the zombie apocalypse so there’s plenty of blood, guts, gore, and hacking and slashing here. It is all pixelated so it’s not too gruesome, but this is not a peaceful game.
There’s some language throughout but not much at all.
Most of Death Road to Canada‘s gameplay is a trade-off between fighting zombies, scavenging or resource management, and navigating bizarre scenarios on the road. You’ll collect weapons, hoard fuel and food, make and lose friends, and use your special skills and traits to hopefully survive the road trip and the zombie apocalypse.
You start as a party of two—single-player or multiplayer—and can expand up to a party of four or shrink to a party of one, recruiting and changing characters throughout the playthrough. In your car, which can also break down and be replaced, you’ll have to fight and drive for 14 days of travel, followed by a full-on hack-and-slash run for Canada at the border.
The gameplay is constantly evolving and changing so nothing ever gets boring, but nothing stops being unforgiving. One false move or mistake can cost you the whole game and you always have to manage, choose, and fight wisely to be prepared for whatever insanity the next day will bring.
A lot of Death Road to Canada’s charm lies in its sense of humor and its complete absurdity. While some things are always the same—like fuel, food, and health—the random encounters and characters you meet along the way are what make the experience so fun. You definitely can have a fairly normal playthrough with normal people on a normal drive with normal weapons, but you’re still bound to run into some bizarre situations. There’s always a chance of being able to recruit a weird character like a ninja, sports fan, poodle, anime girl, valkyrie, or bodybuilder, all coming with their own perks and weaknesses and making the playthrough all the more interesting. But be careful with the sports fan; his air horn is infinite, but so is the headache it creates.
These characters make every playthrough different as you can never create them, only hope you’ll find them along the way, which makes for some of the most unexpected scenarios. I’ve lost all my companions only to realize that the tall man in a coat was actually three dogs, so then I had a full party of dogs. I’ve also adopted dogs that could be so cute that gangs left me alone, valkyries with magical flying hammers, posh ladies who use their unbreakable umbrellas, or spacemen with infinite space gun ammo.
Your characters also have distinct personalities and skills which further add to the absurdity. Certain traits will always allow for special dialogue options or fighting styles, such as farting your way out of negotiations, robbing trading camps, or using kung fu instead of weaponry. You can buy more traits at the end of games, giving you even more boosts and options. And with hundreds of weapons in the game, you really can have your own unique fighting style and strategy every single time you play. I’m more of a blade-wielding, dog-loving martial artist myself, but I’ve played with friends who were anxious baseball bat swingers, beefy gunslingers, and shotgun-loving mechanics. The options are truly endless. You can also create custom characters to appear in the game, so feel free to add your friends, enemies, favorite characters, and everyone else you’d like to fight beside you in the zombie apocalypse.
Another great feature of Death Road to Canada is the party management and multiplayer system. It’s super easy to add multiplayer to the game and invite up to three friends to be your party members. I’ve played Death Road to Canada with my friends several times and it is a really fun experience, especially given all the bizarre scenarios you can run into. And it’s also a good test if they’d let you die to a hoard of zombies. However, the party management system—with or without multiplayer—is really intuitive and thought-out. You can decide how your party members will behave, what they focus on, what weapons they use, and of course who to keep and who to kick out. This system makes combat scenarios really fun because even if you’re a single player with three companions, you can still decide whether they’ll be defensive or offensive, melee or shooting, adventurous or close-by—all of which can be life-saving in a pinch.
My only caveat with Death Road to Canada is how unforgiving and challenging it is. While this can be really for some players, a lot of your success on the road really comes down to luck. You have to be lucky in what you find, what you scavenge, what you run into, and even still you can lose all of it with a few false moves. As far as I know, there’s no save and reload option, so if you make a stupid mistake, you just have to live with the consequences—which can be really frustrating when you finally have a playthrough with enough fuel and solid companions only to lose because of a random hoard of zombies by the exit or because you thought you’d try robbing a surprisingly aggressive trading post. These elements can make the experience feel unforgiving at best and unfair at worst, which can be a turn-off to some players.
Overall, Death Road to Canada is a hilarious game for parties, Discord hangouts, or to play with friends, and it’s also a great time for a solo player to find out what the zombie apocalypse has to offer. It should definitely be approached with the same level of humor it offers, because the absurdity of both the challenge and the creativity here is intense. But if you’re ready for some wild road trip stories and maybe a chance to finally be Canadian, this is a great gaming choice for you.
The Bottom Line
Death Road to Canada is an action-packed, bizarre, and challenging road trip through the zombie apocalypse that needs you to have an equally strong sense of humor.