The Lottery of Making Friends on the Death Road to Canada

It’s a question I’m sure we’ve all pondered. ‘What skills would I bring to a post-apocalyptic world?’ Naturally, it’s a fine time for the medically-trained, folks with survival experience, those with high fitness levels, and skilled negotiators will get plenty of practice bartering for a can of congealed meat with sociopathic bandits.

As for me? I’m offering my services as the chief maker of peanut butter sandwiches. Probably also pitch my name in to go on special expeditions to find more peanut butter and bread. That’s the society I want to build in the charred ruins of humanity.

Of course, this would lead to a debate about which is the superior peanut butter type (chunky, obviously) and there would be warring factions each declaring their own ideals are the one true peanut butter solution. As time passes, the original vision would become clouded by greed and ignorance. 

Surely the pure idea of a crunchy peanut butter sandwich on white bread cannot be tainted? Surely it wouldn’t culminate in a radical group that completely misses the point of the thing they’re following? What if they swear blind it should be smooth on a rice cake or some other ghastly combination? Only an immoral dickhead would get the roots of a religious belief all wrong just because it suits their fucked up needs. At least they’d be making it easy to not pick them for any post-apocalyptic survival plans because being an arsehole is one qualification we don’t need to be auditioning for.

RocketCat Games’ Death Road to Canada is a game that poses the initial question of every stranger you meet on the road to Canada in a zombie apocalypse. Each stranger can become an ally, but you rarely know just how useful they’ll be for the group until you’ve spent time with them. The upside is they’re another pair of hands to get dirty smashing undead skulls in as you go on supply runs. The downside is they’re another mouth to feed, and they might be really shit at fixing cars or talking to people. Or they might even be a murdering son of a bitch. At least, in that case, I should have seen it coming. The dude was dressed as Jason Voorhees.

Death Road to Canada is a roguelike pixel art game set in the post-apocalyptic ruins of America, and the objective is clear; head for the supposed safety of Canada by car or on foot, and face many trials and tribulations along the way. It presents the road trip aspect as a jaunty background to a text adventure of sorts, where any survivors in your party will bicker and chatter in-between scenarios popping up.

 In these scenarios, the game posits such questions as ‘which store will you stop at in this town?’, ‘Will you wrestle this menacing moose?’ or ‘Will you play golf off undead skulls?’ so you know it’s asking the important things that the likes of Naughty Dog are afraid to tackle.

When a scenario requires getting off the road, it moves to a top-down 2D environment where the band of merry men, women, dogs, and potential serial killers under your control can be sent through swarms of increasingly ticked of zombies to procure precious fuel, food, and weaponry. As the sweet Canadian air grows closer, so too does the stench of death. This is a game out to make you miss your date with the border by getting you viciously munched on, and your chances of survival often come down to what folk you pick up along the way. You could always play with just one survivor, but that definitely hurts your chances of making it through the latter half of the road trip from hell. Therein lies the crux of your predicament. You need people to survive, but they could end up being your downfall. You just have to hedge your bets on how useful they’ll be for this particular journey.

The stinger there is that while there’s a set of scenarios that will come up time and again, they won’t always appear in the same order, or even appear at all on a run. So even when you start to think you have it all figured out, Death Road to Canada takes up a spanner and tosses it into the works.

So not only do you have to endure some irritating personalities on your voyage if you choose poorly but there’s also the risk of them being utterly useless or dangerous in the situations you find yourself in. Death Road to Canada has a diverse roster of characters to discover along the way. With clowns, dogs, anime-obsessed badasses, and the aforementioned Voorhees wannabee among the number to be found, they all come with unique abilities, skills, and weaponry. These are rare finds, however, so look forward to meeting a Greg instead

You get to know them best during conversations that pop up as you travel, and with how they handle the text adventure choices. The outcome of these is defined largely by what kind of company you keep. For instance, I was encouraged to speed off a ramp by a party member called Greg, and I did so. Unfortunately, that was seemingly the last straw for the car we had.  Sending a skilled mechanic to fix up a car is obviously a sensible choice if you know you have it. If you don’t, and your only option is an eager doofus called Greg, the results can end up being anything from them banging on the car’s hood to magically start it to injuring themselves and putting the car into a state of disrepair. For the record, Greg did the latter.

It’s remarkable how easy it becomes to loathe a character because of this. The broken car might lead to getting robbed by bandits, leaving them short on weapons, food, and medical supplies. Subsequently, that may force the group into a gauntlet against a horde in the dark of the sewers later with only a half-broken broom for comfort. 

As my party lay dead in fetid water, getting snacked on by the moaning masses, I silently curse that bumbling idiot Greg for thinking he could fix a fucking car. I bet he liked smooth peanut butter too, the cretin.

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