Highway to Hell
Tons of games feature space soldiers. I’ve played as a medieval knight more times than I can count. Wizard and alien player characters are a dime a dozen. Something I haven’t often played as, though, is a truck driver. As we join Flint, our everyday-man trucker protagonist, he’s at the beginning of the worst night of his life. Having just delivered a shipment, his truck crashes as he’s on his way to his beautiful bride. To make things even worse, something strange is going on, turning all of the people and animals in his path into crazed murder-machines. It’s up to us, the players, to help guide Flint through a sea of carnage presented as a 2d side scrolling brawler. If you’ve played a game of this type before, nothing gameplay-wise should come as much of a shock. Buttons are limited, with only the option to move, aim straight forward or up, change weapon, or shoot/throw. You won’t find any crazy combos, dodges, abilities, or anything like that. Creepy Road sticks to it’s simplistic approach, and while I respect that not everything needs to be a master-class in strategic depth, a few more options probably would have done good to add a bit more depth to the experience.
The game required me to play with a gamepad, which isn’t a big deal, but it is something worth noting in case you don’t have one. What was frustrating is that a few of the button prompts as the game was explaining the controls in the opening minutes were just wrong. For example, it told me A was shoot. A is not shoot, it’s jump (and the game told me as much later). It told me the right trigger was grenade when it’s actually the left. I use an official Microsoft brand Xbox One controller that’s never given me issues before, so there’s no way the problem is on my end. There were also some grammatical errors, though those were less common. First impressions are important, and having this open your game is not a way to sell the idea of a polished product to players.
While helping guide Flint on his journey to his lovely lady, the first thing you’re likely to notice is that the game is extremely difficult. I mean like really, really hard. I’d like to consider myself a fairly seasoned gamer, and I’ve enjoyed my fair share of 2d brawlers, but even playing on normal difficulty was absolutely rage inducing- and generally not in a good way. Some games, your Dark Souls and Super Meat Boys of the world, are hard in a way that pushes you to be better. Good challenge in games place victory just out of reach, but not in a way that seems unfair. The challenge in Creepy Road frequently felt frustrating, the result of mobs of bullet-sponging enemies thrown at you. This is made even less fun by the nature of certain enemies that seem to defy any sort of strategic approach to defeat. The moment-to-moment fighting is fine, and often times fun enough, but the “Danger!” moments, which make you defeat waves of enemies before moving on, are a nightmare, and I found myself dreading them instead of wanting to strive to improve tactics that really just aren’t available. I do think the difficulty levels itself off a bit after the first level, but it’s never great.
A few gameplay issues beyond plain balance and level design play into the frustrating elements of the experience. One is that, when picking up ammo, Flint automatically changes to that weapon. I’m not really sure what the pro of that would be, but all it ever ended up doing was pulling me away from the gun I wanted to use and making me scroll back to it. The controls also just aren’t super tight, and timing between certain presses and the relevant action are often too spaced. Switching guns doesn’t seem to happen every time I press the button. Grenades and molotovs seem to have developed a sentient opinion on whether they want to be thrown when I beckon them. Enemies can’t be hit when they’re right next to you, though they can hit you. Many of the maps have sizable sloped terrain, but it’s not possible to aim at a diagonal. Checkpoints are placed too far after major fights, meaning I’d too often have to replay long, frustrating fights I’d already beaten. All of things detracted from my enjoyment of Creepy Road to varying degrees.
One thing Creepy Road has going for it, though, is style. The cartoon graphics present characters and environments that are crisp and pop with bright, bold colors. While I may have only had a so-so time actually playing the game, there’s no doubt that I enjoyed looking at it. The enemies, in particular, deserve credit. The crazed people and animals are delightfully grotesque while maintaining their air of zany “cute”-ness. I’m from Wisconsin, the land of cows and cheese, but even I’ve never seen a bovine with a machine-gun udder. Until now. The bosses that punctuate various levels of the game are also highlights design-wise, showcasing unique, interesting designs that were a lot more fun to look at than actually fight.
Creepy Road seems to have a good heart, delivering a nice looking game with an enjoyable, affable atmosphere, but there isn’t enough new, original, or terribly fun outside of those boons to make this a game I’d have a super easy time recommending to most. I think a few balancing and quality-of-life tweaks could really turn the boat around and make this a fun, casual game worth jumping into, but until that happens there’s still a fair amount left to be desired.
The writing’s humor succeeds, the character design and animation quality are great, and the music is nice.
The controls don’t feel particularly tight, control prompt errors, frustrating approach to difficulty, lack of gameplay options.