Highway to Hell
Tons of games feature space soldiers. Iíve played as a medieval knight more times than I can count. Wizard and alien player characters are a dime a dozen. Something I havenít often played as, though, is a truck driver. As we join Flint, our everyday-man trucker protagonist, heís at the beginning of the worst night of his life. Having just delivered a shipment, his truck crashes as heís 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. Itís up to us, the players, to help guide Flint through a sea of carnage presented as a 2d side scrolling brawler. If youíve 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 wonít find any crazy combos, dodges, abilities, or anything like that. Creepy Road sticks to itís 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 isnít a big deal, but it is something worth noting in case you donít 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, itís jump (and the game told me as much later). It told me the right trigger was grenade when itís actually the left. I use an official Microsoft brand Xbox One controller thatís never given me issues before, so thereís 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 youíre likely to notice is that the game is extremely difficult. I mean like really, really hard. Iíd like to consider myself a fairly seasoned gamer, and Iíve 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 ďDanger!Ē 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 arenít available. I do think the difficulty levels itself off a bit after the first level, but itís 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. Iím 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 arenít super tight, and timing between certain presses and the relevant action are often too spaced. Switching guns doesnít 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 canít be hit when theyíre right next to you, though they can hit you. Many of the maps have sizable sloped terrain, but itís not possible to aim at a diagonal. Checkpoints are placed too far after major fights, meaning Iíd too often have to replay long, frustrating fights Iíd 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, thereís 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 ďcuteĒ-ness. Iím from Wisconsin, the land of cows and cheese, but even Iíve 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 isnít enough new, original, or terribly fun outside of those boons to make this a game Iíd 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 thereís still a fair amount left to be desired.
The writingís humor succeeds, the character design and animation quality are great, and the music is nice.
The controls donít feel particularly tight, control prompt errors, frustrating approach to difficulty, lack of gameplay options.