July 25, 2016 11:29 PM | Christian Valentin
In a game with shotgun-wielding dogs and copious chair throwing, it might surprise you that Death Road To Canada makes zombies feel like a threat once more. The age-old video game enemy is often just fodder for superior weapons and one-man-armies, but the undead of Death Road To Canada harken back to Romero's living dead. An unstoppable overwhelming force, a shambling wall of gnashing teeth and decaying flesh. There are never enough bullets. A few may fall easily, but your weapons will break long before you kill them all.
This effective and tense take on zombies, combined with Rocketcat's wacky humor and Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style events, makes Death Road To Canada a cross-country journey worth taking.
If you've played the popular title Organ Trail, the basics of Death Road To Canada will feel familiar. Much like that game (and its inspiration Oregon Trail), your group is heading across the country, managing their supply of ever-dwindling food and fuel as they travel from a ravaged Florida to allegedly undead-free Canada. Starting off with a duo of randomized characters in a beat-up junker of a car, you move along the road, encountering text events and hordes between stops at trader camps and randomly-generated maps. Each character has unique traits and stats that define their personality, their stamina, their loyalty, their strength and skill with a gun, and so on, and those attributes will influence both how you resolve events and who you equip with what weapons. Sending an annoying person to negotiate with bandits who are threatening to take your food is as foolish a choice as not equipping your strongest fighter with a heavy melee weapon. Stats can influence how well a character will repair your vehicle, if they severely injure themselves tending to a wound, or betray you when you send them to that bandit negotiation.
Of course, Death Road To Canada's events are not all self-surgery or dealing with bandits. Rocketcat's game is oozing with silly humor and ridiculous moments, from a certain red-suited someone coming down the chimney in a house you're looting to summoning an evil genie when you search a toilet (choose wisely!). You might stumble upon an alien fighting off a horde, encounter analogs of Bruce Lee, Jason, and other pop culture references who could join your group, or train a canine companion to drive or wield weapons.
But those allies and stats are all for naught if you're reckless and don't respect the power of the undead. Sure, when you're raiding a house or supermarket and fighting off a few zombies at a time, you feel powerful. They don't feel very threatening. They even look kind of silly, with their waddling shuffle. But then you're forced into the claustrophobic confines of the sewer, or you're surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of undead, or dozens of them are pouring into a room and there's no other exit, and you realize how dangerous they can be. Survival means knowing when to stay and loot and when to run back to the car, that you need to keep moving and not get cornered, that it's best to clear a path and run rather than hold your ground and fight. You may have molotovs and pipe bombs, a parody of Rambo, and a strongman who can throw cars with his bare hands at your side, but Death Road To Canada's zombies have numbers on their side, and they will never stop, they will never tire, and they will always overwhelm you. Don't underestimate the dead.