Road to Guangdong DEALS
Remember way back in the beginning when 2020, when hope wasn’t a foreign concept and Coronavirus wasn’t the new “Brexit” that newsreaders and correspondents drone on about for an eternity, I looked at some games that were still in early access on the PC. One of them has emerged from Early Access, and one that we first saw back in the heights of last year – Road to Guangdong, from the boys and girls down at Just add Oil and Excalibur Games. So, the safety brakes are off and let’s do this bitch.
What’s the story in Balamory? Well, it’s the 1990s and we play as Sunny, who’s locked in and has been passed down the family restaurant. At the cost of dead parents sadly and that the restaurant has seen better days and would have made it a good choice for an episode of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. Anyhow, so to bring in the customers and fulfil her parent’s wishes, Sunny and Guu Ma (which according to google is Cantonese for Great Aunt) decide on going on a massive road trip through China (around Macau and Hong Kong for you geography nerds out there) visiting relatives of the family and picking up one or two recipes along the way. That’s the premise.
What happens and the main aim of the game it seems is to bring all the family together for a family meal at the restaurant. With the running of the restaurant a secondary plot arc that never really concludes if after Sunny runs the restaurant successfully or not. Quite a bit jarring it must be said. Aside from driving the main mission is to bring everyone together for the family dinner. To do that, Sunny has to solve her Family members issues ranging from: engagements, finding out you’re adopted, adopting a chicken as a house pet, looking after a dog and so forth. This is where the game does show some charm and expands on the story somewhat around her family, the restaurant and her parents, and via the wonder that is dialogue options. Can be successful or not in getting them to a family dinner.
Which reaffirms my main issue that there is no real end to the game, no sense of what happened after the dinner. From the main story surrounding the restaurant, and the smaller plot points surrounding Sunny’s family. It’s just a short talk with Guu Maa about what happened on the trip and that’s your lot. Which felt like I put all this effort in for nothing? Needed more payoff really.
The gameplay is a bit more interesting to say the least. For the road trip, Sunny and Guu Maa get around in what could be described as China’s equivalent to a Lada, at a guess with my extensive knowledge of the Chinese car industry, i.e not a lot.
Anyway, gameplay. Simply put it’s heavily based on the other Excalibur games creation Jalopy. It’s very much watered down in comparison. You still would have to maintain the car and keep it going. I think it’s gone too far the other way because every so often you come across scrap piles where you can scavenge for parts, and can pick up some better parts (that would need to be fixed up first) or sell semi-decent engines and you never would run out of cash for fuel and other stuff. Mainly because in Jalopy you would have to manage your items and fit them in the boot of the car. In this it is just a simple inventory menu, so there is no real challenge there, and you can break the economy faster than a virus.
The driving itself is a nice change of pace from the public lobbies of Forza 7, a nice and chilled experience. As the road is frankly straight from point to point, it can get boring and very clingy with trying to hold your hand through the entire process. Which does make you notice other aspects (more on that later, in short more approachable and still a relaxing drive, but completely lacking a challenge.
Other things as I said as driving is tedious most of the time, but don’t worry there is the all-important radio. The most vital of equipment for a road trip, but it only plays two stations: one which plays traditional Chinese music (think Classic FM for China), and a sort of Pop/Rock radio which Guu Maa hates and will change the station every so often. Nice touch and adds a little bit of story, but gets annoying quickly, and halfway through I just turned it off and Spotify a mix of John Denver and Elton John.
While the art style and the graphics are minimalist and very nice to look at, it could have had more going on. Particularly when driving as other than other cars going about their own business as you drive. It just ends up feeling a bit lifeless, feels like I’m driving through a painting, not a living world.
Technically while sound enough, it’s a bit of a mess in parts. Such as when you’re driving on the country roads — to the place that I belong (in this context, a family relative) in West Guangdong, mountain mamma…. that in parts, the ground does into the air for no reason. Noticing the game rendering more environment without trying to cover it up with blur effects, heatwaves from the road. Which is basic stuff now in this generation and at night Guu Ma glows green for no reason at all. Some of the animations are quite questionable, with a child, idle animation resembling a dinosaur. I don’t like being harsh on Indie devs at all, but i’m quite surprised for a game that went into Early Access to not have the basics sorted. This is on the Xbox as reviewed but still silly basic stuff.
Road to Guangdong
While the gameplay is very easy to pick up and is very relaxing to play and looks very nice and some of the plot points are nice. The story doesn’t really go anywhere and while it's easy to pick up, it’s not challenging at all.
- Very relaxing gameplay
- The very nice art style
- Very easy to pick up and play
- The story doesn’t really go anywhere
- Lacking a meaty challenge
- Need some TLC to the technical side and tie up loose ends
- Graphics 0
- Gameplay 0
- Narrative 0
- Audio 0
- Technical 0