(PlayStation 4)

Road Not Taken (PlayStation 4)

Game Review

Road Not Taken Review

Europe PAL Version

Posted by Mat Growcott

Rice, rabbits, and unfit parents

Every year, just as the winter starts to kill off the last of the year’s berries, children head out into the forest in a final attempt to boost food stores. Some of the little ones never come back, which seems to panic the parents a little too much considering that they let them go off and do it every year regardless. This is where you come in: as a Ranger, you’ll go into the forest, outwit witches and wolves, and save as many children as you possibly can.

Road Not Taken is a rougelike puzzle game that pits you against a fairy tale environment loaded with magical flowers, violent racoons, walking houses, and pig statues. There are fifteen randomly generated stages, each representing another year of terrible parenting, and you’ll need your wits about you if you hope to save everybody and leave the forest alive.

All of this sounds like hard work, so it’s a good thing that your Ranger powers let you pick up things to fling without any effort at all. Carrying objects without throwing them is harder and will cost you energy, which is something that you’ll need to conserve if you plan to make it out alive. Run out of gas, and you’ll die cold and alone, like the many spirits that you’ll encounter while going about your business.

The gameplay is simple: get the children to an adult as best as you can while conserving energy and avoiding the various dangers of being a Ranger. Sometimes this will mean dragging snotty nosed kids across multiple screens, or simply getting them to one of the parents deep in the forest. As soon as you’ve rescued half of the missing children, you can leave without punishment – although only if you’re happy abandoning those that you’ve left behind.

Each screen is filled with a variety of different items that you’ll need to interact with. Some of them are dangerous, while others only become a threat when you mess with them – and others can even move heavy rocks or slide behind enemies. It’s the way in which these things relate to you and one another that makes the game so challenging, especially as you progress through the years and more difficult hazards begin to get in the way.

Much like in Don’t Starve, the key to success here is merging two or more items together to create something better; two logs will start a fire, meaning that you’ll be able to carry things without losing any energy, while three bee hives will create a pot of honey which will increase your life. These combinations can be negative as well: bringing together three of the wrong spirits will create a big black ghost that will finish you off before you’ve even had time to consider an escape.

It’s not as simple as learning your combinations and avoiding dangers, though. Pathways to other parts of the level are blocked off and will remain that way until you can string together several of the same item. This turns the forest into an area-by-area puzzle in which you’ll not only have to avoid certain obstacles, but learn how to effectively deal with them. It’s frustrating at times, but also quite fun.

Finishing a year and rescuing a decent amount of children will net you a reward – typically either some money or food. You can share this wealth with anyone that you come across, and form friendships (or even relationships) that’ll get you extra information, some cool rewards, or even a few little secrets. It’s a fairly lightweight system – give the man or woman of your dreams enough stuff and they’ll come and live at your house – but it’s a nice addition that adds an element of variety to an otherwise quite samey experience.

Graphically, the game works quite well, too, and is extremely stylised in a way that suits the tone. There’s a disappointing amount of slowdown when there’s a lot happening on the screen, which is an especially irritating problem considering that this is a two-dimensional PlayStation 4 game with no obvious hardware hogging background processes. It doesn’t happen often enough for you to need to worry about it, but that just makes the occasions where the framerate plummets all the more obvious.

Trophies consist almost fully of Bronze trinkets, and you’ll get most of them over and done with during a single playthrough. There are a few challenging ones in the game, but unless you’re committed to 100 per cent completing the title, then you’ll ask yourself whether it’s worth going that extra mile for such a low-level reward.

In fact, playing through a full career – 15 years – will be enough to satiate most people’s interest in the title. This is a fun little game – while it lasts – and it’s nice to have something to stretch your brain power occasionally instead of your muscle memory, but there’s not much in the way of replayability, even with the randomly generated levels.

Conclusion

As this is an indie title closely aligned with Sony’s PlayStation Plus programme, Road Not Taken has its work cut out right from the very start of its arduous journey. Taken on its own merits, however, it offers an enjoyable ride for the five to ten hours that it lasts. Niggling performance issues aside, it’s hard not to enjoy being the star of your very own fairy tale world – even if that fictional realm has a particularly odd approach to infant safety.

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User Comments (29)

get2sammybAdmin

#1

get2sammyb said:

Great review, Mat. The art style is utterly gorgeous, but I'm still not 100 per cent sure I know what to expect here. I like surprises, though, and am actually pleased that I can try this out for 'free' with PlayStation Plus, as I'm not sure I'd be willing to pay full price for it.

Demi_God

#2

Demi_God said:

Something about this game makes me want to play it. I don't know, but it's just one of those things. I doubt I would have ever bought this game, but since it's going to be free? yeah, it's definitely a go.

MatGrowcottStaff

#3

MatGrowcott said:

@Demi_God It's funny, when we found out that it was going to be a Plus game, I knew exactly what people's reaction was going to be - but you're right, there's probably going to be more people checking it out DESPITE the hate just because it's free.

Must be a confusing position to be in for the developers.

Davros79

#4

Davros79 said:

@MatGrowcott i think its because, for a split second. We all thought we were getting the swapper!

Also a game of this ilk having peformance issues is quite laughable . Upscaled 8 bit adventures with a new snazzy colour palette are one thing, but what is essentially a Amiga game with performance issues on the ps4 is another!

Johnnycide

#6

Johnnycide said:

@MatGrowcott Maybe the developers should put games like this on Vita, iOS or Android, they're perfectly suited to mobile gaming.
The Vita would have been a better choice as a platform than the PS4. As is, I won't even be downloading this as a 7/10 puzzle game with an art style I find childish and gameplay that I personally find completely uninteresting is not a good choice for the IGC. Transistor, The Swapper, or Strike Suit Zero would have been a much more appropriate choice than either this or Fez, meaning that PS4 gamers get at least one game that the likes of me can play in front of their mates without looking a bit daft. Plus has gone downhill at a fantastic rate of knots over the last nine months.

get2sammybAdmin

#7

get2sammyb said:

@Davros79 Not to excuse the performance issues — they shouldn't be there — but you must have had a HELLUVA Amiga, dude! ;)

Davros79

#9

Davros79 said:

@get2sammyb haha. Yeah i was exaggerating a wee bit. But the actual structure and level design of this game is what was seen in the original zeldas. About 30 years ago.

Except zelda ran smooth. On vastly inferior hardware, all them years ago.......

Shellybird27

#10

Shellybird27 said:

@Johnnycide actually plus has gotten wayyy better. It's because its so good, which is why people complain about it. How do you complain about free new interesting games? That I will never understand, but whatever. I guess people just have to b*tch about something.

hadlee73

#11

hadlee73 said:

Not overly exited about this one. And I feel a little sorry for the developer, going onto PS Plus so close to the release of The Swapper. I'd rather pay for The Swapper than get this one via sub to be honest.

rastamadeus

#13

rastamadeus said:

@Shellybird27 Like you're b*tching about people saying Plus has gone downhill? ;) People are allowed to think Plus has gone downhill if they think it has, like they are allowed to think it's gotten better or "wayyy better" - all a matter of opinion.

Language - get2sammyb

Wesker

#15

Wesker said:

@Shellybird27 I'll help you understand if you like. Some boys and girls don't have much disposable income. But they have Plus and internet connections. They also got Saints Row, Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed, Burnout, Infamous and many other AAA games just for being a member of Plus. Now they're getting indie games, sports titles and flops like Dead Space 3 and Crysis 3. You must be able to deduce something from that.

Wesker

#17

Wesker said:

@Davros79 then it sucks. I have all the systems, but I'm only getting Fez, which is hopefully cross-buy with Vita. That's the only game the holds value to me.

Johnnycide

#18

Johnnycide said:

@Shellybird27 I wouldn't call the likes of Proteus or this an improvement over Bioshock Infinite, Metal Gear Rising, Borderlands 2 or Gravity Rush. I wouldn't call this month an improvement over Outlast.

My main point was that indie apologists are quick to say "plus has to cater for everyone". Well This month's offerings on PS4 do not cater for even 25 percent of people. They're both cutesy, light games and something darker with more action would have been a better choice, as well as either this or Fez. I already have Fez, and it's very good. I just think that this month has seen them offload all the games they know won't sell, so subscribers are being given the games so that they will actually be played.

Nice avi though.

Fire-and-Water

#19

Fire-and-Water said:

So far I've been using the PSN to reminisce on older games and stupid DLC that I regret buying. Most PSN games in store? I can easily find better online, for free.

Fez sucks.

MatGrowcottStaff

#20

MatGrowcott said:

@Johnnycide "They're both cutesy, light games"

I'm not getting into the whole Plus debate, but this game is literally loaded with dead children. The art style might be light and frothy, but some of the content definitely isn't, which you find a lot with indie games.

Johnnycide

#21

Johnnycide said:

@MatGrowcott

"Literally loaded with dead children" may be the most disturbing quote ever used to describe a game. Somehow I can't see them using that in the promotional material!

Davros79

#22

Davros79 said:

I've just spent half an hour with Road not taken. My early impression is that its a terrible game. The game controls very poorly.

hadlee73

#23

hadlee73 said:

Had a go, and the game is "alright". Nothing to get excited about, and its really REALLY dark. Like MatGrowcott said, its really easy to litter the wilderness with dead kids if you're not careful. I'm also disappointed with the lack of logic in the game. Yes, I know its a game, but it seems a bit dopey when shoving a bunny into a fire produces a berry.

MatGrowcottStaff

#26

MatGrowcott said:

@Davros79

I know it was going to take a miracle to get you to like this game anyway, but, out of interest, what was up with the controls? I found them pretty spot on once you learnt how to manipulate how things work.

@Johnnycide

Yeah, I got fired from my local hospital's PR team under similar circumstances.

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