25/08/2020

๐Ÿ›ฃ️๐Ÿš— Road to Guangdong | PS4 | Review | “A Familial Chinese Tale” ๐Ÿš—๐Ÿ›ฃ️ @RoadToGuangdong #GameDev #IndieGames

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A light visual novel, broken up by some item management and arcade driving sections, Road to Guangdong is a gentle jaunt through various types of gameplay that has some relaxing moments but does struggle to keep you interested up until the final moments.

Sunny is a young woman who has recently lost her father and inherited the family restaurant alongside an old, beaten-up car that the family have named Sandy. Along with her Guu Ma (aunt), she must travel around the province, meeting her extended family and inviting them to the Spring Festival, a huge, yearly meal at her newly-inherited restaurant.

The game is split up into three sections, the bulk of which are the driving sequences in which you mosey along through both built-up and rural locations, adding a further layer to this is the fact that you need to keep a close eye on Sandy’s oil, petrol and overall health levels. 

This includes things like the engine, air filter and wheels needing fixing and eventually, replacement. Worry not, as parts can be picked up for free at the many scrapyards that dot the road. As well as at garages
When you do reach one of the five destinations, the narrative takes centre stage and, through dialogue options you get to know the various family members and their own social situations, hopefully helping them all and getting a full table for the Spring Festival at the end of the game. 

I especially enjoyed the heavy use of Chinese references here with a focus on good food and family life. On several occasions, I’d stop and look up a certain term or recipe to more closely follow the story and have a fuller understanding of Sunny’s life and history.

I have dabbled in visual novels in the past. Although I usually tend to find them overly verbose and chock-a-block with tedious filler, I’m pleased to say that this isn’t the case here as the family segments move along at quite a brisk pace and aren’t relentless dialogue boxes for minutes on end, with everything being quite short and sharp. That said, perhaps these segments would be too brief for those out there that do like to have a lot of dialogue in games of this and similar genres.

The light-heartedness of the over-arching tale carries through to the driving sections, these are initially fun. The stylised, colourful visuals roll by as you make your way to the next stop. 
There are some issues though, other cars float around and disappear whilst the road you are on is just that, a single road with the only deviations being the aforementioned garages and scrap yards. 

Driving is an oddly staccato affair with either extremely light button presses or bursts of acceleration needed, everything else causes your car to quickly overheat (your Guu Mar will constantly mention this to you) and parts to wear out far quicker, putting pressure on your stretched finances. Combined with the limited radio choices (swooning Asian melodies or Wipeout 2097-like trance beats – that your aunt will regularly switch over in an amusing visual joke), it all feels a little thin. The drive is too straight and uninteresting to get lost in and the music and surrounding visuals feel too repetitive to get swept up in.

I did enjoy the few hours I spent with Road to Guandong but it does come with some real caveats. There are some nice ideas here that I just wish were more fully-fleshed out. 

The quite harsh petrol gauge has you constantly re-fuelling and checking your car parts which clash somewhat against the other more casual, languid sections. 

The initial tension of hoping my cash would stretch the length of the game left once I realised that I could stop at every scrapyard and fill up my inventory with engines – the most expensive part to replace- and flog them to the garages to fatten my wallet.
If you are drawn towards more casual fare or a gentle narrative, Road to Guangdong could be up your street - although expect a few rough patches – for everyone else, its linearity and lack of polish in the lengthy driving segments may be a real put off. 

As I said, I enjoyed a lot of my time with the game but the lack of replay value and overall simplicity means that it’s not a game I will probably be returning to.
๐Ÿ’ง❄️ RATING: MELTING ❄️๐Ÿ’ง


Ratings Explained
ICE COOL (Great Game Recommended)
MELTING (Recommended with reservations, one to consider if you are a fan of the genre)
MELTED (Not A Recommended Purchase)

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