Road to Guangdong (Xbox One) Review

By Albert Lichi 25.09.2020

Review for Road to Guangdong on Xbox One

The indie game scene can be a wonderful cavalcade of experimentation and genre mixing. Other times independent game developers can use the medium to tell a personal story since video games have the added element of interactivity. This makes the format unique from literature or cinema, since the audience becomes a participant in the experience. A clever designer can emphasize so many details to make the experience more immersive than any other story telling medium. Road to Guangdong barely uses the medium to its strengths, and the result is a painfully brain-dead chauffeur sim, with characters that get no proper introduction.

The premise of Road to Guangdong? A lady and her ageing aunt go on a road trip across southern '90s China in a dying automobile, to reunite with their relatives in an attempt to save the family restaurant. The core game involves tediously driving in a straight line, while an inanimate corpse of an old woman nags if anyone changes the radio station. Sometimes, stops can be made to acquire junk at scrapyards to sell to mechanics, so the jalopy can get a tune-up. The driving is bookended with long visual novel sequences of exhausting dialogue choices to get an estranged family member to reconnect.

Screenshot for Road to Guangdong on Xbox One

Road to Guangdong on paper is an interesting and amusing idea. The reason why it is not enjoyable is the unimaginative and barebones gameplay, which is compounded with woefully low attention to detail. The art direction can be given a pass since it is inoffensive and minimalistic; resembling an off-brand Katamari Damacy. However, this does not excuse the embarrassing overuse of the same repeating assets. One would expect more variety in the design and layouts of the roads and highways since the art style is so simple, but Road to Guangdong is barren of features while driving.

Every gas station, junkyard, and even the same city block get reused every time and there is no sense of immersion. There is no need for navigating streets or roads either, since there is only one way to go, and trying to go the opposite direction will reveal a blocked off path that wasn't there before. This could have been a great gameplay element; having to navigate through streets and paths by stopping to look at a map or ask Auntie Guu-Ma for feedback on the route. There are multiple stops to make before the family restaurant can be saved, and aside from choosing to how and when to care for the worst car of all time, this is all of the agency afforded to the player.

Screenshot for Road to Guangdong on Xbox One

There is no thought put into how to manage resources, since there are always scrapyards that have tires, fan-belts or oil filters and the strategy is not any deeper than merely taking everything until inventory maxes out, and then using the best parts and selling everything else for gas and oil money. There was opportunity to create some roads that could wear down tires faster, or have some routes be blocked off from some natural causes or accident. Instead of making a compelling emergent sim, the developers chose to remake Desert Bus, featuring a nagging Guu-Ma. At least Desert Bus was a satire on realism in '90s video games, this is just a pretentious essay on the author's life experience.

Screenshot for Road to Guangdong on Xbox One

When not tediously driving down a straight road of repeating assets, Road to Guangdong has moments where users will interact with the protagonist's family. These moments are meant to be a slice of life experience where gamers are sifting through lots of "authentic" Cantonese dialogue and idioms. Often the family member is question needs a little help with some ordeal, and it is up to the protagonist and Guu-Ma to help them out. At the end of the episode, the relative will give up a special recipe to the heroes which will hopefully save the restaurant.

The premise is sound, but the problem with the execution is the boring protagonist, who the writer fails to set up properly. It is hard to care about anything that anyone has to say, and all the information given has to be accepted at face-value. It is a horrible mixture of unnecessary exposition, and not enough important information, which is also expressed clumsily via "as you know..." This is not recommended to anyone interested in a deep narrative or complex driving sim; it won't please anyone, and visiting a creepy uncle is more enjoyable.

Screenshot for Road to Guangdong on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

Road to Guangdong can be commended for its unique concept and colourful imagery, but that is all it has. The mundane feel of the story is part of the appeal, as is the relaxing vibe, but there is no substance or discovery to be had, since there is no agency or wrong path. Driving is barely deeper than driving in one direction. Keeping the line under the red bar, and just selling whatever that can found is as engaging as picking out maggots from a heap of rice. The original OutRun is over 30 years old now, and yet manages to have more going on when driving.

Developer

Excalibur Games

Publisher

Excalibur Games

Genre

Action Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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