Title: Road to Guangdong
Developer: Just Add Oil Games
Publisher: Excalibur Games
Genre: Narrative Adventure, Driving
Version Tested: PS4
Official Site: Road to Guangdong
Release Date: August 28, 2020
Time to go on an adventure like no other. Road to Guangdong is a different take on a driving game, with mixed results.
Road to Guangdong is a story-based driving game, where you must manage your car on your journey. Along with your aunt and your faithful family car, discover your family’s history and delicious recipes.
You play as Sunny, a recent college graduate who has returned home after her parents are killed in an accident. Sunny finds out that the family restaurant has been left to her, and you must drive out to meet with each of your family members to collect their special recipes.
The game is sectioned into five different levels, where you drive out to different cities where your relatives are located. To make it, you will have to nurse Sandy, the old family car. Sandy requires fuel and oil to drive, as well as making sure it has quality parts to keep going.
Grab Your Keys and Hit The Road
Unlike other racing games that want you to go fast loose, Road to Guangdong has a more relaxed yet strategic approach. Due to the great distances, you will travel, you need to maintain your car’s needs and make sure to have replacement car parts in case they go bust on the road.
If you do find yourself stuck, you can also call a tow truck to save you. That can be expensive, however, so to stay on the road; you will have to make some extra cash along the way.
Besides family members giving you some extra cash after each of the levels, you can also make money selling extra car parts found at junkyards.
Akin to going on a road trip, the game really captures that feeling of heading out for a drive. However, it also captures the dullness that can come from long drives. There is nothing going on from A to B, so you are mostly looking down at your dials to see if you need to pull over again to fill up your gas tank.
Maintain Your Car in Road to Guangdong
It also does not help that the roads look to be procedurally generated, which can lead to some lackluster driving. Sometimes that can lead to a random tree growing out of the middle of the highway, but for the most part, it leads to mostly straight roads that are boring to drive.
To avoid this, it is probably best to play a level a day, so you do not become fatigued from the long drives. Given that the game is relatively short compared to AAA titles, it also helps to elongate your playtime.
The other side of the gameplay starts once you arrive at your destination. Once you arrive, you engage with your relatives and partake in an individual story that you impact through your actions.
This is where Road to Guangdong shines brightest, is in its different characters and story arcs you go through in each of the levels. Whether it is helping a relative discover their true familial background or saving your niece’s favorite chicken from being part of a family meal, they are each engaging and personal in their own ways.
A major part of that success is thanks to author Yen Ooi, who wrote the story for the game. It feels like a new take on the visual novel by incorporating other gameplay elements.
Characters and Story That Matter
While the game is not on the level of a narrative story like a DONTNOD title, your choices in the conversations will impact how family members treat you. If you insult them or treat them poorly, they will not give you their recipe and not attend the special family dinner you plan to host back home.
Speaking of characters, the most memorable is also your traveling companion for the trip, Guu Ma. As you continue on your trip, you learn more about Guu Ma and what she has had to grow up in China. As much as this is a game about Sunny, it is also about Guu Ma and her conflicts with traditional Chinese culture and how she moves on with her life as an older woman.
Road to Guangdong Looks Into 1990s Chinese Culture
The game has a lot going for it with its inventive mix of driving and story but can have technical and gameplay issues at times. The characters move very robotically at times; cars will crash into yours from behind when you stop to put on a tire, and text can sometimes become stuck on the screen.
If you can ignore the small yet constant issues, Road to Guangdong is quite an experience like no other. Combining a low-stakes driving game with story elements can seem quite jarring, but it works quite well. If you know what to expect and are looking for a more tempered experience, this is worth checking out.
Verdict: Road to Guangdong is a relaxing and memorable take on the visual novel genre with driving elements. However, the dull driving components and technical issues can take away at times.
- Fun characters and story
- The strategic element of managing car parts
- A relaxed take on the driving game genre
- Driving can become dull at times
- Technical and graphical issues