Updated: Apr 11
I drive a 20-year-old Volkswagen Golf, it’s got mismatched wing-mirrors, too many scuffs and dents to count, and wheezes on start-up. I’ve lovingly dubbed it ‘The Goof’ and much to the bewilderment of my friends and colleagues, it’s my pride and joy.
Sure, it may have broken down on my way to Christmas dinner, leaving me stranded on the roadside - hungry and cold on the one day a year you REALLY don’t want to break down - but it’s taught me to be resourceful. See, cars are like close relatives, the best ones are there for the good times and the bad times, they challenge you, test you and bring out the best in you.
Some people think video games are intended for escapism, and sometimes they are. But if that were their only appeal, my partner wouldn’t come home from work, where he sits on a computer answering emails all day, to play Football Manager, where he sits on a computer answering emails all evening. And, by the same estimation, you’d probably guess that I wouldn’t like the idea of Road to Guangdong. You’d think that the press release would trigger some sort of vehicular-PTSD for me:
“Take care of your tyres, fuel consumption and engine condition as you navigate the beautiful province of Guangdong. An epic journey in such an old car isn’t going to be easy – be prepared to take a look under the hood. Add oil, manage petrol, maintain the engine and build a stock of useful parts to avoid calling out the mechanic.”
I mean, replace the picturesque province of Guangdong with a dull English suburb and you’ve pretty much got a brief description of my daily commute right there.
It would seem that the developers of Road to Guangdong share my propensity to anthropomorphise cars. ‘Sandy’, the family car is used not only as a vehicle for Sunny and Guu Ma, but for the story too. The arguably monotonous task of essentially maintaining a neglected car seems to underpin a story that sees 23-year-old Sunny and her elderly aunt Guu Ma thrust into a situation where they will have to rebuild their own neglected relationship.
Essential to any road-trip (gamified or not) is a great soundtrack - Just Add Oil Games and Excalibur Games haven’t neglected this. From composer Chris Randle (Team 17's LA Cops and Mike Bithell's Volume), Road to Guangdong’s original soundtrack plays a vital role in the game, portraying the tension between tradition and modernisation. Of the two tracks now available to listen to, one represents a powerful and soulful traditional Chinese instrumental, channelling Guu Ma, while the other takes a more contemporary rock style channelling Sunny’s taste as a young adult living in 1990s Guangdong, China.
The game’s style is interesting, combining bold colours with low-poly art style. It’s not my usual vibe, but I’ll hold my judgement until we see how the style fuses with the story and gameplay. The colours are reminiscent of MS paint presets and the lack of outlines is unfamiliar to my eye, it sounds like a harsh criticism but in fact, I’m excited to see something genuinely different, that doesn’t rely on just being ‘edgy’.
The artwork juxtaposes the seemingly heavy tone of the main themes, which serves to lighten the mood. It’s nice to see a couple of elements of realism that aren’t often the focus of games given a bit more airtime - it makes me feel warm, fuzzy and not alone. Perhaps that’s better than escapism.
Watch the official story trailer here: