I think you could make a strong argument that Rocketcat Games is the greatest developer in the history of mobile games. No studio has quite the collection of masterpieces that they do. Go on and look it up, their worst title is Five Card Quest [$2.99] and even that isn't so bad. Madgarden, meanwhile, has the strongest collection of unreleased titles perhaps out there, but when he releases something, it tends to be great. See their previous collaboration Punch Quest [Free], which is still brilliant and so unlike everything else on the App Store. In fact, that's the problem: these folks make games that are such pinnacles of what they do that nobody else can even come close. So, perhaps you might think Death Road to Canada [$10.99] off the bat seems a bit weird for them to do. After all, it's a zombie survival game. There's a ton of them. But that would be short-sighted: Death Road to Canada is another masterpiece from a partnership that keeps cranking out the hits.

You've probably read our coverage before, so you have a rough idea on how the game plays, but it's an action game where you and an ally travel from Florida to Canada, each day running into various trials and travails, such as your car potentially breaking down, or random encounters on the road that rely on your characters' stats for responses. Then, you explore different locations, scrounging for supplies while fighting off the undead. You'll run low on food, fuel, and medkits over time, and having larger groups of survivors means more resources have to be expended to keep everyone alive. Siege missions will force you to test your skill and armaments. Having guns is handy, but ammo is far from unlimited. Melee weapons can break, but even the most durable ones can't be used without your characters getting tired. Furniture can be pushed into doors to help fend off the undead, but you'll want to find bottlenecks so you can avoid the massive hordes, as those are the things that will swarm and kill you.

Ultimately, this is the zombie survival game stripped down to its roots. Yes, this is a survival game, but don't worry: there's no crafting. In fact, that alone makes it stand out. This is a zombie survival action game that you can play with limited inventory management and no crafting. In fact, the most management you'll have to do is choosing how you want your team's AI to act. This is the zombie survival game for people who hate zombie survival games, or think crafting is a foul profanity.

I will say that Death Road to Canada isn't exactly a mobile game so much as it is a game that works on mobile. This feels like an experience made first for the desktop where players could be expected to play for longer periods of time. This isn't bad – each day really only takes a few minutes, so you can play for just a few minutes at a time. Also, Rocketcat and Madgarden realized that people on mobile are only going to play for shorter bursts. That's why the game features fantastic support for just leaving the app and returning to continue your game later. Now, where there's some confusion is that if you quit from a mission, or at least try to, it will delete your save. But if you just exit the app, it will return to before that mission, with random selections for what your next mission will be. I suppose you could use this to cheat in a certain way to get a better starting mission point, but consider this argument: if you do that, you're a giant dweeb.

Regardless, Death Road to Canada works quite well as a game that you can sit back on your couch and just play for hours on end. It's way too easy to get sucked into the game and its twists and turns. There's the sadness as your original heroes die, then you grow accustomed to your new team, which could be a moody mechanic and the last bodybuilder on earth, who only fights by picking up and throwing things...but he can pick up pretty much anything that can be picked up. You have to expect the unexpected, but there's a lot to learn. You can develop reasonable expectations of what certain scenarios might provide – rest stops seem to be just rest stops, but sometimes they have supplies-laden rooms. A stop in the city might have various options for getting supplies, too.

Also, death in Death Road feels a lot like how you probably would die in a zombie scenario: not just from one random zombie attack, but from lots of damage over time, with the killing blow being when you're overwhelmed by too many zombies at once. That's how most deaths go, and it's just about finding ways to survive that scenario, of not finding yourself trapped somewhere when you run out of supplies to deal with the oncoming eternal hordes of the undead. In fact, the entire game just nails that feel of struggle against impossible odds, scrounging for every last resource you can possibly get. There's that feeling of taking massive risks to try and find just one more bit of food, of finding a medical pack that could keep you alive, or a weapon that could keep you alive for just one more day. Death Road to Canada nails the struggle of trying to survive.

And yet, it also feels like perhaps the purest distillation of the Rocketcat humor yet put into games. The whole thing is absurdity packed on top of further absurdity, with plenty of goofy things that pop up. A lot of this is in the dialogue that happens between missions and even in the random events. Some of it is in the world-building: Y'all-Mart, Just Umbrellas, and other store names. That, and the other characters in the game, who all have something ridiculous about them. There is no normalcy in Death Road to Canada except the utter lack of normalcy. I do like that the game has all these especially weird things like special characters, and the game isn't afraid to give you the option to experience them for yourself. Familiar Characters mode lets you see more of your custom characters in your game. Special Characters mode might make the game a bit easier by giving you the occasional unstoppable demigod that you come across, but it's all in the name of fun. Challenge-seekers can beat the game and try out the harder modes for themselves. The shorter mode is a blessing once you unlock that, as well.

Death Road to Canada passes the ultimate test for me: is it possible to fall into a deep trance with the game, where all I'm doing is playing it and not caring about anything else in the world? The best titles do that to me. Rocketcat's games have done an exceptional job at casting that particular spell. Every time I pick up Death Road to Canada, I wind up suckered into a situation where I sink hours and hours into this one and the staff at Starbucks is yelling at me to get out, the gold card doesn't mean I can stay late and it's 1am anyway, why aren't you at home? I have my reasons, and they are that I have to get this motley crew of Jared (Eli died), this demigod fencer, and some dude wearing a horse mask to Canada in one piece.

What I'm saying is that you have to play Death Road to Canada. Controller support is the one thing that would make this better, and that's coming shortly after this review.

TouchArcade Rating

StarStarStarStarStar
  • Notturno

    Not a balanced review at all, the game feels empty as stated in many forum comments :/

    • Dankrio

      Empty? i wholearted disagree.

      Far from it. And plenty of content is still coming.

    • Andrew Fretz

      I'm never happier than when a reviewer plays a game and actually rates it based on their own opinion. Sorry friend but you might have to go to another mobile game site if you want to see forum opinion re-packaged as an article or a review.

    • Bunion

      It's his opinion, that's what a review is. You can be as objective as possible in reviews but ultimately a review is, for the most part, subjective opinion.

    • rslowe

      I worry that the "looting" sections of the game might not have enough variety to keep me playing this game for too long.

      It probably won't get as much gametime from me as Binding of Isaac, so no GOTY for me, but this is far and away better than most games on IOS in terms of creativity and fun.

    • SwordBytes

      Very overrated game. Not sure how so many people are finding depth in it.

      Drive. Event. Drive. Kill zombies. Die.

      Repeat. Nothing exciting in it. Nothing new after a few plays. Repetitive and dull.

      • Notturno

        I think most of the people here like dull and repetitive titles lol

      • Notturno

        I think people here like dull and repetitive games lol

      • Alexythimia23

        Dont bash death road to canada! Unless you want minus likes! Haha i feel the same buddy its a generic retro looking game in the vein of organ trail, the rabbit hole only goes so deep with this one.
        I also dont know how some members absolutely hyoe this game like its life...but i guess that goes to show how different we all are with our gaming needs.
        Personally would only get this if it comes down less then half in price or goes free...sorry dont shoot me.

  • LousyHero

    Nice! Well deserved. Waited for the mobile release then just had to buy it on steam as well. So many zany adventures.

  • Dankrio

    My GOTY so far and I doubt it is going to be topped, since it is one of my favorite games from any platform. Rocketcat and Madgarden are some of the best out there.

    • skylined87

      Here here, dinkrio! These jokers betta recognize that DRtC is the bees knees... I pity the fool, thug, or zombie who tries to take over the world, and then goes home crying to his mama! 😜 but seriously, show some love to this fantastic game you guys! It deserves 5 stars and more

  • etienne

    I haven't had a chance to dive in yet. I've been obsessed with Ticket to Earth (so far, my GOTY), but I can't wait.

  • Duranki

    I haven't double-dipped (yet) and have only played the original PC release, but this game is joy. Literally. I can't play it without smiling or laughing out loud at something that happens.

    The best games allow you to make your own stories (like Minecraft). This is one of them!

  • Stetch

    Totally love it! And for those with issues with controls: Try Dead zone 0 and Drag zone 99.

  • rslowe

    Yesssss! I just beat the game (Familiar Characters mode) for the first time as of 30 minutes ago. This game has had my attention since it was released. It's a lot of fun, and every playthrough is slightly different.

  • Warriv

    I'm not sure you understand the irony of your comment. So, someone gives their opinion on someone's review, and no one else is allowed to give their own opinion henceforth? And I actually haven't seen anyone saying their opinion is wrong, just that they disagree with it.

  • loveschack

    When MFI-support is implemented in a couple of weeks, I probably won't leave my apartment much. What a quality title!

  • Anotherkellydown

    I like this quote: "There is no normalcy in Death Road to Canadaexcept the utter lack of normalcy."

    Great review! Looking forward to trying that "shorter" mode.

  • YankeeBlue000

    Gushing review. I'm still on the fence about this one. The only game I liked from this Dev is Punch Quest, so I don't understand the fanaticism shared by the reviewer and most of the members here, but the game has been positively reviewed on multiple platforms and highly praised across a wide range of game media outlets. I think I'm going to take a chance on it, and why not? I've taken chances on games with far less adoration than this game and was really impressed

    • Kiltedsheep

      Same here. And I don't even like zombie stuff. But I'll give it a go and make my own mind up!

  • Lickzy

    My issue with this game is replayability. It was VERY exciting to make it to Canada the first time and equally challenging. Took me several hours to finally get there after multiple deaths so I feel I got my monies worth.

    However, I have basically zero incentive to play it any more. Nothing fun or exciting to unlock, just the same events, with different items drawn from a very small weapon pool, vehicles with different fuel consumption and some random rare characters. This completely mitigates the replay value for me, it's all very much more of the same.

    However (again), if when I completed the game under different circumstances (full party, solo, under a certain time, etc) and I unlocked something cool, I'd be all in.

    Congratulations - you've unlocked the bazooka

    Congratulations - you've unlocked the flamethrower

    Congratulations- you've unlocked the blah blah blah

    Something like that would keep me coming back but now I have no interest.

    At the end of the day, it's a decent game and worth a few hours of entertainment but the replayability just isn't there for me.

    First thing I picked up when I put this down was BoI which I think offers way more replayability.

    • Alexythimia23

      Thanks for that, i like to buy games knowing they will have replay value..well most of the time, but that is important. I played it on my mates iPad and it really wasn't worth the price tag for what I played. But i also felt that way with wayward souls, i was just shocked to see how little there was to that game, i just couldn't understand what others were seeing in it. But its gone into my wish list if it ever comes down or goes free il probably throw it on to my backlog for the sake of having it :/

      • skylined87

        Because most of the secrets are hidden. You have to keep playing to find them all. Gah...I wish everyone loved rocketcat games as much as I did. I think they are ALL amazing.

      • Lickzy

        I'm not saying I don't love rocketcat, I also own wayward souls. I'm just saying this game, albeit good, lacks replayability IMO.

        Others may enjoy replaying it, I do not.

    • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

      The replay-ability comes from the fact that no two runs will be the same, and truly insane random events happen on the Death Road. This does however provide a rather fascinating look at the affect achievements have had on gamer expectations, as I've never been into cheevo hunting or unlocks so I just see each run as a new opportunity to have fun and not necessarily something that will give me some kind of concrete reward.

      • Lickzy

        Hi Eli,

        If "no two runs will be the same" is your barometer for replayability then you're 100% right in loving this game and replaying it. That being said, many rogue-likes (and rogue-lites) are like that so you'd be stuck playing a game for eternity never moving on to anything else. So unless your goal is to have every combination of play through, the content is otherwise limited.

        (Forgive me if these stats are wrong but they are from the wiki page)

        There are 50 driving events and you encounter at least 2 per day driving.

        11 camping events. You will encounter 1 of them every time you choose to rest.

        17 walking events. You will encounter 2 a day every time you're without a vehicle

        17 other events including group, individual and despair events, plus scavenging events.

        After 8 hours of play, you're likely to hit most of the content, albeit not anywhere near all combinations. I only looked up this info because I was encountering the same stuff all the time and it got very boring very fast. Not too random when you see the same stuff every run.

        So if having a unique experience every time is the aim, then anyone could play this (or most rogue games) until the cows come home. I find the limited event pool (and literally memorizing outcomes) unenjoyable after 8 hours of play.

        At the end of the day, it was fun while I played it and I got my monies worth, I would never argue that, and glad I got to check out all the hype.

      • collider

        Glad to see you're still among the living, Eli... I sorta breezed through the closing paragraph, saw "Eli died" and had a bit of a shock.
        No problem throwing Jared or Carter in front of the zombies to slow them down, however...

  • h_A_Z

    Personally I feel that the Taco zombie game deserves more credit than this game. Not saying that I'm not enjoying this game but I think the other game us better

  • mdemy8

    This game is a mess without controller support....

    • mdemy8

      Thank you for putting in controller support just for me...yes me.

  • http://www.muzboz.com Murray Lorden

    I'm digging the b-grade style trailer! Love movies like "Bad Taste", "Evil Dead", "Brain Dead", etc. Right down my alley!!

    Dang it! I'm currently making a b-grade trailer for my own roguelike post-apocalyptic game! Hopefully people dig the b-grade vibe enough to play more games in this "genre!" 😀

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fa381686e93c67dd0deef7c52c0924e7b25c4503b220a58e8cd71f61fc7c19cd.gif

  • Jinxtah

    So did this game ever get controller support?

Death Road to Canada Reviewed by Carter Dotson on . Rating: 5