When I was a child, getting a new game was hard work. Prior to the game’s release, my brother and I would have to put in some serious prep work. We would do our best to mention the game at least once per conversation, regardless of context. We would regularly highlight the fact that had we our own copy of the game then we would not need to be constantly ferried back and forth to friend’s houses. And, failing everything else, we would strategically flick water around our room so when our parents entered, they would think we had been crying. On that system alone, we averaged five or six games a year. But in the mid-nineties, games did not release every week like they do now. Last year I finished ninety games. That is one every four days. As consumers, we have nothing to complain about now when it comes to choice. Quite the opposite, and while triple A titles tend to stick to tried and tested formulas and trends, it has been the growth of indie titles that truly offer our past-time such a rich and varied diversity of experience. The older I get, the more I crave these niche experiences. Road to Guangdong, to me, is a gem and a shining testament to how many different opportunities are now on offer within gaming.
Road to Guangdong is developed by Just Add Oil and published by Excalibur Games. It is a story-focused driving simulator, written by acclaimed author Yen Ooi, and it is available on Xbox One, PS4, Switch, and PC. You play as Aiyah, an artist fresh out of university in Hong Kong. It is the 90s and your parents have recently died in a tragic accident, leaving everything to you, including the family restaurant. Along with your Guu Ma (oldest aunt), you must revive family car Sunny, and one-by-one visit your relatives, asking for their blessings regarding the will, but also to collect recipes for your new venture. It is a soft cultural education on family hierarchies and an insight into the weight and respect the east lay on such connections.
After your task is laid out for you, your Guu Ma hands over the keys to Sunny, along with a map, and a purse of 400 (currency unspecified). You spend most of the game driving and although it is extremely basic, there is something satisfying, on a primal level, of getting from a to b. You steer with the left stick and accelerate/brake with your triggers, that is it. Although your Guu Ma is your travelling companion, she does next to nothing in between destinations. She will either snore, ask you to pull over so she can pee, complain about the radio stations (of which there are two) or warn you about problems within the car – you must keep an eye on oil, fuel, and temperature. Drive too fast and Sunny will overheat and the car will rapidly go downhill. One of my front wheels fell off while I was overtaking but luckily, I had a spare.
You have five locations to visit, which you can do so in an order of your choice. Along your journey you will pass scrap yards and garages. You will fail unless you make good use of the scrap yards. It is here that you find items to sell at said garages, and with that money you will keep Sunny road worthy. It may be daunting at first, given the shape Sunny is in, but this is an easy game. I finished as a rich young lady, and with Sunny in better condition than when I found her. This game relaxed me, and I enjoyed the presentation and limited gameplay loop. Although the driving is broken up by short encounters with different family members, all of which are well thought out, I can see a main complaint being that this game is boring. You are driving for long stretches with nothing to do but occasionally stopping to refuel and repair. This is a proper road trip, but this game is about patience and doing the right thing by your family. The amount of driving involved, for me, reinforced the game’s message of respect. You are honouring the wishes of your deceased parents – is a little bit of driving too much to ask?
The art style is bright and bold, the soundtrack is on point, dialogue is text only, but it is snappy and easy to read, and the game in general has a real charm.
Road to Guangdong
I finished in just a few hours, but I enjoyed my time with it. It is far from perfect, but it really landed for me. I would recommend it.
- I loved the premise
- It has a great charm to it
- Getting from a to b is oddly satisfying
- A think a lot of gamers would be bored
- Extremely easy
- Very repetitive