Despite its similarities to other games, there’s nothing quite like Road to Guangdong.
It’s part driving sim, part visual novel, and full on deep dive into Chinese culture through its use of language, food, and location.
At first it seems the game seems centered around a car called Sandy – but this is more than just a set of wheels, rather it’s something of a family heirloom.
It all starts with Alyah – that’s you – receiving the keys to the car from your Guu Ma. You start out having to learn the basics – filling the car with oil and petrol – discovering where things are and how they work. It’s all done by circling around the car, opening up the bonnet and side panels in order to fill it, then closing up when ready.
Once you’ve done it, you’ll get to see car stats, parts, and how much money has spent, then you actually get to drive around a small playground of a city with various locations you’ll need to park up and visit.
The driving is actually pretty smooth – save for reversing which is a bit of a mess – with the game giving you the freedom to change lanes and face down oncoming traffic if you’re feeling particularly risque. For the most part, though, it’s very nicely relaxed and there’s a really beautiful aesthetic to drive against while in cruise control. The game’s art style is lovingly detailed and runs like a dream on Switch.
In Road to Guangdong you find out the Alyah has been left a restaurant by her BaBa. Alyah has built a life for herself elsewhere but it seems she’s become entangled in family legacy and the choices you make will determine the future of that family history.
That comes in the way you treat the family car, as much as the restaurant, and the choices you make in conversation. See, with Sandy you can experiment with different parts to alter her configuration and that can impact your overall driving speed as well as make sure the car itself doesn’t overheat or become worn.
Maintaining Sandy will be key as you’ll be driving all around, meeting with family to reunite and tell them the news. The car needs to be in ship shape, otherwise you’ll end up broken down on the side of the road.
The game has an interesting story and the mechanics themselves are far from conventional for this type of adventure. I really enjoyed the options available to me, though the car customization perhaps isn’t as in-depth as I’d like it to be.
All the same, Road to Guangdong remains unlike anything else I’ve played this year and its down to its respect of culture complete with the loving sense of camaraderie between family which makes the game both wholesome and interesting in the same breath.
Road to Guangdong is out now across all formats.