Review – Road 96: Mile 0
Road 96 from DigixArt was one of last year’s biggest surprises for me. For a game centered around politics, it was far more intriguing than one would initially think. From displays of oppression, uprisings, and the people caught in the middle of it all, Road 96 was a game that I found endlessly fascinating. So much so that I’ve played it numerous times since its release, and it hits a little differently every time. As much I found myself enjoying it, I was never really expecting a sequel, since it has multiple definitive endings. So naturally, I was surprised to learn that there was another game in the works, Road 96: Mile 0. As it turns out, this is actually a prequel, showing the events that led up to the chaos of Road 96.
Even though Road 96: Mile 0 is a prequel, there are plenty of familiar faces to be found. The first being Sonya, the reporter for GNN, who greets us with her fake smile as soon as the game begins. Most other characters from Road 96 also make appearances throughout Road 96: Mile 0, such as John the truck driver, and Fanny the police officer. There are a few other notable mentions, but I won’t spoil who they are or how they’re involved in the game.
At the center of Road 96: Mile 0 is Zoe, the rebellious teenage daughter of Petria’s Minister of Oil. Fans of the first game will have no problems recognizing the red-haired, trombone playing teen, who was at the center of much of Road 96. New to the scene is the other half of Road 96: Mile 0’s focal point: Kaito, a teen living in the slums of Petria, and Zoe’s best friend. Zoe and Kaito have a deep friendship, which is tested due to their differing lifestyles and social classes. Will they be able to set aside their differences and see eye-to-eye?
The gameplay is quite different this time around. Road 96 is a narrative-driven adventure game, with procedurally generated sections. This means that you’ll never have the same experience twice. What made this game design work so well was the fact that you only got to see small snippets of the character’s lives at a time. In order to learn everything about each character and get the full story, you HAD to play it several times. Plus, the writing and the storylines were so compelling, that players actually wanted to play it numerous times. Not to mention the fact that there are multiple endings, that are drastically different from one another. It felt like your choices really mattered in Road 96.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Road 96: Mile 0. Instead of having procedurally generated levels, the gameplay is much more linear. Basically, you can venture to one of its four main locations in any order you choose. However, the events all play out the same, regardless of which order you decide to visit each area. I played Road 96: Mile 0 a few times to verify this, and the experience was almost exactly the same, even when I made dialogue options that affected Zoe and Kaito’s loyalty and questioning. It never really felt like my actions or decisions made much of an impact on the story as a whole, which was disappointing.
Another way the gameplay differs is from the inclusion of more minigames spread throughout each level, as well as skating sections. The skating sections feature Zoe and/or Kaito embarking on surrealistic skating montages. During these levels, our protagonists will have to avoid obstacles and collect as many bonus orbs as they can, in the hopes of achieving a high score. However, high scores make no difference in the outcome of the level, aside from gaining achievements. There’s also the option to skip the level entirely if you fail too many times (which I only know from watching my kids play), giving these parts even less of a purpose.
I understand what DigixArt was going for, with these sections symbolizing the teen duo processing what was going on around them, but they just didn’t blend well with the rest of the game. Each time I had to skate across Petria while music was blasting, I was taken out of the immersion of the experience. If this had been just one occurrence, I think it would’ve landed much better. But these sections pop up after almost every single regular level. The various minigames, on the other hand, were often hilarious and delightful. These were certainly a welcome addition to the gameplay formula.
Visually, Road 96: Mile 0 is the same as Road 96. The character designs and animations are all the same as before. The bright, cartoony style fits the tone and humor of the game well. My biggest issue with Road 96: Mile 0 in terms of its visuals was the lack of location variety. There are really only four places to visit, which become a bit stale after a while. The biggest departure from the towns are during the skating sections, but these aren’t graphically impressive by any stretch.
Although, the sound design is fantastic. Just like the first game, the vocal performances are great all around. Zoe has her sass, Kaito has his passion, and Sonya has her faux bubbly journalist persona. Every colorful character is brought to life through its wonderful cast. Road 96: Mile 0 also has a killer soundtrack. Even though the skating levels didn’t really click with me from a gameplay standpoint, there’s no denying that the songs were awesome. The songs range from punk to electronica, with a mixture of original and licensed songs to enjoy throughout the game. My favorite skating section involved skating away from a manic bodyguard to The Offspring’s “No Brakes”, which fit so perfectly.
For anyone who was a fan of Road 96, then I would recommend giving Road 96: Mile 0 a go. Honestly, I am disappointed that they got rid of the procedurally generated interactions, which made Road 96 so unique. Road 96: Mile 0 is a still an enjoyable time, and I appreciate that DigixArt continued to try new things, but it wasn’t able to capture the same magic as its predecessor. Still, it was fun getting to learn more about Petria and some of the motley residents within its borders.
The character models are the same as the first game, but its lack of location variety hampers the experience.
More minigames were added to give the gameplay more variety. The minigames within each chapter were often hilarious and delightful. The skating sections, on the other hand, didn’t blend in well with the rest of the game.
Great vocal performances all around, and a killer soundtrack.
Fun Factor: 7.0
Road 96: Mile 0 is an enjoyable experience, but doesn’t manage to capture the same magic as the first game. The lack of meaningful multiple endings and fairly linear gameplay doesn’t do much to encourage multiple playthroughs.
Final Verdict: 7.0
Road 96: Mile 0 is available now on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on Xbox Series X.
A copy of Road 96: Mile 0 was provided by the publisher.