If you loved Road 96, 2021’s edgy road trip game from Digixart, you’ll be pleased to hear that a prequel is coming next month.
Called Road 96: Mile 0, its events take place directly before Road 96. It’s set against the same political backdrop of fictional country Petria, where there’s a clear divide between rich and poor and the younger generation is strongly pushing back against the country’s dictatorship government. It’s safe to say that Mile 0 is still a political game, as many of the same themes are still present. But its focus is much smaller: this is a story all about Zoe and her friend Kaito, their thoughts and feelings, and how Petria’s politics directly affect them.
If you’ve played Road 96, you’ll already know Zoe. She’s the daughter of a senator, and so has lived a privileged life, sheltered from the poverty and struggles seen elsewhere in Petria. In Road 96, however, she’s on the run, trying to leave the country and escape her father’s politics which she vehemently disagrees with. Mile 0 is the fallout leading up to this. We’ve played through only the first hour of the game – which promises to be a five to seven hour experience – but we’ve already experienced Zoe’s beliefs wavering. Maybe Petria isn’t the country she thought it was, after all.
Then there’s Kaito, a character new to the Road 96 series – although he may be familiar to you if you’ve played Digixart’s first game, Lost in Harmony. Despite being Zoe’s best friend, their lives couldn’t be more different. Kaito’s family are poor, working all hours of the day in menial jobs just to get by. His home is a basement flat, and he spends his days dreaming of running away. Ultimately, he’s the strongest proponent to challenging Zoe’s beliefs. They’re best friends, so when he says how bad things actually are in the rest of Petria, she’s inclined to believe him.
Not all of Road 96: Mile 0 is so heavy, however. There are plenty of light moments, particularly in the game’s opening sections. Just like the first game, there’s a strong juxtaposition of fun and drama. If you’re playing through from start to finish, we think it’s safe to say you’re going to experience a full gamut of emotions – particularly if you warm to Kaito and Zoe. And there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. We have no idea how their journey is going to pan out, but considering Zoe features in Road 96 alone, we already have some painful assumptions.
Related: Road 96 Review
But exactly how Road 96: Mile 0 pans out depends on you and the choices you make. This is a more linear experience than Road 96. There’s no procedural generation this time around, but your actions as you play will shape the outcome, with multiple endings available. Where Road 96 limited your actions based on the amount of money and/or energy each character had, Mile 0 instead concerns itself with Zoe’s mindset. As you play, Zoe’s beliefs can swing between being pro-Petria and questioning the government. Depending on her leaning, some options may be unavailable further into the game, and so you may want to consider every choice you make carefully.
Zoe’s not the only familiar face you’ll see while playing through Mile 0. In fact, larger-than-life TV host Sonia was the first face we saw as our time with the game started. The team at Digixart assures us she’s not alone, either, and some more of the cast from Road 96 may well pop up as we progress through the game. They’re not central to the experience this time, though. The spotlight belongs to Zoe and Kaito alone.
Digixart has been a little more creative with gameplay this time around. As before, you can explore environments, interact with objects and engage other characters in conversation. But this is broken up with more minigame activities and a number of skateboarding sections set to music. The minigames don’t add a great deal to the experience, but do at least mix things up: so far, we’ve delivered newspapers around town, first-person shooter style, throwing them directly at residents, and we’ve hammered some nails into a board. But it’s the skating sections that really stand out.
We’ve played through three of these in Road 96: Mile 0‘s preview build, each one as exhilarating and enjoyable as the last. Set to music – some of which you might know (one track was by The Offspring) – you’ll skateboard your way down a set path, collecting pick-ups as you go and ducking or jumping over obstacles. They’re fantastical in nature, representing the thoughts and imagination of Zoe or Kaito, and so you might find yourself skateboarding through an abstract location, or running away from an oversized enemy. Lasting the length of the song, you’ll be awarded a score once you’re finished, and you can replay them to try and beat your record. We can absolutely see ourselves going back to these long after we’ve finished Mile 0‘s story.
Digixart’s creative director, Yoan Fanise, was very keen to emphasise to us that Road 0 is “very different” from its predecessor, although it shares much of the same DNA. That’s already very clear to us after just an hour with the game. The more focused narrative allows us to get closer to the characters this time around, and it’s very likely we’ll come away with a greater understanding of Petria and its citizens. Despite the emphasis on more involved gameplay, there’s still a serious narrative to be uncovered. There’s a melting pot of different genres here, and while Mile 0 has plenty of silliness, Fanise emphasised that there are moments which will have a “big impact” on players.
It’s safe to say that dipping our toes into the first hour of Mile 0 has left us eager to discover more of Zoe and Kaito’s journey. The good news is we don’t have to wait long: it’s set to release on 4th April. Even better, you don’t have to have played Road 96 to appreciate this prequel. If you’ve already played Road 96 then great, but if you haven’t, Digixart assures us Mile 0 makes the ideal starting point.
Read more about Road 96 by checking out our full review. We’ll have more about Mile 0 closer to launch.