Road 96 was a politics-centric game about a teenager crossing a border and eventually perhaps overthrowing an entire government. Developer DigixArt is back with another entry, this time a prequel called Road 96: Mile 0. They’ve changed many things this time around, while also keeping some things the same. Time to see if that results in a more polished game, or something that needed more time.
Between Two Stories
Road 96: Mile 0 is a prequel to the original Road 96, while also serving as a sequel to DigixArt’s first ever game, Lost in Harmony. Naturally, this does mean that while the narrative does branch, and the game features four different endings, certain things will always occur in order for the original Road 96 to make any sense. Some endings will also lock themselves away via another playthrough if you have either Zoe or Kaito on one side of the political spectrum.
The story of Road 96: Mile 0 takes place in a fictional country called Petria, during everyone’s favorite time: election season! Petria is a Soviet-like country which pushes government propaganda very heavily, including a single actual state-run news channel as the only (legal) option on the airwaves. Under this oppressive regime, you alternate between playing as the Minister of Oil’s daughter Zoe, and a city worker’s son Kaito. They start the game as best friends born on opposite ends of the opportunity and political spectrums. As the player, you’re given the chance to see how differently members of society will treat you just based on the family you were born into.
As the story progresses, both characters have choices to make, which influence how they feel politically, as shown on a two-sided bar in the upper-left portion of the screen. Tearing down a partially-town propaganda poster will make the character more rebellious, for instance, while fixing it will make them more subservient. If you’ve played the original game, then you already know which way the story should lead you. Otherwise, Road 96: Mile 0 is a touch vague about who you should really believe. It also makes a statement about blindly following the beliefs of those who came before you, and the unforeseen consequences of your choices having a long-lasting impact on those you love. The story is a bit deeper than the bright visuals might otherwise have you believe.
Short Runtime, Multiple Endings
With a runtime of around three hours or so (and that’s taking your time to fully explore most areas), it wouldn’t be a stretch to have viewed all possible endings within a day or a weekend. Thus, Road 96: Mile 0 is priced right at $12.99 as of the time of this writing. The game does rely entirely on autosaves, however, as there are no save slots to speak of. So be prepared to live with your choices, with your only recourse to seeing another ending by replaying the whole thing.
What’s interesting is that DigixArt introduced a whole rhythm-based mechanic to Road 96: Mile 0. Certain cutscenes and activities will trigger one of eight (CHECK) songs to play, and it’s your job to rollerskate as Zoe or skateboard as Kaito to the beat. This involves collecting floating diamonds, or performing quick-time event button presses to avoid certain doom. Touching any obstacle results in part of the song replaying. This mechanic is a bit rough, as some of the timing required is extremely precise. It seems even the developer understood it would frustrate some gamers, because if you fail any section of a song a handful of times, the game will offer to simply skip you ahead to the next checkpoint in the song. At the end, you’re graded on an F-S scale, with the option to replay and try again.
Songs are also occasionally collected throughout the adventure, and the soundtrack is a fitting mashup of pop and electronica. While the in-game songs are original creations, some of the rhythm levels include licensed tracks, with a personal highlight of mine being The Offspring’s No Brakes song. You’ll probably end up with a favorite track to play a couple of times before moving on, that is if you’re lucky enough to enjoy the song that also has a good level assigned to it.
Rough Around the Edges
While the soundtrack and audio work in general is good in Road 96: Mile 0, the same cannot always be said about the voice acting. Granted, DigixArt is an indie studio, and this is a budget-priced game. But still, some characters have a very flat delivery, including on some occasions Zoe. Other characters feature voice lines that were clearly recorded at different times, despite the conversation occurring in real-time.
Road 96: Mile 0’s presentation is also occasionally lacking. While the cel-shaded, low-poly look helps cement the game squarely in the mid-90’s, the awkward animations don’t help it much. The story is told mostly through low-action moments, so thankfully it’s not too jarring to see characters abruptly stop their animations. Whether through a lack of time or budget, there is also a stealth sequence that is played as the world’s most basic maze runner. At first glance, it’s simply yet another minigame hidden within Road 96: Mile 0. But once you really think about it, this served as a shortcut to not have to model a whole separate building that is only visited once. Surprisingly, there are also two playable arcade games, and at one point in the story you can play Connect 4 against an almost perfect computer opponent.
Occasionally rough animations aside, Road 96: Mile 0 runs just fine on the PS5. The Unity Engine has no problems running the game smoothly, and there were no noticeable hiccups in performance experienced at any time during our playthrough. No console features such as the DualSense’s controller speaker are ever used, but at this price point it’s also not expected. Load times are quick, even if they’re not exactly instantaneous.
Road 96: Mile 0 is an offbeat, short trip that doesn’t overstay its welcome. While some of the rhythm mechanics are a little too unforgiving, practice makes perfect and it is easy to retry any song you’ve beaten before from the main menu. There’s even some replayability in trying to unlock all of the different endings. While it may be chock-full of awkward animations and voice acting, Road 96: Mile 0 has a certain charm to it that may leave you wanting to continue the story when the credits roll.
- Fun rhythm sections
- A deeper story than you might expect
- Short runtime with multiple endings
- Rhythm sections sometimes a bit unforgiving
- Awkward animations
- Inconsistent voice acting
Road 96: Mile 0 review code was provided by the publisher. You can read MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.