Back in 2021, I had the pleasure of reviewing Digixart’s Road 96, a little game about helping a group of kids make the trip to cross the border of their country – Petria. While I found the visuals and gameplay of the original very interesting, it’s political messaging was where it began to lose me. So when I heard that they were working on a prequel to the game starring one of the main characters from the original, I was very intrigued.
Road 96: Mile 0 is set before the events of its predecessor, before any of the kids you originally play as have even begun planning their trips across the border. It’s also a story with a much smaller scale based on the preview I played; it seems that most of the game will be set within the city area where protagonists Zoe and Kaito live. The story also seems to be directly focused on their emotional relationship to the brewing political tensions instead of the broader picture.
Choosing Zoe as the focal point of the prequel is a great idea as she was far and away the most interesting character in Road 96, and learning what actually drove her to make the trip all the way to the border is a great hook for a prequel. One of my main issues with the original game was how the story performed much worse when tackling larger scale issues as opposed to personal relationships, and it seems like Road 96: Mile 0 will just be focusing on the connection between Zoe and Kaito and their opinions of the country of Petria.
Throughout the preview, I was given dialogue options that would sway in a binary direction, either leaning more towards conformity or rebellion and this feels a little bit derivative, especially since once I chose which direction I wanted to lean in, I found myself just picking the option with that corresponding icon without even reading the dialogue option. It might feel more natural if the intent behind each piece of dialogue wasn’t shown until it was already selected. The other potential issue is that Road 96 begins with Zoe having decided to leave Petria and already on the road, as I am not sure how the prequel will end yet I can’t state definitively what will happen, but I do wonder what the point of the dialogue options is if the game can only really end one way.
This new entry contains the same cartoony aesthetic that the original game had which does a great job of creating vibrant and fun characters even in the near dystopian world the characters are living in. Everything is colourful and the lighting is gorgeous, especially at night or golden hour. It also does a brilliant job of showcasing the divide between the higher class (Zoe) and the lower class (Kaito), with the difference in colour between the two locations.
While the gameplay in Mile 0 is much different to the original, this is one of the things that I find most promising about the new entry. One of the best parts of the original Road 96 was its soundtrack and focus on diegetic music, the gameplay sections in Mile 0 are incredibly replayable, fast-paced and entertaining due to the brilliant music choice.
These segments play very similarly to the amazing rhythm game Sayonara Wild Hearts where plays move left and right while their character moves ever forward in a line, collecting gems and avoiding potential hazards. Unlike Sayonara Wild Hearts, at most points it doesn’t feel like this is happening in time with the music, it’s more like a fun racing segment with music accompanying it than explicitly a rhythm game. Even still, these levels are very engaging and easily replayable from the main menu if you want to go back and perfect your scores.
Even with a heavier focus on gameplay, it’s clear that there is still a deep story in Mile 0, and I for one am very eager to learn more about Zoe and Kaito’s backstories and how they lead into the future we saw in Road 96.
Road 96: Mile 0 is set to release on April 4th, and as it is a prequel there is no need to play Road 96 before picking up Mile 0, so there is plenty to be excited for!