Road 96: Mile 0 Review – The road less travelled

Reviewed April 11, 2023 on Nintendo Switch


Xbox One, PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S


April 4, 2023





Road 96: Mile 0 is a prequel following the original release of Road 96 in late 2021. The original game was essentially a road trip experience, working to travel to the border of the fictional country Petria and eventually escape. It was a game with a lot of heart and fun characters that sadly lost me with its heavy-handed political messaging. Mile 0 focuses on one of the main characters from Road 96, Zoe, and tells the story of how she eventually finds herself on the road alone.

The game prides itself on having choices that actually matter, and this was a bit of a bad omen for me right away. It’s hard to imagine that any choices made in a prequel can matter at all, especially not when the ending has to match up with where the characters are when the original game starts. Even still I tried to enter with an open mind.

The gameplay of Mile 0 switches between two modes. The first-person narrative experience that fans of the original Road 96 will be familiar with, and new levels called “rides” where players race down a fixed track on either a skateboard or rollerskates. When I originally got a chance to play through a preview of Mile 0, I played it on PC and found the gameplay in the ride sections very disappointing when played with a mouse and keyboard.

The game takes a lot of inspiration from Sayonara Wild Hearts, a rhythm game that feels absolutely divine with a controller, so I decided to try the full version of Mile 0 on Switch and was disappointed in a different way. The ride sections play much better with analog sticks; it feels much more intuitive and fluid, but the rest of the game suffers. Awkwardly moving my cursor to highlight the appropriate dialogue option felt incredibly unwieldy and frustrating, most of the other mini-games that serve to give you a break between heavy dialogue segments also play terribly with a controller as they were clearly designed for mouse input. It’s incredibly disappointing that players will have to make concessions for at least one section of the game, regardless of how they decide to play.

The Switch version of the game also has very long loading screens before cutscenes, location changes or ride sections. Long enough that I was at least seven TikTok’s deep before it was finished almost every time. I don’t recall this being an issue in the PC version, so it might just be a problem on the Switch.

The ride sections are fun, in a way that is little more than perfectly serviceable. They are short, and the music is usually very good which is enough to keep you suitably engaged, but upon further inspection, none of the levels ever sync up with the music in any sort of meaningful way. It’s not a rhythm game so much as it is an auto-runner with a high score component that is set to music. Each level revolves around moving your player character (either Kaito or Zoe) back and forth on a track to pick up collectables for extra score while avoiding obstacles; each ride is a representation of current goings on and is not meant to be taken literally. 

This can be a little jarring because one second it is used for Zoe and Kaito to play matchmaker between two side characters and then the next is used to navigate Zoe’s PTSD surrounding the attacks of 1986. This isn’t to say that tonal dissonance can’t work in a narrative’s favour, just that I don’t think it works particularly well in Mile 0. There isn’t enough time between changes in tone for characters to readjust after big emotional reveals.

There is also an issue with depth perception on some levels. One of them uses lasers as obstacles and it is nearly impossible to tell just how far away they are from the player. I got a very low score on this level solely because I couldn’t even tell when the obstacles I had to dodge were along the track. As a whole, it’s pretty clear that Mile 0 is trying to emulate the wonderful gameplay of Sayonara Wild Hearts; there is even a ride that utilises the mechanic from one of my favourite levels in that game Parallel Universes, where obstacles change places on beat with the music. It’s unfortunate, because while the rides are serviceable, they just aren’t as good as the ones in the game they are taking inspiration from, and the gameplay is far too similar, making it impossible to avoid drawing comparisons.

I understand that it is kind of against the central concept of the game, but I think that Mile 0 would be a much stronger story if it did away with branching dialogue options. With Zoe’s future already predetermined, there is very little that can be changed based on player choices, and it’s very clear that there is a right ending from the beginning.

I would argue that a standard narrative structure would benefit Mile 0 much better…”

Without even thinking I would always lean towards options refuting Petria’s leadership because I have already played the original game and know which answer is the correct one. There is little room for debate as to whether Katio is right in his assertions that the world outside White Sands is as fraught as he says. I spent a long time in that world in the original Road 96 and so it seems completely reductive to dispute him. Zoe however, doesn’t know any of this, and this is why I would argue that a standard narrative structure would benefit Mile 0 much better. Allow Zoe to come to her own realizations naturally and give the game only one ending; it would be much more meaningful this way and give Zoe the chance to develop as a character without me continually pushing buttons that say ‘Petria Bad’ with little care for what effect it will have in the moment. 

Without spoiling anything, the end of the game is where it really lost me. There is a sequence where it rapidly switches back and forth between the two protagonists and I got this sense that the second I stopped controlling them they became a completely different person. Zoe made choices that I never would have let her make had I been in control, choices that I thought were stupid and caused problems that should have been entirely avoidable. This isn’t a problem! Characters should be flawed and make dumb mistakes, especially when they are teenagers. The issue is that I had been so used to controlling Zoe myself that seeing how she acted when I wasn’t in the driver’s seat was jarring.

This brings back what I said about ditching narrative choices altogether. The developers clearly had a vision for how the characters would act and their final decisions in the game, they should have just written a linear narrative to tell the story they so clearly wanted to tell instead. It also meant, that even though I did the best I could to choose every option denouncing Petria, Zoe still had some reservations about it in the end because the ending has to account for both possible options.

The art style is the same chunky cartoon vibe from the original, and I think it still does a good job, I did notice that the facial animations are maybe not quite as detailed as they were in Road 96 which is a little upsetting because they did a great job of bringing personality to each character in the game. Some of the other animations were a lot clunkier than in the original as well, and I can’t tell if this is just another issue with the Switch version or something that can be noticed across the board.

Even still, the colour palette and modelling are very good. It’s bright and interesting to look at, all the characters have well-crafted designs and silhouettes. The world of Petria suffers a little in the smaller location, some of the best vistas from the first game are absent for obvious reasons, but it still does well with what is available. Zoe’s bedroom delights me in particular, it does such a great job of establishing her character and feels very real and lived in. 

The music is also great once again, outside of the catchy tracks that play during rides there are also lots of ambient tracks and cassette tapes playing throughout the game. There’s a really good indie-rock bop that plays in Zoe’s bedroom that I was nodding my head to every time I heard it. It sounds like something by Letters to Cleo and I mean that in a very complimentary way.




  • Great soundtrack
  • Interesting characters


  • Narrative dissonance
  • Choices DON'T matter
  • Mediocre gameplay
  • Some performance issues on Switch

Overall, Mile 0 just isn’t as strong as its predecessor. It somehow feels both like there were too many and not enough changes made to the formula. Maintaining the dialogue options made the story feel diluted and weak, but abandoning the setting of the open road loses a key part of the game’s identity. It’s a hard spot to be in. This isn’t to say that Mile 0 is a failure, just that it doesn’t manage to improve on the shortcomings of the original or capture what made it work in the first place. The music is still very good and the characters interesting, but letting the player control their actions removes any potential agency and kills what could have been a great story.