Road 96: Mile 0 Review – Small Town Vibes, Big City Problems

    Title: Road 96: Mile 0
    Developer: Digixart
    Release Date: April 4, 2023
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Ravenscourt
    Genre: Adventure

I find it interesting as some games can feature a playful, almost cartoonish design but still carry a heavy narrative. These were my feelings about the DigixArt-developed adventure, Road 96, which continues to be the case in the prequel, Road 96: Mile 0. This time, we focus on one of the leads from the previous game to get some insight into what led them to the open road. While the narrative carries some heavy themes of corruption and murder, Road 96: Mile 0 struggles to balance its more playful systems.

Road 96: Mile 0 stars two protagonists, Zoe and Kaito, two friends and residents of White Sands. They come from different backgrounds, with Zoe being the minister’s daughter and Kaito being of the lower class. This is significant, given how divided these classes are. White Sands is very much run under the rule of the local government, which asks the citizens to report any suspicious activity, which will likely get someone arrested. This division is also a significant game mechanic between the leads who struggle with siding for or against this class system.

While fans will know where Zoe eventually ends up, she has a choice in this game, which could lead her away from the Black Brigade. At the same time, it may seem like an easy choice, but playing as Kaito puts him in some very mature situations that make it hard for a player to put all that responsibility on him. The two make various choices throughout the game that could pull them apart, but the game does tell you which side the choices affect, so you can easily get through the narrative without much thought, depending on what ending you wish to see.

Road 96 Mile 0 4

The narrative goes to some dark places. Kaito lost a friend to the government’s actions, and Zoe suffers from trauma after a supposed terrorist attack in 1986. These topics come up in conversation, and the friends do their best to be there for each other. However, it’s hard to really stay in this mental place when the story shows you some heavy scenes, and in the next scene, the two are eavesdropping on gossip over a walkie-talkie. I understand their kids, but you have to pace this stuff out or allow it to make sense from a story perspective.

Given that the game can be completed in around 6 – 8 hours, the story takes place over several in-game days, capped off by an approaching sandstorm. The world-building is excellent here as the upper class is so far removed from worrying about this and more focused on a speech by their leader. The lower class seems to be more concerned with the issues of the city, but they also do all the work, while the upper class takes on higher roles.

Road 96 Mile 0 3

Gameplay takes many forms. Players can navigate the environments as Zoe and Kaito. Seeing how differently the two are treated as you interact with NPCs is interesting. Exploration may lead to a few secrets or collectibles, but you can also forget all that and progress the story.

Choices during conversations don’t really affect much outside of the critical choices that change who the character sides with. Given this, it’s possible to just click through the normal choices without much thought. However, there are subtle changes, such as a Truth or Dare game and unique responses, but again, this doesn’t affect the characters’ relationships.

Road 96 Mile 0 2

A significant part of gameplay is a sort of musical endless runner feature. During each chapter, players will encounter one of these musical scenes where the characters race through a fantasy-like world, collecting points and avoiding obstacles. I will say the soundtrack is really good, as it features songs that fit the tone of the current narrative. The developers threw in a song from The Offspring that instantly won some points with me.

These musical moments can be skipped, but I feel that the imagery during them is needed for story context, especially during scenes where Zoe struggles with who to side with. The later rides become challenging as new rhythm factors are introduced, but a decent checkpoint system keeps you moving toward the end, where your score is graded.

It’s a fun system that breaks up the adventure game elements while sticking to the tone of the story, so I enjoyed my time. Still, the controls can sometimes be a little stiff, with the characters not moving fast enough or the jump being delayed after multiple jump sections. It’s manageable, but the challenge is there.

Road 96 Mile 0 1

Outside of this, Zoe and Kaito will engage in a few different minigames across White Sands. I appreciated how varied these minigames are, as players can take part in rail shooter modes and even connect 4. However, some of these games would likely be easier with a mouse and keyboard since moving the cursor via a controller was a bit slow.

These gameplay elements found a place in the overall experience, so nothing felt out of place. I enjoyed the over-the-top aspects of the narrative to remind the player that this is a game and to keep us grounded in reality with some heavy story moments. The writing can sometimes be a little cringy as the two teenagers do their best to sound hip, but I feel like the emotional moments were played well.

Graphically, Road 96: Mile 0 takes on a cartoonish style. The environments are filled with areas to explore, but the game world isn’t too large. Some points of interest add context to areas, which is needed to get the full scope of the situation, but you’ll likely get invisible walled at some point. Still, I felt like the areas were fun to explore, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to, which nicely mirrors the player choice system.

Road 96 Mile 0 3

Road 96: Mile 0 is a deceptively dark adventure game that centers around player choice and questioning those in power. We see this world through the eyes of two unique protagonists who keep you invested in the overall narrative. There are some hiccups with pacing at times, and the writing can be a little forced, but the conclusion makes the entire experience worth it. Pair that with a musical runner and way too many minigames to count, and you have an excellent adventure just waiting to be your next game.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

This post may contain Amazon affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate Noisy Pixel earns from qualifying purchases.

Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.