Road 96: Mile 0 is the prequel to Road 96, the narrative-driven adventure developed by DigixArt and published by Ravenscourt in 2021. Mile 0 explores the events leading up to the first game through the backstory of one of its protagonists, Zoe. While getting acquainted with the residents of White Sands, players will unravel a poignant tale that delves into politics, ethics, and loyalty.
Road 96: Mile 0 tells the story of Zoe and Kaito, two teens living in the fictional authoritarian nation of Petria in 1996. You primarily play as Zoe, an affluent teen whose father works for the government and who lives next door to the nation’s tyrannical leader, Tyrak. Zoe is best friends with Kaito, who debuted in DigixArt’s first game, Lost in Harmony. Hailing from the polluted streets of Petria’s capital, Colton City, Kaito comes from an entirely different upbringing than Zoe, allowing him to provide her with some much-needed perspective. The unlikely duo’s friendship is tested when Kaito begins acting suspicious, prompting Zoe to dig deeper into Kaito’s background and the history of Petria, uncovering a new understanding of herself and her beliefs in the process.
While you do get to play as both characters, most of the time in Mile 0 is spent as Zoe. She comes from the rich side of White Sands, where being referred to as ‘Madam Zoe’ in public and babysitting the president’s quirky son, Colton, is the norm. Kaito on the other hand lives in the poor side of town where he must work alongside his parents to make ends meet. He is able to provide Zoe with a new outlook toward the government, her family, and even her own memories, provided she is swayed to question her beliefs.
As you meander through the different parts of White Sands, Zoe will encounter an eclectic cast of characters, several of whom will be familiar to those who played Road 96. Nearly every person you approach will acknowledge Zoe or try to strike up a conversation, which contrasts with the experience of Kaito, whose brief time as the playable protagonist was often met with little more than glares and snide remarks when meeting people in the same parts of town.
During the first-person exploration segments, gameplay mainly consists of chatting with NPCs and poking around in garbage bins for collectibles, with the occasional minigame thrown in. There are a few puzzle-solving sections in the latter half of the game that involve fairly simple tasks like piecing together a torn note or finding a way into a locked building.
One place you will spend most of your time is Zoe and Kaito’s Hideout, an abandoned construction site that doubles as a place to view stickers and listen to cassette tapes you’ve collected while exploring White Sands. Spray paint cans that you find are used to add color to the wall art you are tasked with creating alongside Kaito. Despite having an arcade cabinet to play and other minor activities, I was rarely compelled to spend extended time in the Hideout when given the opportunity, especially since most of the time Zoe is hanging out there alone.
The narrative portions of Mile 0 are permeated by Rides, which are a new skill-based gameplay mechanic introduced in the prequel. These surreal, musically driven skating segments occur during significant events that affect Zoe and Kaito’s relationship. Rides are set to an eclectic 90s-inspired soundtrack that consists of original tunes as well as licensed tracks like The Offspring’s “No Brakes.”
Most of the ten Rides involve playing as both Zoe and Kaito, who use roller skates and a skateboard to glide through each track, respectively. Rides involve dodging obstacles, jumping between rails, and landing QTEs, all while accumulating points for the highest combo possible. Each Ride ends with a final rating, with the option to replay the Ride again to achieve a higher score. If you die multiple times in a row during a Ride, a prompt will appear offering to skip the Ride entirely in favor of continuing the story, which is nice for players who may not prefer these fast-paced musical segments.
Rides provide visual appeal and add story context for certain scenarios while offering an engaging way to progress to the next story beat. Although some Road 96 fans may not jive with the new Rides in Mile 0, I found them to be a fun way to introduce a new gameplay mechanic that helps make formative moments between Zoe and Kaito somewhat more memorable.
At a crossroads
Like the original Road 96, Mile 0 is a narrative-focused game where player choice has an impact on how later events unfold. Important choices often occur during dialogue or within Rides. The types of choices you make will influence Zoe and Kaito’s political disposition, which is indicated by a gauge in the upper corner of the display. Public actions, like tearing down or fixing propaganda posters, will also swing the gauge to one side or another.
Although the game is clear about whether a choice has an impact, you don’t really feel the consequences of your choices until near the end. The game uses auto-saves, which override your progress after each Ride or major event. I experienced several crashes after reaching the second act, causing a loss of progress each time.
Be kind, rewind
Although there is plenty of replayability when it comes to Rides in Mile 0, the same cannot be said for the game as a whole. I was a bit disappointed to find no new content become available after completing the game. There is no chapter select or any way to experience the story with different outcomes without starting over from the beginning. Although I was curious how things might have gone down differently between Zoe and Kaito had I not made the choices I did, I ultimately was not motivated to replay the game again to find out. Nevertheless, Mile 0 is relatively short, as I rolled credits at just under six hours, so a subsequent playthrough shouldn’t take all that long given the ability to skip Rides. For achievement hunters, the good news is that collectible progress is permanent and will carry over into future playthroughs.
Road 96: Mile 0 presents a predictable yet relatable tale about teens pushed to the brink under an oppressive system. The energetic soundtrack, quality voice acting, and comedic moments help balance the heavier themes and darker undertones of the story. The newly added Rides serve to amplify Mile 0’s catchy tunes while adding another means of gameplay interaction beyond dialogue choices and minigames. Despite its shortcomings, the prequel does a decent job at laying the narrative foundation for the events of Road 96 while introducing new gameplay mechanics that cater to a new audience of players.
This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. Road 96: Mile 0 is available Tuesday, April 4, 2023 on PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch for $12.99 USD.
Road 96: Mile 0
- Energetic soundtrack with fun songs
- Rides diversify the gameplay and are skippable
- Creative obstacles during Rides
- Good voice acting
- Comedic moments add charm and levity
- Compelling story that fills in the gaps of the first game
- Crashed multiple times after second act
- Though engaging, the story is predictable
- No New Game+ or additional post-game content
- Limited replayability
Larryn Bell posted a new article, Road 96: Mile 0 review: On the right track