Road 96: Mile 0 offers a fresh look into the beginnings of an unforgettable road trip | Hands-on preview

by on March 1, 2023

Although I’ve only played a small part of the final game, Road 96: Mile 0 is quite a departure from Digixart’s previous title in the series. I adored Road 96, and found the characters struggling in the oppressive fictional country of Petria both funny and emotional. For those not in the know, you played through various character’s stories as they made their way cross country to the border of Petria, learning about its leader President Tyrak. Some people will agree with his policies while others don’t and it’s up to you to make your own mind up while taking part in mini puzzles and gameplay sections in fun and exciting ways.

The story of Mile 0 follows Zoe and Kaito, and acts as a prequel to Road 96. Trapped in the political landscape between Tyrak and Senator Florres, both Zoe and Kaito feel significantly different about Petria’s leadership. Both have reasons for feeling the way they do, but despite arguing and debating their own personal opinions, their friendship shines brighter. They’re two kids who have experienced hardships as a result of certain events and the running of their country, but their mutual love and respect for each other is seen in every interaction.

They care deeply for each other, but there’s always that danger of their beliefs having the ability to tear them apart. It’s an idea that is close to home for many, especially when you think about how conversations about politics can often cause hostility and disagreements within your own family and friend circles. I was instantly gripped by how Digixart’s has built their friendship and their world, especially when you’re chilling at Zoe and Kaito’s hideout. It is there where they share their deepest secrets and feelings, but you get to relax and chat about non-important stuff, as well as paint slogans or logos on your walls. Despite wanting to draw genitalia on the wall, I opted for a cry for peace that most can identify with, scrawling ‘boobs not bombs’ in red and blue spray paint.

While that heart is ever present in Road 96: Mile 0, it’s gameplay so far feels much different, specifically the musical sections where you play through on-rails skateboarding/roller-skating levels. You can jump over or duck under obstacles and collect diamonds, all while listening to some fantastic tracks. They feel like an amalgamation of the stunt races in Grand Theft Auto, Guitar Hero, and Mario Kart, and while simple, they break up the story progression and first-person bits with a carefree breeze through the worlds of Road 96: Mile 0.

Perhaps my favourite of these music levels came in the form of a parellel trip through Colton City. Kaito is trying to convince Zoe why Tyrak’s reign has caused so much poverty and pain for so many, but Zoe seems sheltered to the realities. She sees beautiful scenery where houses are surrounded by white picket fences, whereas Kaito sees somewhere littered with dilapidated properties and homelessness. The music is excellent once again, and features a range of genres from electro to punk. Some of the artists I hadn’t heard of before, but when The Offspring came on, I was more than impressed by the soundtrack.

When you’re not in these musical sections, you’ll wander around various parts of the city. Oasis Villas is where Zoe lives with her father; Tyrak Square is at the centre of Colton; and the Presidential Park features a an upcoming Tyrak rally. It is in these areas where you can talk to people and complete small minigames, but also learn more about the story and characters at Road 96: Mile 0’s heart. When at Presidential Park, I helped Kaito sabotage what was going to play through the speakers on and around the stage where the rally was to take place, but in doing so, I was responsible for injuring some of the workers. Choices effect the outcome of the story, or so it seems at this point, with Zoe either becoming more inclined to believe Kaito about Tyrak or choosing to ignore his suspicious and controversial regime.

Although I’ve only played around an hour of Road 96: Mile 0, I can’t wait to see more of the story and play through more of the musical levels. Zoe was always one of my favourite characters from Road 96, and it’s so good she’s become the focus of the prequel. It’s a tale that can be related to, whether through the political drama or the personal stories of its characters, and the gameplay features lots of variety, even if some of it is more to give players a break from wandering around and talking to people. If the soundtrack remains as good as it is at present and the story keeps me hooked, it has the potential to be one of the best indie titles of the year.

Road 96: Mile 0 is coming to PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on 4 April, 2023.