Road 96: Mile 0 is smaller and more intimate than its predecessor
We caught up with director Yoan Fanise and tried out an hour of the game, which arrives in April.
I have to admit, I was really looking forward to getting back on the road that Digixart is asphalting so carefully. And I may have sounded very enthusiastic when I gave Road 96 a 10 in my review in Gamereactor Spain, but the truth is that its story and narrative completely grabbed me on those hot August days in 2021.
It's been a while, but the small French studio had one more story to tell us about Petria, President Tyrak and, most importantly, its two young protagonists, Zoe and Kaito (yes, the same Kaito from Lost in Harmony, the studio's first title). Because Road 96: Mile 0, which is coming in early April, is a much more restrained adventure than the first title, and it feels a lot more intimate, as here it's not completely tied to the choices we make or putting the puzzle pieces of the character together with the procedural narrative.
These features are evident in the first few minutes of the hour-long demo I was able to try out, which was preceded by a talk from Yoan Fanise, the game's director, who we interviewed a few months ago. In it, the developer confirmed that this would be a smaller adventure that would take place two months before the events of Road 96, that it would talk about the roots of the character's motivations, and that it would also respect the player's journey in the first game.
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"We wanted to be respectful to decisions and consequences that players have chosen, so we made a prequel instead of a second part," Fanise noted.
Road 96: Mile 0 also moves away from the political message that was (not so) hidden in Road 96, and instead replaces it with a new narrative through music and its representation of teen emotions, and in Fanise's words, "the construction of identity and the transition to adulthood". However, it is meant to be an adventure that can be enjoyed even in one or two playing sessions, thanks to the accessibility. I have also found this in these early stages of the game, in which in addition to digging deeper into the background and motivations of the characters, I have also seen that in the new music parts - which are more tests of reflexes to the music than anything else, every time I made a big mistake the game would take me back to a few moments before the stumble. It's part of the philosophy of opening your arms to any player, even those who are just starting out. Fanise clarified, "I don't like games that block progression, we've made sure there are lots of ways to progress through the adventure", without puzzles or musical score levels stopping anyone.
Even so, and despite its differences with Road 96, some of its core elements are here, such as the design and the artwork, the point and click control, and of course, the emotional background it leaves behind. It's not a linear adventure, but it's easy to move between sections where the narrative develops thanks to a central hub, which is that abandoned construction site we see in the game's artwork. From here, we'll access different environments in Shandy Sands, and we'll also meet some familiar faces, which I won't talk about to avoid spoiling the surprise. It's enough to say that now I have a broader understanding of certain characters in Road 96, as Mile 0 takes place two months before the beginning of the first game.
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What I've seen so far has me intrigued, as it was a very short preview (although the game is short too), but it has all the elements I loved the first game for: a great story, well-built characters, a clear social message and a metaphor about the world we live in. Road 96: Mile 0 is the beginning of the story, and I have high expectations when the title arrives on April 4.