Road 96: Mile 0 Preview - A Promising Start

Road 96: Mile 0 is the prequel to road trip adventure game Road 96 that we didn't know we needed. Check our preview to find out why.

Published: March 1, 2023 10:00 AM /

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Road 96: Mile 0 Preview Key Art

If you couldn't get enough of 2021's Road 96, then you'll be happy to hear that the prequel, titled Road 96: Mile 0, is almost upon us. This prequel promises to expand on the backstory of the original game's most interesting characters, but the real question is whether or not it'll be able to fix the issues of the previous game and deliver a genuinely killer experience. We were lucky enough to get our hands on the first 80 minutes of the game to see where DigixArt is going with this franchise. 

Road 96: Mile 0 Preview - A Shocking Beginning

Road 06 Mile 0 Preview - Kaito Screenshot

If you were coming into Road 96: Mile 0 fresh off the previous game, then you might be slightly jarred by the change in gameplay. While the original title was a road-trip-based adventure game that saw you controlling multiple characters attempting the same journey, Mile 0 is more of an adventure-game, rhythm-platformer hybrid. The game even starts out with a new character in a rhythm sequence, requiring you to skateboard along a huge track, jumping and ducking obstacles to the beat, and collecting points for pickups and not making mistakes. 

It's a bit of a culture shock for a series that was 100% about the narrative in the last outing, but surprisingly it ended up being a welcome change. While these new rhythms mini-games are relatively fast-paced, they also move the story forward by metaphorically explaining certain events or linking between scenes and allowing you to make choices as you go. It's a much more dynamic way to get the player involved in the storyline, and it helps to keep the energy up between sections of interacting with characters and making decisions. 

Road 96: Mile 0 Preview - Character Focus

Road 96 Mile 0 Preview - Zoe Screenshot

Another change here that is very welcome is more of a focus on a smaller group of characters. While the story of the original game was interesting, it was somewhat hyperactive in delivery in a way that was quite confusing and immersion-breaking. This time, you're only focusing on two characters, or at least, you only directly control two characters. You still see and speak to lots of people, and there are plenty of appearances of characters you'll be familiar with from the main game. That said, the focus is very much kept on the relationship between Zoe and Kaito. 

Choosing to focus on Zoe was also a fantastic idea. She has by far the most interesting backstory from the previous game, and getting to learn more about what led this mysterious teenager to life on the road is a great hook. On top of that, since Mile 0 is set in a single location, rather than bouncing around to many different places, you get to learn in greater detail what daily life is like for people in the world. It really helps to give you a sense of what people are trying to escape from when we see so many of them trying to leave the country. 

Road 96: Mile 0 Preview - Character Dichotomy 

Road 96 Mile 0 Preview - Kaito and Zoe Screenshot

One of the much-touter focuses of Road 96: Mile 0, and one that is extremely hard to ignore while playing is the big difference between the two characters. Zoe is the daughter of a wealthy government official, while Kaito is the son of two members of the city's working class. This obviously gives them widely different perspectives and opinions on the country and the government, and this is probably the biggest focus of the interactions and decisions made between the two, though it's not without its potential problems. 

The issue is that the choices you make are plotted on a binary meter called your doubt. It's a stat that reports how you feel about your homeland versus your desire to question what you know and potentially leave it behind. The main reason this is potentially concerning is that we know that Zoe eventually does leave, so it feels a bit weird to see her able to make choices that directly oppose that future decision. That said, there is every chance that this factor is handled well in the storyline of the final game, so it's not necessarily a deadly flaw. 

Road 96: Mile 0 Preview - Focusing on Strengths

Road 96 Mile 0 Preview - Kaito Skateboarding Screenshot

One of the most promising things about Mile 0 is how it has chosen to focus on the strengths of the original game. The new heavier focus on music is welcome, as this was a great element of the original game. Also, the adventure-game mechanics that were used on many minor locations in the previous game also work incredibly well in a more sandbox-style location, giving you more of a reason to explore. On that front, there's also the return of the collectibles to pick up as you explore the world, now featuring the awesome songs in the game. 

The gameplay is also incredibly replayable, mostly because these gameplay sections are fast-paced and can be replayed at any time from the main menu. Actually, scratch that. The biggest reason is probably the music itself. I was just settling in for an entire game of original music after the opening track when the second gameplay segment featured No Brakes by The Offspring. There's a wealth of interesting music, with much of it themed around the popular music of the 90s to be in keeping with the game's 1996 setting. 

The Final Thought

Overall, I enjoyed Road 96: Mile 0 more than I did the original game, and I only got to play the opening 80 minutes of it. If I was unaware of the game before, I am now genuinely excited for it to drop. The greater focus on the game's awesome soundtrack and the more interesting gameplay segments help to keep the energy up, and the interesting story is now much more understandable and focused rather than being all over the place. If the developers can tie this one off with some more awesome stages and a satisfying ending, then there's no reason this won't be a fantastic experience. 

TechRaptor previewed Road 96: Mile 0 on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer. 

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Will has been writing about video games professionally since 2016 and has covered everything from AAA game reviews to industry events and everything in… More about William