Road 96 released in 2021 to general acclaim, with Player 2’s own Chris Lawn calling it “an emotional and politically heavy story” and “easily one of the best games of 2021”. For fans of narrative adventures, Road 96 provided a fresh perspective with the inclusion of roguelike elements that really made each story feel unique, and uniquely yours. The prequel, Road 96: Mile 0, focuses on Zoe – a prominent character from the original game who the player meets on the road as both flee the city of Petria in search of a better life – and Kaito – a character from narrative rhythm game Lost in Harmony – and aims to show how Zoe made the choice to leave Petria in the first place, as well as her role in some of the events outlined in Road 96. After spending an hour or so with a preview of the game, I’m excited by the way these two game series merge together, and feel confident that this prequel is going to be just as emotionally affecting as its predecessor.
Much of Mile 0’s gameplay will feel familiar to those who have played Road 96. You will largely spend your time walking through environments, interacting with objects in the world and talking with other characters about the state of Petria, subtly trying to convey where you stand politically while discerning whether or not they feel the same. You can choose to respond to certain statements in a way that questions the current state of the government, or that sheds doubt on the truth of what you’ve previously been told, with both eventually leading to narrative consequences of varying sizes. These narrative sections seem to all be focused on Zoe, with the choices contributing to to whether she chooses to keep the faith in the views of her father, who is the Minister of Oil underneath Petria’s dictator Tyrak, or chooses to listen to Kaito’s voice of skepticism and doubt what’s really going on outside the bubble she lives in. Given the choice has firmly been made by Road 96, I’m interested to see how these polar opposite possibilities will influence the way the story turns out.
Kaito, though a newcomer to the world of Road 96, fits in seamlessly with the game’s world – as does the rhythmic gameplay of his own game, Lost in Harmony. In between the narrative exploration scenes that make up most of the game, Kaito and Zoe will enter into a dreamlike state that has them skating through the world and avoiding obstacles in a rhythmic runner. In these sections (all of which can be replayed), you’ll switch between playing as Kaito and Zoe, with the two occasionally moving in sync and sometimes taking their own paths, often in keeping with what’s going on at that point in the story. Some of Zoe’s sections also include moments that ask you to choose your path, with the world changing around you depending on your selection. It’s an interesting way to merge the two forms of gameplay, and I can’t wait to see more of these moments in the full game.
Though I only got a taste of what’s to come from this preview, it seems it’s going to force the player to carefully consider their actions, much like Road 96 did. Zoe and Kaito’s relationship can develop in different directions depending on your interactions, and I’m curious to see what this might mean. From what I could gather in my brief time trying out Lost in Harmony after playing this preview (I plan to play a bunch more, and if you’re interested to see how the rhythm sections of this game play, they’re not too different to the sequences in the mobile title) Mile 0 is set after the events of Kaito’s game, but before the events of Zoe’s, which places both characters in an interesting place for those who already know a little about each of them. They’re both facing some complex demons in a world that is hopeless for many, and I’m sure their respective journeys to decide on their next steps in life are going to be emotional to experience.
Just as Road 96’s introduction of roguelike mechanics into a traditionally linear genre made for a fresh experience, Road 96: Mile 0’s addition of rhythm levels that tell stories in a new way make this game one I’ll be keeping a close eye on. What I experienced of the soundtrack absolutely slapped (hello, The Offspring), and every moment was immersive – from the musical interludes to the heavy dialogues, and every environmentally-inspired minigame in between. If the preview is anything to go by, Road 96: Mile 0 looks like it’s going to be an emotional breath of fresh air when it releases on April 4th on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PC, and Switch. You can watch a trailer for the game here.
Time Until Launch (April 4, 2023)
Player 2 was kindly given access to a PC preview build of Road 96: Mile 0 by PLAION.