Road 96: Mile 0 review | Teen spirit

Road 96 Mile 0

Actions speak louder than words in Digixart’s adventure prequel, Road 96: Mile 0. Here’s our review of a fitting travelling companion.


As a feat of narrative design, Road 96 was one of the highlights of 2021. The script of its story-led adventures may have shot wide of the mark at times, but the layered structure of its various plot threads, woven throughout a series of road trips, was remarkably deft. And while prequel Mile 0 takes on a more stationary tale, focused on runaway teen character Zoe before she hit the road, it largely repeats the trick.

Once again, you’re in Petria, a fictional dictatorship ruled by one President Tyrak, in which inequality is rife and people go missing if they dare to protest. Not that Zoe notices, since she’s the daughter of the Minister of Oil, one of the president’s prime lackeys, and has little insight into the have nots. She is, however, cooped up and bored.

Whereas Road 96 took place on the open highways, Mile 0 restricts you to the capital city, and within that the small enclave Zoe inhabits. Here she spends her days doing, well, not much – mostly hanging out with best friend (and second playable character) Kaito, who hails from the wrong side of the tracks, indulging their shared appreciation of lounging around an abandoned construction site ‘hideout’, tagging, music, petty crime, and skating.

Genre: Story-led adventure | Format: PC, PS4, PS5 (tested), Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series | Developer: Digixart | Publisher: Ravenscourt, Plaion | Price: £10.99 | Release date: 4 April
Road 96: Mile 0

Credit: Digixart.

Although, skating isn’t so much something Zoe and Kaito do in the game as a kind of metaphor for their ambitions to leave the city behind for freedom. Mile 0 kicks off with one of a series of musical sequences in which the pair jump, duck and steer along paths conjured up in their imaginations. There are heavy echoes of developer Digixart’s first game, Lost in Harmony here, in which Kaito was the star. But an even greater influence in these sections has surely come from Simogo’s Sayonara Wild Hearts, because frankly they’re almost identical.

At least these sequences are a very accomplished piece of imitation. As in Wild Hearts, they’re like choreographed music videos, pulling you through diverse backgrounds from diverse perspectives, asking you to nail your cues in line with the rhythm. While they aren’t quite so perfectly stylish as the electro-pop aesthetic of Simogo’s game, their colourfully eclectic chaos absolutely suits the teenage leads. The only blot on their copybook is some occasional camera and visibility issues, as the view swirls a little too much, but as with Wild Hearts these are countered by learning the patterns, which is essential anyway if you want to retry for higher scores.

The narrative value of these sections makes them shine that bit brighter as well, with the vibe and pace of different tunes dipping into the psyches of the two protagonists or taking you through exaggerated fantasies of unfolding events. In one case, for example, control switches back and forth between Zoe and Kaito in radically opposed landscapes as Kaito tries to convince Zoe of the truth behind Petria’s regime, while another turns into an absurd chase as Zoe tries to escape the attentions of her new bodyguard. These are consistent highlights that pin together an otherwise freeform bundle of activities.

Indeed, between these sequences, you often lack specific aims, at least early on. Road 96 was always about moving forward along a single trajectory towards the border, but here Zoe is static. Each segment of the game starts in the hideout, where you hang out with Kaito for a while and pass the time with one-off games like a session of truth or dare. Then he has to head off, so you lie around listening to music, or practice your graffiti, until you’ve had enough and wander into one of the game’s three other locations to see what’s happening there.

Credit: Digixart

This absence of defined objectives is a little frustrating at first, because it’s not obvious how to move the story forward, but it’s soon clear that it neatly meshes together with Zoe’s situation. In effect, you’re playing an RPG character who happens to be a bored teenager with tons of time on her hands, bouncing like a mopey Pong ball between her neighbourhood and the town square. Rather than objectives, you just sort of loiter until an opportunity for improvised mischief arises.

Outside the hideout, then, you chat to locals, tag propaganda posters, and rifle through bins for collectibles. Eventually you’ll happen upon a character who needs you to do something more substantial, and once you’ve completed that task you launch into another music sequence, and the story continues. These more substantial things include, say, figuring out how to break into a shed by searching your surroundings for things to interact with. Or sometimes they take the form of breezy mini-games, like when you fill in for Kaito on his paper round and the scene turns into a Virtua Cop style rail shooter.

At the same time, though, the story is as much about Kaito as it is Zoe, and for a chunk of the game you switch places to walk in his shoes. Mile 0’s real achievement here is in contrasting their experiences, showing how the same city functions from two different perspectives with two very different levels of privilege. As Zoe, you play as an entitled rich person. Workers’ eyes fill with fear when you strike up conversation with them, knowing the power Zoe has over them thanks to her status and being desperate not to let their work rate drop. When Kaito speaks to cops and rich people, conversely, they treat him with suspicion or subject him to abuse

Through the eyes of Kaito, your teenage hijinks also take on a more serious tone. Tagging a poster as Zoe is a rebellious act made by boredom, and she knows she’ll never get in real trouble. With Kaito it seems genuinely defiant, done for a cause, but also risky. Indeed, one of the mini-game scenarios you play as Kaito involves trying to get through a police interrogation without arousing too much suspicion, which isn’t something Zoe has to worry about. Yet playing as Zoe is also thus like being kept at arm’s length from the real plot, as if you’re stuck on the game’s periphery, until you almost envy Kaito because he gets to feel something real.

Road 96: Mile 0

Credit: Digixart

As with Road 96, however, the emotional subtleties of Mile 0’s mechanics rub against cartoonish writing and perfunctory voiceovers. There’s also a tonal imbalance between brash satire and social issue drama, as villains such as government media mouthpiece Sonya Sanchez are crudely comic, while the likes of Kaito’s downtrodden parents are serious and sympathetic. Still, Zoe and Kaito often hold this disparity together because their combination of teenage pranks and teenage angst spans humour and pathos with appreciably human nuance, and because their futures are very much in the balance. It’s only the final act that lets them down a little, as it takes a rather right-angled turn rather than a smooth curve to leave Zoe where she was in the original game. Choices you’ve made to that point affect how it goes down, but the set up doesn’t quite click together.

Also, while Mile 0 does more than Road 96 in showing Petria’s oppression and tightly enforced class divisions, its politics remain a little shallow. Throughout the game, minor decisions either cement Zoe’s trust in her father or cause doubt, and push Kaito towards or away from a revolutionary mind set, but it’s rarely much of a quandary, since it’s very clear that Zoe’s father and Tyrak are not good eggs. And then, while the plot goes to decent lengths to show why people may be looking to escape the country or join the ‘Black Brigades’ resistance, it yet again pulls the same ‘but what if they’re bad guys too?’ routine that implies moral equivalence between the oppressors and those fighting back.

Even so, Mile 0 is further evidence that Digixart has a real knack for creating impressionist portraits of people and places by leaning first and foremost not on words but on varied forms of interactivity. There’s more effective storytelling here in a three-minute skating sequence than many games muster with reams of dialogue.


As a chronicle of teenage lives, the soundtrack is crucial to Mile 0’s success, both in its skating sequences and elsewhere. Zoe still has a soft spot for government sanctioned boy band The Little Tyrax, and to be fair they have some catchy songs, but there’s plenty there for the more discerning young listener too.


A fitting travelling companion for Road 96 with its own smart narrative devices.



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