Road 96: Mile 0 | Review – The journey is in the head and in the heart

Road 96: Mile 0 | Review – The journey is in the head and in the heart

Road 96

Escape or stay? This is the question that Road 96: Mile 0 asks the player right from the start. If running away is the only hope, staying instead erases any chance of a fulfilling life. With Road 96 I knew that traveling to reach the border was the only way to leave behind a stormy and fatal past, which had almost erased and dismantled my existence, becoming an unbearable weight to bear. I want to escape to find myself, I want to escape to escape modernity and I want to escape because it's the only feature that keeps me alive. Who wouldn't want to unplug and run away, abandoning modernity and many other existing ancillary situations? Who would willingly escape from an increasingly oppressive and unbearable society, which has no mercy for its children? How many are still certain that being part of it somehow gives an almost mystical aura to their lives?

It is complex to take time for yourself, especially in a world that expects you to follow a lifestyle without any kind of detours. It's like this, you can't escape, it's already decided and you can't do anything about it: it's your destiny. Are you really sure that someone is willing to accept it without saying a word? If for Alexander Supertramp escaping from society was the only way to finally detach from the dictates imposed by her, in Road 96: Mile 0 it is the only way to free himself from a perfidious and oppressive reality, from what everyone commonly calls "dictatorship" . It really is, it is, they don't stay young to live and those few who remain are desperate, alone or marginalized. Those who run away know that there is hope out there, and that beyond the border, a place full of so many possibilities of all kinds, there really is life in every facet just waiting to be embraced.

Developed by DigixArt and written by Yoan Fanise, in Road 96: Mile 0 you come into contact with a middle world made up of lies, fears and much, too much propaganda, in a reality dominated by a power which does not allow replies or any kind of dispute. It could be equated to some undemocratic countries, supported in turn by consumerist and conformist ideals, unwilling to care for young people and their freedom. In Petria, the place chosen to tell the story of Road 96: Mile 0, there is no hope for those born after 86, a catastrophic event that involved all the free and happy people at that time. Even before, however, it was fine: there was the same president, Tyrak, who governed with an iron fist and little humanity. What future can be the one already written and decided by someone who claims to have everything in his hands? What real changes exist for those who know full well that they will end up doing an overwhelming job? What will happen when he is totally, and not just partially, so busy that he can't even pursue his own passions ?


These questions, if asked of today's young people and some millennials, would probably receive the same answers. I even imagine in the same tone, at this point, with that typical bitterness and sad regret that outlines missed opportunities and impossible moments to relive as they once did. The new work by Yoan Fanise, designed to lead the player to these conclusions, also reflects on another great drama that is completely underestimated but which has now, especially in recent weeks, reached the entire public opinion. Why does someone flee their country? What leads him to cross the sea or in this case a border? And why should it be supported and helped ?

--> More questions, you say. I would agree with you. The right questions, when made up of sound thinking, are the best that anyone can answer. Road 96: Mile 0 is a project born immediately after the success of Road 96, in which the weight of the journey in all its facets told the player something new and original. The prequel dedicated to it, on the other hand, tells of the origins of the journey of two different boys but united by a deep friendship, supported by continuous dreams and hopes that they hope to materialize. It's the dream that anyone would want to be free, happy and fulfilled, the kind of dream that belongs to everyone and not a few. The dream of a new life , made up of different interpretations and perhaps of serenity . The life that everyone – myself included – pursues, hoping to hold it in their hands as soon as possible.

Doubt or awareness?

The prequel tells the story of Zoe Muller and Kaito, two young people who they isolate themselves from the world and reality of White Sands so as not to be completely absorbed by the dictatorship of Tyrak, a cruel president who governs Petria with an iron fist, crafting for his people the illusion of a happy and peaceful life, with false hopes surrounded by the usual grand proclamations. Anyone who tries to challenge him, or tries to question his authority, is immediately arrested and expelled from society. Accusations of being part of the Black Brigades, a combative opposition group, are the order of the day and many citizens of White Sands, as of all of Petria, are arrested on the alleged charge of collaborating with it. Sometimes even reasons are invented because of the president's paranoia and others because he is sure that they are surrounded by snakes inside. A man without trust in his people should not govern, especially if his political measures, designed for the exploitation of people and the environment, make the social fabric by now totally jagged.

- -> Escaping is the only possibility, the only way of salvation for those who are creative, a free person and know well that a price for freedom will always exist. But let's be clear, even if the villain has a name, a surname and a role, it doesn't mean that others are so different. Zoe and Kaito live these conditions as kids who, until some time before, would never have questioned if they were really free and happy. They only knew that they were in a glass ampoule, and as long as someone remains inside it, not uttering a word or demanding anything, one is always right. Never question society, the rules, let alone who's in charge. The punishment is exemplary, and does not immediately lead to killing or sudden disappearance. First there is isolation, which takes place in a methodological and brutal way, without any kind of mercy.

Kaito and Zoe, on the other hand, don't seem to care much about being isolated. Indeed, they prefer it: the less contact they have with Tyrak's reality, the happier and freer they are to be themselves. They are two boys from different walks of life, with Zoe Muller being the daughter of the oil minister, while Kaito lives in the suburbs with his two parents who immigrated from another country, reduced to being street cleaners for pennies and lots of poverty. They count the money they honestly earn every day and it's never enough. Petria's society does not give others the same opportunities: the poor are left behind, while the rich can do what they want with impunity, even committing crimes for which they would in no way be convicted by an impartial judiciary. The latter, precisely, is kept in check by Tyrak himself, who makes sure that every law is followed to the letter.

This company, for the two boys, begins to feel so close as to be by now completely unbearable. They live it with consternation, making their days heavier because they are aware that there are no further possibilities and there will continue to be none. The only possibilities to stay anchored to the future are to try to change things and improve them. A dream in which Kaito firmly believes, while Zoe has doubts and is not yet fully aware of what is happening around her. She is sure that her father is a wise and thoughtful man, capable of finding solutions in a simple and effective way, not getting into trouble, but it is just yet another illusion.

The narration of Road 96: Mile 0, just like the previous chapter which takes place a few months after the events recounted here, above all enhances the bond between Zoe and Kaito, two souls who find themselves running and thinking of a way to connect to the rest. Treated in a mature and intelligent way, their story is effective and simple, told in a clear way with the aim of triggering an inner reasoning to the player that was already present in the previous chapter. In this sense, Road 96: Mile 0 is a mature work not only for the topics covered but because it enhances every particularity in a multifaceted and unique way with intelligence and ability.

Yoan Fanise, director of this new and touching work, it proves as usual a certainty when it comes to having to tell a story and exalt its characters. If Road 96 was all about reaching the border, then Road 96: Mile 0 is the escape that underpins it all. An escape that Kaito has been thinking about and dreaming of for a long time, while Zoe, undecided about what to do, doesn't know how to interface with the news arriving from the government building, from the voices on the streets of White Sands that speak of missing boys who knows where and completely in disarray, reduced to starvation. Two young people who confront each other to find a new way to escape from any kind of existential plan already set up to really live. There is no morality in such a world. There is no ethics, it no longer exists and there is no hope. Escape is the only hope.

Road 96: Mile 0: an effective and layered gameplay

Forget the mechanics already seen in the past with Road 96. As I mentioned, Road 96: Mile 0 embraces a totally different style, adapting in an exemplary way to a game structure that affects and entertains. Halfway between a narrative adventure with a strong presence of dialogues and halfway between a dynamic adventure, Road 96: Mile 0 is a production that gets to the goal without overdoing it, adding a freer exploration of the game world and in general of White Sands, net of the absence of secondary missions and similar activities. The purpose of Road 96: Mile 0 is to be a glue with the narrative of the previous chapter, thus proposing an unprecedented and linear game structure. Although there are choices that can determine the plot, with inevitable consequences that can change the fate of the characters and the game world in general, Road 96: Mile 0 is a work full of nuances especially on a playful level. Strong and courageous, able to entertain and impress, the work has the ability to particularly enhance the backbone of game design .

Generic photos Although it does not propose anything too different from the past, Road 96: Mile 0 is a first-person adventure that pushes the player to take as much time as necessary to passionately and multifacetedly explore a small but still precisely structured game world. Obviously do not expect an open world that can overwhelm you, because this is not the plan of the work nor is it the main objective of Yoan Fanise. The French game designer is famous for combining different approaches in his video games, and in this case he has added a very different moral line from the past. During the experience, in fact, it will be possible to impersonate both Zoe and Kaito, living moments of their lives. They will change points of view, they will get excited and they will also have to understand who to be. If Zoe is undecided and in doubt about Tyrak's regime, it is above all thanks to Kaito, that she never seems to think totally with her head. The goal of the work, in fact, is to become aware of one's choices. This happens through the discovery of one's own sensibilities and in general in moments on board a skateboard or on rollerblades, in which authorial compositions from pop, rock and metal music accompany the protagonists for the entire narrative arc of the production.

Engaging, effective and precise, it represents a game structure adapted to send the player a valuable message of hope. Discovering is the most human and comfortable side that exists, understanding yourself is the absolute best, absorbing your own experiences and understanding where you want to go are the secret to being happy. The purpose of the work, supported by an effective and characteristic game structure, reaches the goal once again. Was it simple? I don't know, but it's certainly not for everyone to condense excellent ideas well exploited in so six hours of play, which can inevitably double if you decide to tackle the work by choosing different paths. In fact, replayability is the main aspect of the production, because it allows us to understand what happens to a character and what his real emotions are .

On the run for oneself, and not only…

On the technical side we have nothing to complain about, so much so that the same graphic engine and the same style used are the same ones already seen with Road 96. The visual impact has only been adjusted in general, which consequently offers landscapes, beautiful views and settings to see and experience. The artistic direction, skilfully adapted to the purpose, has always been the strong point of the works of Yoan Fanise. If in the past many have realized it thanks to Valiant Hearts: The Great World and 11-11: Memories Retold, it is because the game designer from beyond the Alps knows how to combine gameplay, history and visual art, fitting in a careful and passionate way all these characteristics.

When a work of this caliber comes on the market, I really think we should all be happy. If a game of this caliber speaks to the hearts of the players and does so in a political way, thus putting politics into video games, this is very good news. It means that the player is seen in an intelligent way, that there is really an interest in understanding how to deal with certain situations and that, perhaps, there is even a way to show oneself different. To prove yourself free. And freedom is the real hope, a sea outside everything, beyond borders.

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