Gaming is slowly becoming more recognized as a medium to deliver art and tell stories in a much better way than books or film can. This is due to the interactive experience which games bring to the table, something which movies and prose will never be able to imitate due to their nature of being simply pictures on a screen or words on paper. While some games have a linear story to tell, others choose a much more free-forming adventure, based primarily on the player’s choices. Road 96 from Digixart is surely one of these latter types of games.
Road 96 starts off by placing you in the shoes of a runaway, a teenager intent on leaving Petria at all costs. Petria is the central location of the game, and you will move ever closer to the border, the point which could take you away from all the chaos going on, especially with elections inching ever closer. These elections are a big deal in the country because the current leader, Tyrak, looks to be somewhat of a dictator, imposing a multitude of laws on freedom and legislation targeted at people trying to leave Petria, which is why it is so important to your character that this leader is not re-elected.
In Road 96, you play in first person, and never get to see the individual you are controlling. You do get a silhouette that is generally indicative of the sex of your character, but that is all the features you will get to see from them, not that it matters much. A banner with a number of silhouettes resembling the playable character ones will appear from time to time on several surfaces as well, indicating that these persons are fugitives, and anyone has to report to Petria Police with their whereabouts. It all slowly adds to a sense of unease that you are never safe while you still are in the country.
The beauty of Road 96 kicks off immediately when you start playing, as this is very much a “build your own adventure” game, with tons of routes where the game can go and everything depends on your choices and decisions. Even in the very beginning of the game, a number of questions are asked to the player to determine the first loading spot of your adventure, adding yet another layer to how important your decisions are in the scope of the game.
Playing the game you will realize that there are an incredible amount of scenarios involving the main characters who you can meet throughout your adventure, and each playthrough will never be the same as previous ones, showing off once again the great variety that Road 96 can boast. There are usually a number of things you can do inside a chapter that can affect the outcome of both the current session as well as the campaign as a whole; Road 96 features a series of playthroughs the decisions of which carry over to the next one, so that your decisions with repercussions in the future, marked with an icon next to whatever your options in the situations are. These decisions could be straight up involving the current political leaders, Tyrak or Florres, or more subtle options about your quest to leave Petria.
What definitely sticks out from Road 96 is all the different things you can actually do while playing the fugitive. Apart from the people you can meet and have adventures with, there are also a number of activities you can engage in; like finding under which cup the ball is hiding, playing air hockey, having a penalty shootout or even playing pong at an arcade. The experience all blends in to create a single, unique journey that feels almost as if the players themselves are on the run from all the tension in their home country.
Apart from all the things you can do, the main characters in the game have also a unique personality and you will get to cherish these characters through the episodes that you have with them. Zoe is the first one who comes to mind as she is the one who is most like you – a teen rebel trying to escape Petria. She’s the one I felt was the one who understands your own character the most since she is on the run as well. Other characters like Alex or Fanny have distinct traits which make you emphasize with them all the same. Character design in Road 96 is superb, and every single one of these “main” individuals have very fleshed out personalities that will make you want to run into them again to uncover even more of their backstory.
The soundtrack is another one of the game’s many strong points. Available even over a month prior to release, a number of tracks from various artists give the game a special feel to it. There are your peaceful, mellow tracks to guide you while you’re driving or in a car with someone, and even tense music which will play in moments of panic and tension. Audio work on the title is great as well, with good sound effects and voice acting throughout. You can really feel the passion when Zoe is talking about her past, or the hype when Stan and Mich are yet again shouting their names out loud.
As mentioned previously, Road 96 is an exceptional game that will take you through so many different episodes with different characters that none of your playthroughs or your friends’ playthroughs will ever be the same. There’s great variety to anything doable inside the game to ensure that your experiences will always feel unique, and Digixart have definitely nailed it right on the head. It is sure to be one of the games of the year, as it’s something unlike anything we’ve ever played before.
Be sure to grab Road 96 as it launches on Steam and Nintendo Switch today!
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