LadiesGamers Road 96

Road 96 Review 

Game: Road 96
Genre: Adventure, Action
System: Steam (Also on Nintendo Switch)
Developer|Publisher: Digixart
Age Rating: EU 16+ | US Teen
Price:  UK £16.96 | US $19.96 | € 19,99
Release Date: August 16th, 2021

Review code provided with many thanks Digixart

Untested Waters 

Coming up with an original concept is a risky business when it comes to the gaming industry. The big gaming companies tend not to take many risks these days on new ideas, instead opting for projects which often feel pretty similar year after year. But this formula does seem to be working and keeping the big folk in business. Why rock the boat when what is working right now is still working?

So once again it’s on the shoulders of indie developers to try the untested waters of new ideas. Road 96 is a game that piqued my interest with its trailer. A procedurally generated rogue-lite game with a heavy emphasis on narrative. Could such a risky idea work? Well dear reader, the answer to that lies in the paragraphs below.

LadiesGamers Road 96
Let’s stop at the party

Back in the Fictitious 90s

The game is set in 1996 (I see what you did there) in the fictitious country of Petria.  The country is ruled by a tyrannical president known as Tyrak. The youth of the country have had enough and several teens are making their way to the northern border in the hopes of a better life. Before a run, a news report plays and you get to choose one of these missing teens to play as. Each has a starting amount of money, stamina and is a set distance from the border. So you can either think carefully about your choice or just do what I did and randomly pick one and accept the fate the rogue gods give you.

Once you make a decision the adventure begins in the first-person perspective. From there you enter several gameplay segments with your main goal being to make it to the border safely. Monitoring your fatigue meter is essential for survival. You need to search for food and find somewhere to rest. The bar usually drains with travel and if it reaches zero the run is over. You can also die or fail by other means. Make the wrong dialogue choice or make someone very angry or, dare I say, hitch the wrong ride and your adventure once again could come to an end.

Money is also a very useful commodity. This can be earned by completing various mini-quests in the game or by finding it hidden in the world. This can then be used in exchange for food, transport and a better place to sleep.  As you play through the game you will meet multiple recurring characters whose stories are all interlinked the more you play the game. This by far is Road 96’s most interesting draw. Each of the characters is incredibly well developed, mostly friendly, one kinda terrifying. I loved hearing more about their backstory, the more I progressed in the game. It’s also nice attention to detail when the characters you meet make reference to decisions made in previous runs. 

LadiesGamers Road 96
I need a lift

First Run Woes

Let me walk you through my first run of the game. Playing as an unarmed teen in the first person perspective I was walking along the road in a desert-like wasteland. I then came to a petrol station (or gas station). Here I was forced to pump gas for the nasty owner of the business or he would tell the police on me. Still, the police arrived anyway and were suspicious of me. Somehow by making the right dialogue choices I managed to get out of that tricky situation.

Then for some reason, I decided to continue my journey walking on the road where I ended up passing out and getting arrested by the police anyway. I was a little confused by this and needless to say it didn’t leave the best first impression on me. But, I’m glad I fired up the game again because after my second run I was hooked!

LadiesGamers Road 96
A pause to play some games

Make Your Choices

The biggest emphasis here is on the title’s story. As you make your long road trip to the border you will meet the same key characters over and over, learning a little more about them each time. There is a lot of dialogue but you get to make multiple choices on how to steer the conversations. If you pay close attention you can also have an impact on the political side of the story as well as making a huge impact on the choices the main cast of characters will make in the future.

LadiesGamers Road 96
Not sure my character is old enough to drive

Mini Games

It’s not all about the story though. Road 96 is constantly throwing mini-games at you to interact with like playing the trumpet, Connect 4, a Pong like game, Air Hockey… the list is pretty endless. Troupes are rarely repeated and it’s really hard not to keep playing this game to see what happens next.

Once again failure won’t end your run but success will bare some helpful rewards. Controls for the game are simple to use and on PC you get the choice of keyboard and mouse or controller. 

LadiesGamers Road 96
A nice walk in the country

Beautiful Wasteland

The graphics are quite stunning at times. The style feels quite reminiscent of games like Life is Strange, where you have 3D models which look almost painted. Considering the game is set in a desert wasteland there is some impressive attention to detail in this game.

Then there is that brilliant 90s inspired soundtrack. Music tends to kick in at just the right moments when the story gets emotional or tense. As you explore the environments you can also find cassette tapes which you can play in various boom boxes or car radios dotted around the place at your leisure. I was very quick to purchase this soundtrack on Steam. 

LadiesGamers Road 96
Some rides you don’t want to take

Conclusion – Road Trip to Remember

Road 96 is a glorious achievement in game creation. Once I got to know the characters and played two runs of this game I was hooked until the end. It’s a game that I thought about when I wasn’t playing it and it didn’t take me long at all to pick up the soundtrack on Steam, which was playing in the background of the creation of this review.

A rogue-lite game with an emphasis on story choices and narrative feels like something that shouldn’t work but it does. Road 96 is truly something very special and gets my highest recommendation. This is one road trip not to be forgotten. 

Final Verdict: Two Thumbs Up

Two thumbs up

One comment

  1. Back when it was announced in the Indie Direct, this one was among the games that had me most intrigued. I haven’t played it yet, but I plan on doing so in the future. I am glad to read I will be in for a treat.

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