DigixArt Entertainment is obviously happy with the response to the excellent Road 96 as they are now treating fans of the game to a prequel set before the events of the original. XboxEra was given access to a Steam preview of the new title and I have played through the roughly 80 minutes of gameplay on PC. Here are my first impressions.
Gameplay is based around the characters of Zoe and Kaito, two teenagers from very different backgrounds. One is the daughter of the Minister for Oil and lives in a luxurious mansion between the fascistic ruler of Petria and his glamourous right-wing media puppet, the other lives with his worker mother in a basement flat situated in the city slums.
Sofa So Good
Hanging out together in the concrete skeleton of a half-constructed tower block the two of them discuss the state of the country and go out on adventures together. While these activities take place the two of them experience each other’s worlds and attempt to convince each other that their political opinions are the ones that they both should subscribe to. The lure of denied foreign travel is apparent for both of them but for different reasons that are slowly unravelled through shared experiences.
If this sounds a bit dry it certainly isn’t. Unlike the first game, psychedelic musical components have been introduced to add some excitement and break up the gameplay. Swapping between both characters, Zoe on Roller Skates and Kaito on a Skateboard, players have to guide them safely to the end of sections dodging obstacles and collecting items. Successful completion of these challenges seems to be linked to the emotional state of the characters.
As someone who enjoyed the structure of Road 96, I found these segments a bit weird and unnecessary as I am more than happy with the dynamics of the original game. I can understand their inclusion though, probably to mix things up and avoid the developer being accused of recycling the same old material.
It looks like a deeper dive into the country of Petria is going to be delivered in the full game. This will hopefully help explain why droves of teenagers are so desperate that they will risk everything to reach road 96 and escape over the border. Considering that my previous dealings with the highly likable Zoe in Road 96 did not end particularly well (full disclosure: I abandoned her mid-border crossing and got her killed) I am looking forward to spending time in her company once again.
I Remember You!
Characters from the original game are likely to turn up in this one it seems. I spotted one through a telescope doing something dodgy which explained his choice of transportation when I came across him last time. If you enjoyed the Trombone section in the first game you will be pleased to hear that something similar featured very early on in the Steam preview. The soundtrack sounds interesting but has a lot to live up to considering how good the first one was. The addition of a song by The Offspring was a major downer for me personally as I cannot stand them.
Just like the first time around it does not look like this game will be available from day one on Game Pass but considering that the original is on there it is likely that it may well be included some time in the future. With a scheduled release date in April we should not have to wait long to play this in full and discover it’s secrets.