Developed and Published By: Digixart Categories: Roadtrip, Survival, Narrative Release Date: 08.16.21
What exactly is Road 96? It’s an adventure game, sure, but most of it is set inside of moving vehicles, so maybe it’s a road trip game? Kind of, but there’s more that that, there’s living on the land, meeting new people at stops you go to, befriending them. It wouldn’t be right to outright call it a homeless simulator, even if your character is for better or worse homeless and there is a smidge of survival mechanics. I think I’d feel better to just say this is a game I’m glad I got to experience.
Road 96 is a game about the journey, it’s about having the world around you speak. The story isn’t exactly subtle in it’s discussions surrounding dictatorships and an election year. In the game proper, it’s 1996, an election year, people are sick of the control and how teenagers are treater, with you being one, you’re on your way to the border to flee from the tyrannical Tyrak.. Along the way you’ll meet and befriend plenty an odd character. A hacker prodigy who ran away from home and calls their stepmother “Ex-Mom”, with a car they’re not even old enough to drive. Two idiot burglars, who you are introduced to early on, but find yourself tangled into their buffoonery not too soon after. That famous news reporter? She’s not quite what she seems. My favorite, a troubled, wandering teen, not so different from you.
Meeting these people, getting a good repour, will often grant you abilities that can help you on your way, like more health, sweet hacker skills, lockpicking skills, and so on. When speaking to them, you have let loose on all of your affiliations, or you can just talk to them how you think they’d want to hear. I’m not sure I want to speak politics with the big trucker, who could very well force me to walk all the way to the border instead of hitching, but maybe he might agree with you. What you say and do can ultimately change the story or how things will play out. Depending on abilities, you can even have different dialog choices. Luck is occasionally involved too, maybe next time I’ll get gas money out of that lady…
Steal random food, vandalize political posters, be a general nuisance. That’s all on you, your goal is to survive and get to the border, so if you need to sleep on cardboard, so be it. Depending on your money, your abilities, and your choices, you’ll get different or more options. It might be a good idea to not eat that snack bar you found in the back of a trailer, you might need it later. Play everything right, and you’ll be smooth sailing.
You’ve reached the border, great. The game isn’t over yet though. This is only the first of seven chapters, each of which takes you in control of a different wandering teen trying to reach the border. You’ll probably see the characters you met in a different way, maybe a new place. That Ex-Mom that the hacker who might be a tad too short for a car? Well, she’s a cop. You kind of meet her at a bad time, but just being an ear for her to vent and maybe fixing her tire allows her to open up, and it probably keeps you from getting arrested…shame I got arrested not too long after, ending that chapter.
You’re not always going to succeed or get the exact path you want with people or events, but that’s life. You can only hope that your actions and words can change how people are and the upcoming vote, if you care to that is. Just remember, it’s always a point of no return.
Road 96 has a feeling of rebellion. A theme of youth taking control of their life. The music feels liberating and if you find a cassette player, you’ll hear it all the time or whenever you want. At all times you can decide your path. Walk to long road, hitchhike, just grab a taxi, or maybe become a stowaway. The whole package is really there to put you in the mood.
Unfortunately, the Switch port isn’t quite as clean as I’d like. There’s framedrops and it does have that low resolution look that a lot of Switch games seem to have. However, I’m more than willing to look passed this. I’ve been playing games for a while, so this is a non-issue to me unless it seriously inhibits gameplay, which for Road 96, it does not.
Road 96 is very much a game to experience to truly enjoy it. It’s hard to put into words on why it’s special, but at the end of the day, I’m glad I got to experience it. Perhaps play the game on something not a Switch if you want the best possible experience, but play this either way.
Buy Now: $19.96
*Game Download Code graciously supplied for the purpose of review