Teens are mysteriously missing along Petria's border and in Road 96, you'll walk in their shoes to uncover the secrets of what's going on.
Road 96 is a first-person adventure game in which you play through the life of various missing teens who are trying to escape a dictatorship and a country in political turmoil. One complete playthrough has you take control of 6 different missing teens as you relive their last days in the country. Will you make it to the border and escape or will you die along the way? It all depends on which decisions you make and there are plenty of opportunities to get lost before you cross over. v1d30chumz 3-223-3-251
The gameplay in Road 96 is split into sections on a map where you choose how to continue towards the border. You can play it "safe" and steal a car or walk but then you might meet fewer characters along the way. Taking a bus is sure to start some conversations and so is hitch-hiking but look out for the taxi driver as there's something just not right about him. The decision you make in how to keep moving affects the next scene thus making every playthrough unique and enjoyable.
You'll meet a lot of people and as you learn more about them, their meter will increase until you fully uncover their story and motivation for their actions. Meeting the same characters but under different circumstances as a different teen is a fun way to present a story and it had me sometimes thinking, "Oh, that's why they did that!" since the stories happen around the same time period. Playing Road 96 often gave me a sense of satisfaction that I feel while watching a whodunit as you piece together scenes to understand the whole story.
There's a good variety of characters as well such as the young tech whiz Alex, a truck driver John, and Stan and Mitch who are obsessed with protecting newscaster Sonya from danger. I was particularly shaken by the taxi driver, Jarod, as the combination of writing, voice acting, and lighting used when he enters a scene sent chills down my spine and I actually jumped once. However, Alex's personality and writing was quite distracting and read like an over-the-top impersonation of a young kid trying to sound cool.
As you complete each teen's story, you'll unlock a new ability that will make the next playthrough easier such as new options like a hacking ability to open safes or a lock pick to open otherwise closed doors. Along with the cassette tape collectibles, this adds some replayability as even after seeing the credits, I was compelled to start a New Game Plus and play through again while making different choices with my new skills. Also, your progress copies over to New Game+ which allows you to keep learning about the characters and eventually get everyone's meter to 100%. On my second playthrough, I managed to come across around 20% new scenes that I didn't experience the first time but the rest were the same. It's a good thing that the first playthrough lasts about a reasonable 10 hours.
Besides looking for items and interacting with them, there's also some interesting gameplay variety sprinkled throughout such as deciding which route to take on a map to find the nearest phone and interviewing witnesses at a motel to identify a suspect. These brief moments help break up the repetition that comes with adventure games and they happen at just the right moment to keep the gameplay interesting. Some actions will also have a percentage of success which can even result in your death thus causing you to pause before you make a decision. Losing your life before you manage to escape Petria means that you'll miss out on some of the story. However, I managed to get all but one teen across relatively safely even if it meant sacrificing other characters along the way.
Maintaining your health bar above zero adds an extra challenge when you find yourself without food, water, or shelter for long stretches because if your bar depletes completely then your character's story will end. This will likely make you become a thief early on as you scrounge for pennies or even steal credit cards to buy a granola bar and some water just to keep you going. Some characters will steal money off you as well while others will reward you handsomely for helping them.
The background music in Road 96 varies depending on the experiences you're going through and it does a great job of setting the mood. However, the voice acting is a mixed bag. I felt pure dread whenever Jarod would speak but Sonya felt unnatural and annoying. The graphics aren't anything special but there are some rather attractive shots when you're surrounded by foliage. For the most part, the character models are quite low quality but it doesn't distract from the story and they still have their own distinct personalities.
Road 96 is a road worth travelling as you'll meet an interesting blend of characters and learn their stories while living in a corrupt dictatorship as you fight to escape and avoid becoming another missing teen. It's a very cool adventure indeed.
- + Stories connect to unravel a mystery in an immersive fashion
- + Choices make each teen's story unique
- + Some moments impressively elicit emotion
- - A few characters are distractingly strange
- - Voice acting and writing is inconsistent
- - Subsequent playthroughs can be repetitive