Election day is coming in Petria, and an uprising is on the horizon! The tyrant Tyrak is spewing lies and propaganda, and teens are regularly going “missing”. The people won’t stand for it any longer! Tyrak’s competitor, Florres, stands for change and giving Petria back its freedom. Can she and her supporters persevere?
While this is happening, teens are mysteriously disappearing, and Florres supporters think Tyrak has something to do about it. So, teens are taking matters into their own hands and fleeing to Road 96 in an attempt to escape Petria.
Played over multiple episodes, Road 96 will see you playing as a missing teen with a little bit of cash, trying to flee the country. In each episode, you’ll play as a different teen at a different location and date, attempting to gain their freedom. Fortunately, you can rely on the kindness of strangers (even if they aren’t all good people) to help you on your way. Hitchhike, grab a taxi, catch a bus or walk, and meet some interesting people as you make your way to the wall.
Road 96 is a very political game. The people you meet will either support the dictator in power, Tyrak or Florres, the liberal candidate fighting for change. Propaganda is rife, though, so you do need to carefully consider what you say; otherwise, you might get arrested or worse.
When chatting with characters, you are free to look and move around; however, your dialogue options stay with the character you’re talking to. It isn’t a big deal once you realise that’s how it works, though I occasionally knew the game was waiting for me to make a choice, but I had no idea where I was supposed to be looking.
Road 96 is essentially a walking sim with some mini-games thrown in for good measure. The mini-games are a lot of fun and really got my heart racing! Usually, I don’t enjoy mini-games, but Road 96 handles them well.
The game gives you the feeling of freedom to adventure in this vast world, but it’s actually quite locked down on where you can and can’t explore. I know some people will hate feeling limited by this, but I didn’t mind because the emphasis is on the story and moving forward to potential freedom.
Art and sound design
The art of Road 96 is gorgeous! There are huge sweeping views in all directions that are worth taking the time to sit and appreciate while contemplating your journey. It feels like a combination of Firewatch and Life is Strange, updated to 2021. The character design is also great, with personality shining from everyone you meet. I regularly wished I had a little more time with everyone (well, maybe not Sonya) to learn more about them. But time is fleeting when you’re hitchhiking across the country to freedom.
The soundtrack is excellent! The music pairs perfectly with the scenes, and I found myself smiling when songs started because they just fit so well. The soundtrack really does make you feel like you’re travelling in the middle of nowhere, though the game never lets you forget why you’re there. There are collectable cassette tapes hidden throughout the game. Some you will find, or be given, others you’ll have to pay for. Sometimes, it is a difficult decision as you’re usually pretty strapped for cash. Once you have found a tape, you can play them in the many cassette players scattered around the game.
I really enjoyed Road 96! The art, soundtrack and fantastic characters come together to form this excellent game. The story and characters are engaging, and it was fun to see how they all intertwine.
While it felt strange to play as a different missing teen for each episode, I liked that it allowed me to try other things each run. Last time I opted to hitchhike, maybe this time I’ll see where the bus takes me. What happens if I try to take a different escape method? It was a nice way to see who I would meet and where the story would take me and answer the ultimate question: Will I escape this time?
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** Find The Strawberry received a free key for Road96 from Jesús Fabre. All opinions are my own **