Indie Spotlight - Road 96
Updated: Sep 15, 2021
Road trips were never this fun - or this dangerous.
"Take the concept of a road trip and turn it into a full blown game - except instead of for fun, now you're road tripping to escape a dangerous country."
Nothing quite evokes a sense of grand adventure quite like a good old fashioned road trip. From the breathtaking scenery to the long stretches of nothing but a sketchy motel and bare bones gas station, this classic getaway method has been enjoyed by countless adventure seekers (including QTB's Bruno who has done cross country trips in the USA three times!).
Now, take the concept of a road trip and turn it into a full blown game - except instead of for fun, now you're road tripping to escape a dangerous country. Oh, and add procedural storytelling to the mix - now you've got Road 96. After seeing it featured in April's Nintendo Indie World presentation, the trailer hooked me easily. Needless to say, when director Yoan Fanise from DigixArt agreed to join us for a Bonus Round interview on the QTB Podcast, I was ecstatic!
Gotta Get Away
Players in Road 96 are tasked with a simple objective - escape the authoritarian nation of Petria by means of whoever - and whatever - can get you across the border. As this game is set in 1996, you won't have the modern luxuries of a smartphone to give you a GPS position, the quickest route to your destination, or even the ability to make phone calls (at least not without coughing up a coin for the nearest functioning payphone.)
Hope you're not too proud to beg, because you aren't walking to the border.
As you lack a proper set of wheels, hitchhiking will play a big role in the game, which is one of the ways the game's procedural nature unfolds. After all, beggars can't be choosers, and you're most certainly at the mercy of whoever decides to give you a lift.
Over the course of the game, chance encounters will play a huge role not just in determining if you make it to your final destination, but also the impact you leave in your wake. The story that Road 96 wants to tell will be just as much about what's behind as you as what's in front. "You don't know what's gonna happen to you, who you're gonna meet," said Yoan during our interview. And far more than encounters on the road will factor in, as stops between trips at locales like diners will provide additional narrative and challenges. Need to make a call? Better scrounge the area for a misplaced coin. No electricity? Become a teenage do-it-yourselfer and get the power flowing to progress.
The game intentionally minimizes the backstory of the protagonists in order to let the supporting cast shine.
Having your own personal antenna would've been cool as heck in the 90's.
The aspect of the game that Yoan emphasized the most is about the player's relationships with people. In fact, he revealed that the game intentionally minimizes the backstory of the protagonists in order to let the supporting cast shine. "The idea is that you play several teenagers, and you as the player, you know the people you're gonna meet after a while." In other words, you may encounter Alex in one portion of the game, but because you're changing characters during your journey, the next time you meet Alex he won't remember you because he literally hasn't met you - at least, not THIS you.
96 Roads, Endless Possibilities
During a proper road trip, the journey is just as important as the destination. In Road 96, this takes on a whole new meaning, as the many different possible scenarios that can be thrown at you aren't just self contained dice rolls or challenges - they have consequences for the perilous country of Petria. Over the course of your escape, you will run into certain people, in addition to various opportunities, that will have a perceivable impact on events that are unfolding in real time.
"You did something, and you're gonna have to live with it. The next run you make with another teenager . . . maybe you're gonna get another chance."
Getting cozy with reporters like Sonya may have major consequences.
Opportunities of varying scale might come your way. For example, a political poster could offer a chance at some vandalism to let a few passersby know your stance on an upcoming election, or a news reporter may pick up on something larger you've done and broadcast your message to millions. Who knows, you could get wrapped up in the controversy by hanging out with the wrong crowd, and end up seeing yourself become the villain - every decision and every interaction will shape those outcomes.
And be wary - in our interview with Yoan, he shared that you most likely will not be able to replay scenarios to get a preferred outcome, making the decisions you make during chance encounters that much more important. "You did something, and you're gonna have to live with it. The next run you make with another teenager . . . maybe you're gonna get another chance."
Mixtapes Are Mandatory
No road trip is complete without a proper set of tunes, and in the 90's that came in the form of a proper mixtape. (Maybe CD's - bonus points if you were hi-tech enough to own a disc changer.) One of the reasons the trailer for Road 96 captivated viewers was the intense synthwave soundtrack that quickly established itself as the prominent featured genre.
In The Game Award's reveal of Road 96, viewers were treated to the absolute delight that is Home Call by The Toxic Avenger:
As far as I'm concerned, that's a song I will absolutely have on my Spotify playlist on my next road trip. Heck, this entire soundtrack will be, with immersive tracks from Robert Parker, S U R V I V E, Cocoon and more! Music makes the trip, and while The Office established that Life Is A Highway loses some replay value after the first play, I'm confident putting these beats on loop will be worth it every mile.
All in all, Road 96 is shaping up to be the summer road trip game I never knew I always wanted. And with a planned release date of Summer 2021, it sounds like we'll be hitchhiking our way to adventure on PC and Switch soon!
Learn more about Road 96 at https://www.road96.com/, and listen to our interview with director Yoan Fanise from DigixArt below! (Interview starts at 34:25)