Road 96, the procedural hitchhiking game, was a title with an interesting presentation and a slew of good ideas. Developer DigixArt took that great foundation and spun things off into Road 96: Mile 0, a narrative-focused prequel that strips away the procedural elements, replacing them with rhythm gameplay.
The world presented in Road 96 is an interesting, albeit depressingly prescient one. Living under the thumb of President Tyrak, you play the dual role of best friends Zoe, a character from Road 96, and Kaito, a character in Lost In Harmony (also from DigixArt) as they fantasise about running away together from the nation of Petria. Coming from wildly different upbringings, the friends have a solid bond, and their relationship is far and away the strongest component of the title, though they have their share of disagreements.
Gameplay is presented uniquely, mostly functioning like a Telltale game, morality system and all. You observe the environment and talk to people, standard stuff. But periodically, the game interjects some infinite runner rhythm segments. The environmental design on these levels is creative, offering some standout visuals, and they all feel unique while making use of some killer licensed music. However, it also shines a light directly on the biggest issue plaguing the game: tonal incongruity.
While the musical sequences are presented as a form of escapism from the rigours of existence for Zoe and Kaito, the script does a poor job of placing a buffer between the fun of these levels and the more sobering narrative elements throughout the rest of the story. While it's one thing to discuss Zoe witnessing a terrorist attack in her youth, it's another to present it as a fun musical set-piece.
The script itself doesn't strike a good balance either, often transitioning from subjects such as a rumination on class inequality directly into a slapstick comedy sketch before interjecting a news bulletin about an impending natural disaster. It's, to put it mildly, a mess. And this happens over and over throughout the 4-5 hours required to complete the game. While pitch-black comedy can work, the writing in Mile 0 is awkward enough that it feels accidental rather than deliberately irreverent. What you're left with is a fun rhythm game surrounded by a plethora of questionable writing decisions.