Critical Play: Walking Simulators

Game Overview

Game Name: Road 96

Creator: DigixArt

Platform: Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC

Target audience: The game is rated T and approved for players aged 13 and above. The target audience is likely those who enjoy narrative-driven games with a focus on decision-making and character development.


Road 96 is a single-player, first person view game where the player is a teenager who’s trying to escape a fictional country who’s leader is extremely authoritarian. The main character is trying to get to the border or this country, and interacts with other characters throughout the game in order to gain information about the journey, the state of the country, get survival tips, gain money, food and just generally survive and complete their journey successfully. The player gets to make choices about their actions and talking points, , and all these choices impact the game play and eventual outcome of the story. The game features mature themes like violence, drug and substance abuse, and mild sexual innuendos. The key message of the game centers challenging players to explore their morality.

Formal Elements

  1. Objective/Goal: The player’s objective is to reach the border and escape the country. 
  2. Mechanics: The player can interact with non-playable characters, make choices, collect resources, and engage in mini-games to progress.
  3. Resources: The player collects items like food, water, and money to survive.
  4. Relationships: The player’s relationships with non-playable characters impact their journey’s outcome.
  5. Rounds: The game does not have traditional rounds, but the player’s journey is divided into chapters. It features procedurally generated events, allowing for a unique playthrough each time.
  6. Aesthetic: The visual design of the game is reminiscent of a 90’s road trip movie, with large open landscapes, trucks, windy roads,  and hitchhikers scattered across the game.

What Differentiates Road 96 from Other Games in its Genre:

Road 96 is a narrative-driven game with a focus on player choice. Unlike other games in the genre, it encourages players to explore their morality and make choices that impact the game’s outcome. The game’s multiple routes and endings also set it apart from other narrative-driven games. The unique art style and a compelling soundtrack that enhances the overall experience.

Was the Game Fun?

I found the game to be extremely fun, and played it for about 3 hours right after I downloaded. As much as the game is centered around making choices and a narrative, there also exist very silly moments and challenges that add to the fun of the game. For example, in one scene, I met a stranger at an overnight camp, and they had an old trombone After a series of choices, I ended up in a situation where the character (Zoe) challenged me to play along to Bella Ciao (yes, this is the song from Money Heist) and I had to play different notes in a way reminiscent to guitar hero, where I would slide my joystick over to the right notes. Zoe would laugh if I messed up, and get impressed if I hit a few notes in order. In a different scene, We meet Dancing Carl, who’s convinced that he’s the best dancer and no one can keep up with him, and thus challenges everyone to a dance battle. Here, I got to engage in a very whimsical  dance with Carl. I’ve attached snippet of both these instances below

Type of Fun and How it was Created:

The main kind of fun in this game is Narrative, and is created through the journey motif  of the game. The environment is also consistent, and the general premise of the game is tied to the story of a person who’s on the road, and the aesthetic is created around scenery, sounds and characters one would meet while on a journey. Discovery is also a key type of fun in this game, where the player gains more information about the road and the political climate of the country they interact with other characters and as the game progresses. Fantasy is a more minor kind  of fun that is achieved through immersing the player in a make-believe world and through the player engaging with said world. I categorize it as a minor kind of fun since the environment mimics features, experiences, places, politics and even decisions that are present in the real world. The sense of escape might come from submerging yourself in a world that’s different from your current one, even if its the same kind of world.

Moments of Particular Success or Epic Fails:

The game generates new scenery and plot lines depending on the choices of the player which keeps the game fresh and unpredictable. This however, slows down the pace of the game, and can cause the occasional lack of direction and clarity, particularly in regards to objectives. This feeling of uncertainty detracts from the overall experience of the game.

Things to Change to Make the Game Better:

The challenges in the game were a bit simple, and the game could benefit from crafting more challenging decision making and quickening the pace of the game. The number of choices to be made are limited, and some choices are circular, in that picking one eventually leads to another choice that is tied to one of the previous options that you didn’t select. In their defense, having completely divergent paths in a single game would be a massive challenge, and would result in a larger and more complicated game to develop. However, having more choices or making the connections between different choices less obvious would improve the game.

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