It is 1978 in an Italy where political movements, subcultures and many social changes affect the lives of people and the course of history. In this land, a woman, a free spirit, Lella, decides to hit the road with her car, trying to escape her past. Together with her newly found friend Olga, a woman she met the previous night in a bar, they will drive heading to France, each one for their own reasons. They will meet people, comment on the ever changing world around them and race fast on the roads of Wheels of Aurelia.
Wheels of Aurelia is in part a 2d driving game and an interactive story where your choices affect the outcome of the heroine, Lella. You begin the game on the road, following a quick tutorial about the movement and how to make choices. After that, the actual road trip begins and Via Aurelia is open for you to explore. The controls are pretty easy, with left and right arrows you move the car on the road, space makes it go faster and with up and down arrows you make your conversation choices. You will have a timer for each choice, enough to read and decide what you would like to say in each situation.
The graphics are simple but good enough to make every city you visit feel a bit different. Most of the time you will pay attention to the road and the dialogue so only with the corner of your eye you will notice the change of scenery but when you replay the same stage enough times and make your choices fast, then you will notice that the population of the scenery is not that dense. It’s like there is only the central road you are driving and little houses are planted around on the grass. I believe the design could have been a bit better, in order to make the world seem more alive.
The music is pretty great, the main theme is awesome and while you are driving there will be music playing from the radio, mostly pop songs with italian vocals. It gives more authenticity to the experience and makes the trip even more exciting. What I don’t like is that Olga some times asks to turn off the radio, while I enjoy the song that is playing, but that’s just me.
Your goal in the game is to reach France but depending on the choices you make and the roads you will chose, the outcome and ending might be different. There will be plenty of events happening that will have you choosing one path or the other and many forks on the road to take. Usually each big event leads to one of the 15 endings and to see them all you will have to replay the stage, choosing another option. Luckily the game saves before a big event so you won’t have to replay the game from the beginning.
Lella is a strong woman with a troubled past and on the road you will get to find out all about her and her beliefs. With your friend Olga and the hitchhikers you will meet, you will talk about things like feminism after the second world war, abortion, political events and scandals of Italy, kidnappings and murders, Juventus, you will race betting your car and more. This can be a positive for some and a negative for others. If you are interested in the contemporary history of Italy and you know about the country’s artists and politicians, then you will find it very interesting learning about all these things. The game even contains a Wheelspedia which describes with more detail the topics our heroine unlocks and discusses on her trip. But for others, that might be boring and completely uninteresting. It depends on the gamer how they will perceive that mechanic.
Wheels of Aurelia has some problems on the gameplay that affect the overall experience. The driving mechanic is very basic and someone would think that it would be refined to perfection. Unfortunately though that is not the case. When you are cruising, the game says that the car follows the road letting you focus on the conversation. That is not entirely true, since when you let your car ride by itself, it will bump on the side of the road or on other cars. Besides an annoying sound and losing some speed, nothing serious happens but it is definitely annoying to hit all the time. The fact that there are no real consequences when you crash on cars makes the game lose in realism too. Finally on the problem side of things, there some answers that make no sense in the conversations that they appear.
You can buy Wheels of Aurelia on Steam for the price of 9,99€.
Wheels of Aurelia is a game based on a very interesting idea that could be realised way better than it is now. The premise is definitely interesting, having a heroine driving Via Aurelia and enjoying the scenery and conversation, but the bad driving mechanic and the simply good scenery leave much to be desired. There are gamers that will definitely enjoy the experience, especially those who are interested in the contemporary history of Italy. If you are one of them, then give this game a try when it is on sale.
+ Interesting premise
+ Good scenery
– Bad driving mechanic
– The scenery population could be denser
– Some dialogue choices make no sense with the topic
-Score : 6.8/10
Dimitris “Dimi Kaye” Kalyvas