Wheels of Aurelia is a visual novel plus driving game all blended into one. But how does a game that mixes both concepts fare?
Let’s find out on our road trip to Via Aurelia.
Gameplay and Story
Wheels of Aurelia’s controls are pretty simple. First are the controls for the vehicle – the left stick to turn left or right, and B to increase the speed. The vehicle automatically accelerates by itself. Next are the controls for the dialogue – either press Y or the up/down buttons to change the dialogue.
There’s nothing complex about Wheels of Aurelia’s story and gameplay. You play as Lella, a woman living in 1970s Italy. This is a decade where abortion is illegal, there’s talk about armed neo-fascist groups and communism, and frequent high profile kidnappings and terror attacks. These are the things that the hitchhikers you pick up along the road and main characters will frequently talk about the most, other than their own lives.
As you’re driving on the road, you’ll have to make quick decisions on what Lella says next. Should Lella probe further about a question that the other character is hesitant to answer, or should she change the topic? Or should Lella break away from another character and travel with somebody else?
All these choices that have to be made in the matter of seconds, and pretty much feel like conversations you’ll have with an acquaintance in the real world. There’s also an option to stay silent, but it may end up rubbing the other person the wrong way.
Besides the choices that you make while speaking to other characters, heading to a different town through different exits will change the main characters Lella will encounter and even the events that happen in the game. Some events include a race, a police car chase, and even tailing a neo-fascist.
Don’t expect anything as intense as even a normal racing game because Wheels of Aurelia is also about the conversations. These races are pretty easy to win as long as you choose the right car before starting the game, which you’ll unlock more as the game progresses. Tip – don’t drive a minivan or a three wheeler if you want to win a race.
On average, I spent 15 to 20 minutes driving to Via Aurelia and talking to peeps (I usually step on the gas though). You can speed the vehicle up to make it to the next location faster, but that’d mean you will need to fully steer the car to make sure it doesn’t hit others (there’s no penalty for bumping into vehicles or anything though, other than some HD Rumble and horning). Once you’ve reached a certain point, you can begin from towns later in the story.
Although 15 to 20 minutes feels short, the point about Wheels of Aurelia lies in its replayability. There are 16 different endings to unlock, and each epilogue is unlocked based on the decisions that you’ve made during gameplay and even the outcome of the events. I’ve spent about 5 to 6 hours unlocking the endings and learned more about the three main characters in the process. There are other hitchhikers but they don’t play a huge role in the story.
Art and Music
I fell in love with the art style of Wheels of Aurelia. It somehow reminded me of my travels in Europe as well as toy cars and wooden trains that some of you may have played when you were younger. The characters were well drawn and blended with the environment. This is probably the first time I’ve seen such an art style in a game and I think it’s been executed perfectly.
The music in Wheels of Aurelia comes straight out from the 1970s. They come from the car radio and add on to the atmosphere of that very decade in Italy. Nothing much to comment here other than “it does its job”.
I’d have to say that I enjoyed my time with Wheels of Aurelia. The art style, the conversations, the music. It piqued my interest in how Italy was like during the 1970s, due to my interest in politics and history.
At the same time, I feel this game may not be for everyone. Wheels of Aurelia doesn’t feel like a driving game as it calls itself to be, neither does it feel like a full visual novel experience. It’s sort of feels like it’s exploring those concepts half way, so it may not be your cup of tea.
If you’re into exploring a new concept, Wheels of Aurelia may be worth a shot. It’s only ten dollars and if you are a completionist, you’re guaranteed to get at least 4 to 6 hours out of it.
- The beautiful art style and artwork
- Learn some history and politics of 1970s Italy
- Replayability – 16 different endings to unlock
- Both the visual novel and driving game concept could have been done much better
- It feels short
Soup Verdict: Unique Italian soup that needs more seasoning
A review code was provided by MixedBag for the purposes of this review.