For many, driving is part of our daily lives, for some even their career. Others never have and never will step behind the wheel. Regardless of your disposition, we can all agree that transportation affects us all. After just completing two 12-hour driving binges across California and Arizona, I can safely say that having some company on the road makes everything more tolerable. This brings me to the recent indie release, Wheels of Aurelia, a “driving” game unlike any I have ever played. I use the term driving loosely, as “Wheels” is more of an interactive story than anything else. Mixing and matching genres can have dangerous results, let’s see how Wheels of Aurelia fares at the final stop.
The entirety of Wheels of Aurelia takes place on the winding roads of Italy in the 1970s. You play as the main character, Lella, a driver with a knack for meeting eccentric people. Depending on your dialog and driving choices you can end up with one of 16 different endings. When speaking with passengers you are always given the option of silence, similarly to Telltale games. Aside from silence there are two more dialog choices that can usually steer a conversation in opposing directions. When not speeding through the streets you can steer the car (it’s always moving forward) and pick up hitchhikers. They introduce their own story elements and branching paths to the final ending. With most of play sessions taking less than 15 minutes to complete, you are guaranteed a concise and unique tale many times over.
I won’t spoil the story since it is the heart of the game, but the dialog ranges from mundane to more emotional and impactful. When you finally reach your travel destination you are given a glimpse into the future for Lella and whoever she was riding with. The replay value is very strong for a $10 game and these “wrap ups” were always interesting. Anyone considering Wheels of Aurelia needs to know that it is all about choosing your own adventure and seeing where Lella ends up.
Graphically the game has a simple art style and is played from an isometric view. While colorful and sharp, I wish that the buildings were more distinguished from each other. Sometimes the dialog would point out specific landmarks, but they didn’t look any different than a typical building. The music is very good, the word snazzy comes to mind, but tends to get a little repetitive. Loading times are quick at the beginning and you won’t see another one until you start a new game.
Wheels of Aurelia is the type of game you should be well informed about before you purchase. There is driving but it isn’t a racing game, it is a story-heavy game that focuses on choices and outcomes. Gameplay works as expected with simple controls for dialog, accelerating and steering the car. This was the type of game where I felt like my choices really affected the ending. I prefer to play Wheels of Aurelia in bite-sized sessions; one or two runs at a time, and then come back to it later. Narrative fans who take a spin behind the wheel and experience Via Aurelia are in for many unique adventures.