Wheels of Aurelia is an interactive-fiction-style racing game set in Italy in 1978. The left-hand steers the wheel of a gritty game that is full of themes of crime, punk, and danger. While the themes are a bit serious, its thematic integrity is in check by fun, innovative game design, and a serious historical snapshot. Drive through the coastlines in low-polygon graphics and talk to your passengers about anything.
Wheels of Aurelia: Clarification
There are a few things to make clear immediately here. As I said, the game is gritty. Some topics are about heavy life issues. I don’t find it any grittier than an average film though, or a classic novel.
The other is that a session in this game lasts around half an hour. That can either appear as too long or not long enough. That’s a beautiful aspect of the game as it were. Every time you play a different storyline can occur with new characters and different scenarios from deep reveals to high-speed car chases.
There are 16 different endings that can occur any time you play, rewarded with achievements for keeping track. I don’t really know how to unlock the different endings but from my experience, this is probably possible by the evocative options of your dialogue.
How-To and Why of Wheels of Aurelia
Of course, you can play however you want! There are some simple things to note though. For one, this is a keyboard-controlled game. You use the space bar to accelerate, left and right to maneuver, and up and down to select what dialogue response you want to have. This ends up being a pretty exciting way to experience a visual novel-style story. You might be zooming between two buses on the road while choosing what music you want to talk about. Or there might be something really complex happening that you want to listen to. Of course, you need to watch the road, but I found the driving to be a little bit turbulent at first either way!
The story is inextricably sophisticated though. You play a young, punk woman on her way to France and a history of being kidnapped in a national scandal, while your passengers share all levels of true drama on their own. You won’t be bored in this game, and you’ll most certainly stay glued to the wheel and your enemies.
Hold On, More Here
Okay, I originally cut this way too short, my mistake, it felt as if I had written more. I do not know how to go too into Wheels of Aurelia, besides there are some heavy political and cultural topics. The main character, Lella, is a punk feminist who was kidnapped by a terrorist group in the early 70s. Her passenger asks her about how she can live and let live after such a thing.
I honestly am not sure if this is a real person aside from doing any research, but there are some authentic name drops. It’s also questionable whether they are identifiable as a Stockholm syndrome victim, the classic behavioral condition when a captive person grows fond of their capturer, due to proximity. There’s a momentary glimpse into this in my first run, when Lella goes a bit manic and dares her friend to either kiss them or kill them basically. Yeah, this ain’t lighthearted stuff! (excuse the Mark Twain’esque colloquialism)
There’s a conversation at the beginning with a famous racer too that hits on Lella, without real context. Seems Lella is a racer too. I can only spend so much time on these visual novels because sometimes they seem to have no end. I did enjoy the story in it though because it all fits in really nicely with my pathos of midnight drives or road trips along the coast. Relatability without sacrificing authenticity.
Roll the Credits
Alright, so not light-hearted, maybe less than most games I review! This should be enough context for what is a pretty casual game. Excellent atmosphere and style though. It had the vibes of 1970s Italian cinema. In fact, overall, this is a style of game that emulates cinematic tropes with craft.
Reviews on Steam are mixed, but I think perhaps some reviewers expected something totally different. Steam says its release is 5 years ago, so that has a lot to do with it. I see this all the time. 2016 is all MMOs and FPS. This game is part of the ItchIO bundle and appeals to the new generation of gamers with fervor. They call that, “ahead of its time.” I guess maybe it takes time for people to appreciate some creativity.
I hope you enjoy this review. I love finding hidden gems and sharing them with you, so thank you so much for reading MrDavePizza.com. There are plentiful reviews of all kinds of stuff here so have a look around and take your time! Pizza out.