The “Via Aurelia” is a Roman road in Italy that extended from Rome to Pisa and to the ligurian coast and the maritime alps. It’s thought that it was constructed in approximately the year 241 BC by the Roman censor Aurelius. The modern Strada Statale 1 occupies the same route, and colloquially is still referred to as, La Via Aurelia.
I didn’t really know any of this before I started the game but here we are. Who said games aren’t culture?
Do you know those “choose your own adventure” books we (or some of us) used to read when we were kids? Wheels of Aurelia seems to be an electronic representation of that. The game has a prologue that sets a scene and the main characters. It’s Italy in the year 1978, you, a pretty “modern” driver woman who stops at a bar and meets another woman and partner up in a journey through the via Aurelia. That is how the story starts but where does this go from here? Could be anything.
That’s the thing that surprised me the most about this title. The story isn’t some path with diversifications that can alter it one way or another. Here, the story really can go anywhere. It could be a social drama about abortion, it could be the story of following your dreams to become a race driver or it could be even a pulpy crime flick kind of deal. The game has 16 different endings and, even though some of these are the good/bad end versions of the same narrative, it’ll give you an idea on how diverse this game can be.
The game is very simple gameplay-wise. You just drive. There is a button to make the car go faster and you steer the car with the analog stick. It’s all very simplified as invisible barriers will always keep you inside the road and crashing against any traffic doesn’t seem to affect the game at all.
How is the player interaction in order to determine the story? Mainly through dialog choices. As you’re driving you’ll be having a conversation and depending on your answers that will divert the story but that’s not all. You’ll see hitchhikers which you may or may not stop for and they’ll have their own stories to tell. There’s also different paths in the road you can take which will make you meet different people. Even the speed at which you’ll be able to drive during certain events can also alter the story in some ways.
The game’s graphics won’t win any awards but they’re pleasing to the eye and manage to represent the setting quite successfully. That seems to be the name of the game for the sound department as well. The music isn’t licensed or, I couldn’t recognise any famous tracks anyway, but it’s so 70’s that it really manages to create a very authentic mood for the whole experience.
Things I liked
- Setting: The game is set in Italy in the late 70’s and not only that is such an unique background but the setting has a huge weight on all of the stories and the characters represented. It all feels very authentic and that is inmensely cool.
- Multiple Stories: Usually games which let you choose your own path will have one story that can be altered in certain parts. Here we have a game that really has different stories to play through. Some are more serious than others but they’re all pretty entertaining.
Things I didn’t
- Short Lived: I’m not one to usually complain on games like this for being too short but in this case, this is important. Each playthrough of this game can be finished in 15 minutes or less. Considering that there are 16 different endings that wouldn’t be such a problem but it is. The problem here is that in 15 minutes there isn’t just enough time to fully develop a story. Here you have an introduction, you guide the story a certain way through dialog choices, and then the game wraps the whole story on its own with a written epilogue.
Things that eh…
- Driving: This isn’t a racing game and it doesn’t try to be one but they could have made the handling of the cars to be more exciting. Made the driving have a bigger weight specially considering that some of the stories involve racing as a theme… but they didn’t.
Who’d like this?
I found Wheels of Aurelia to be a very interesting experiment but, to me, the fact that each playthrough is just 15 minutes kinda ruins it for me. Like I said, you get an introduction and you guide the game’s plot with your dialogs and hitchhiker pick ups but when the story is getting the most interesting the game ends. The story fully develops and ties up on the epilogue without any player input. It feels like a wasted opportunity.
If you have read this review and still feel the concept to be so unique and interesting that you want to try it out for yourself, go ahead. It truly is a game like nothing I played before. That being said, I wish someone would pick this concept and worked on it a little more so the whole experience could be a little more satisfying than what we got here.