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So, uh… how about that President Moro?

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    Wheels of Aurelia

    Rating: 2.5 – Playable

    So, uh… how about that President Moro?

    Wheels of Aurelia is a very odd game. I suppose at its heart, it is a visual novel of sorts, but calling it a "narration" game is more apt as it combines driving a car with talking to your various passengers and going through narration options. However, despite how odd or unique the game may be, the question we’re here to answer is "Is it any good?".

    The game starts you out on a road trip along a coastal road in Italy (the "Via Aurelia", a famous roman road that I only know about thanks to Wikipedia!), with you taking on the role of a woman named Lella. From there… the game’s "story" kind-of depends on what you do. In general, you can stay with the woman you start with (Olga) or ditch her and pick up a variety of hitchhikers or other passengers at various stops along the route.

    This makes the "story" aspect of Wheels of Aurelia very much a "Choose your own Adventure" type of game, where your narrative choices and options dictate who you end up spending the most time with and, ultimately, what "ending" you get. The game actually has SIXTEEN (16) endings (which seems like a lot… but more on that later) for you to discover based on your choices.

    While the amount of endings and "Choose your own adventure" style of game play is generally something I love ("Heavy Rain" is a good example of this), the game is just too short as a whole to really CARE about what happens to Lella. Each play through of the game lasts roughly 10-15 minutes and you NEVER really see Lella or do anything with her but drive her car, so as a player you’ll never really connect with her (THIS is the reason why those "16 endings" just isn’t that impressive). The dialog and situations she found herself in however were somewhat interesting, but even with multiple playthroughs and outcomes there’s still only (maybe) about an hour or two of interesting "story" here before the game just gets repetitive.

    As far as the "game play" goes, you will only ever be controlling Lella’s car. You can speed up and steer, but that’s about it (no breaking, no turning around, you can’t crash). Even if you aren’t touching the controller, the car will (generally) just follow the road on its own (fun fact: you can "beat" this game without touching the controller). So for the most part you are literally just picking up hitch-hikers and navigating dialog options. There ARE a few races that occur depending on what choices you make, but they are all
    rather easy given how simplistic the controls are. Needless to say, you wouldn’t be buying this game for its game play at all…

    The graphics in the game are all rather simplistic. It’s a bit hard to describe… the graphics look like scaled-model sets that you are just driving by, with small little rectangle-styled boxes for the cars. It’s all very simple, as you may expect from an indie studio. When the characters talk there are still-shot cutaways of their faces and upper-chests where are designed well enough (I like the art style and detail of the characters), but this is still very simple from a graphical standpoint.

    The audio in the game takes the form of the car’s "radio station" which has a good mix of songs that play at random. The songs themselves are fairly odd. There’s lyrics in a lot of them, but… I can’t understand them. Perhaps they are in Italian? No idea. They’re also a mix of alternative rock and classic/easy listening. A good mix I think, with the occasional toe-tapping tune, but as a whole not very memorable. In case you were wondering, there is NO VOICE ACTING in the game at all (yes, no voice acting in the game that is all about narrative…), which is a shame. The game really needed something to ebb the "cheap feeling" that it looks like it has and… well… the cheapness continues.

    We’ve already been through the re-playability a bit up above, but with 16 endings at roughly 15 minutes a game, you’re looking at around 4+ hours to see and do EVERYTHING there is in the game. This will be very boring though, as many of those endings have you driving down the same path while just… making sure you make different dialog options. WHEEE! It IS a fairly easy Platinum Trophy at least, for what that’s worth. If you can stand the tedium…

    Overall: 5/10

    In the end, Wheels of Aurelia is interesting as a concept (to me at least), but just doesn’t execute well. This is mainly due to the lack of connection to the characters here (due to the short play time for getting through the "complete game") and the overall cheap feeling of the game itself (no voice acting, very simplistic graphics, short play time, etc…). The dialog and narrative (as well as the various ending summaries) are by far the best part of the game, but even then there’s nothing here so memorable that you must play this game. It’s safe to say that you can leave Wheels of Aurelia stranded by the side of the road without missing too much… Have fun and keep playing!

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