On the Road, Again!
By Brett Wolfe
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on November 18th, 2016 on Xbox One and PS4, also available PC and Nintendo Switch
Developer: Santa Ragione Publisher: MixedBag Games
On the road, again! Down the lonely road! Where it takes you, you’ll never know! The lonely road! Wheels of Aurelia is a narrative road trip simulator that was developed by Santa Ragione and takes places in the late 1970s. You take the role of Lella and Olga, two women with estranged pasts, on their road trip down the Via Aurelia.
The controls of this title are extremely simple. Pushing either the right trigger or the ‘A’ button on the Xbox One will cause the car to accelerate and the sticks allow you to control the car and select dialogue during the conversations between Lella and any of the other characters you pick up on your trips. However, none of these controls need to be implemented. You can start the game and then set your controller down and the game will play itself. The car will move slower and Lella will not say a word, but you will play through the game and achieve one of the various endings in the game. Just as a reference, there are sixteen different endings that can be obtained. Your decisions throughout your experience can change the ending drastically. Turn left instead of right—different ending, past one hitchhiker, and pick up the next one and you will get a different ending. The smallest decisions can change the end of the game completely. Even dialogue choices with certain characters can result in outcomes that are vastly different from the last one. The way that Wheels of Aurelia can overcome having these many conclusions is the fact that each playthrough takes between ten to twenty minutes to complete. Throughout Lella’s journey, she can run across a total of six hitchhikers and a couple other characters despite which towns she travels to. Each of these hitchhikers will tell you their preferred destination and then you have the option whether to talk to them or go back to talking with Olga. You can also choose to go somewhere that is not their desired destination. Unfortunately, there is not an effect on your playthrough besides they announce that you didn’t go to the right town.
The visuals and soundtrack are one of my favorite aspects that this title offers. The soundtrack during the game are the songs that play on the radio while you are traveling on the highway. These songs go hand in hand with the tone of the game while you experience it. The music changes with your decisions. In addition, the song that plays during the end credits is this great upbeat song as a sign of congratulation for completion of that playthrough. The aesthetic of colorful hand-drawn visuals has reminiscent of postcards. This pairs great with the style of the game and the aspect of going on a drive through this amazing landscapes.
I did not know what to expect with this title when I received it. I had not ever heard of these developers and I have never played a game of style. Neither of these traits is a bad thing, there are new developers coming out with new types of experiences all the time. I did have fun with this title. One of the endings that I went through had you run into a former race champion that Lella use to look up to that tasks you with helping him rob a bank and driving the getaway car. Racing from the cops while weaving through traffic was an exceptional experience and was a great story to go through of a downtrodden celebrity that fell out of the spotlight. Or egging on a hitchhiker that is anti-social and causing him to pull a gun on you. Seeing someone start as a throwaway character that you wouldn’t know anything about to a foe of the protagonist was a great turn of the story. However, the game did lose it’s luster. The short gameplay with various endings was a great model at first, but I felt that after getting the ending that differed significantly and getting down to the nitty-gritty dialogue choices that changed outcomes just got boring waiting for those choices.
Overall, Wheels of Aurelia was a fun experience that has some great storytelling and awesome soundtrack. It is unfortunate that the game loses its luster after a while of playing. I personally would recommend picking this title up, but would not rush it. The title is very interesting and is a cool, new gameplay style. It is time to buckle your seatbelt and sit back for the ride!
Note: A copy of this game was provided for the purpose of the review.
Nintendo Switch Version Update
As of November 2nd, 2017, Wheels of Aurelia is now available on the Nintendo Switch. The game is an exact and unchanged port of the original version, but that isn't a bad thing. After beating a few times I can say that it runs smoothly and flawlessly, whether it is docked or whether you are taking it on the go. Thanks to the relatively short time it takes for a full playthrough, Wheels of Aurelia is a great game to play during your travels, preferably on a road trip! If you haven't gotten around to experiencing Aurelia yet, you may want to consider grabbing it now for the Switch.
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