Wheels of Aurelia ($3.99) by Santa Ragione is an interactive visual novel that takes you on a journey of self-discovery. If you enjoyed other titles like Old Man's Journey and Artificial Superintelligence, then you'll like what Wheels of Aurelia has to offer.
While I like to think I have an interesting life, I know that it's not the case, as much as I'd like it to be. Fortunately, there's always video games that allow me to live the life I've always dreamed of having, because there's so much variety in what I can achieve in a digital medium. When the news of Wheels of Aurelia hit my inbox, I became intrigued because I've always wanted to go on a road trip, but the opportunity has never really come up for me. Now I can kind of live that life thanks to this interactive novel.
App Feels Like
Visually, Wheels of Aurelia has a kind of modern retro aesthetic to it, similar to Horizon Chase. This means a low-poly world that's both cute and charming, appealing to those who miss the vintage style. Everything is rendered in 3D, and Italy looks as bright and vibrant as ever during the 1970's. The character portraits are drawn in 2D fashion and look incredibly realistic. Each character you end up interacting with has their own unique personality and dialogue. Animations are smooth and fluid, and the dialogue text is easy to read. The game also has a quirky soundtrack that's fun to listen to, and the sound effects are a nice touch.
In Wheels of Aurelia, you play as the bold and spunky Lella as she embarks on a road trip across Italy during the 1970's. Lella has a bit of a checkered background that gets unraveled as you play, meeting many different and unpredictable characters along the way. It's a journey about self-discovery, and this is made abundantly clear as you hit the streets. The dialogue that you choose for Lella to say in response to others affects everyone involved, and there's a total of 16 different endings you can get. Remember — Wheels of Aurelia is all about the journey, not the destination.
The controls in Wheels of Aurelia is simple, though at times it can feel a bit overwhelming since a lot of multitasking can be involved. As Lella drives the car, you can swipe left or right to change lanes or hit stops in the road. Since the road is just one lane both ways, you'll want to go into the opposite lane to pass up slower cars in front of you, but watch out for oncoming traffic. As you drive, Lella has rather engrossing conversations with the people she meets along the way in the car, and you'll want to go through the available dialogue options (swipe vertically) and pick the one you think is best.
Depending on your choices in Wheels of Aurelia, the story for each attempt ranges from short to lengthy. Once a storyline concludes, you get a scene with text that explains what happened to Lella's passenger, as well as what Lella does afterwards with her own past.
After you're done with one attempt, you can choose to play again and try to get a different ending. After all, there are 16 endings you can get. The neat thing is the fact that you can choose what chapter to start from, instead of the beginning each time. On top of that, you can pick a new set of wheels each time, and you can also unlock new cars throughout the story.
As you play Wheels of Aurelia, you'll probably end up hearing about many cultural and political references from characters, as well as places. There's a "Wheelspedia" that you can access at any time to read explanations detailing the significance of these references.
A change of pace game that is about discovering the storyline through road trip choices.
Wheels of Aurelia is a quirky and endearing interactive novel game. The graphics are a great combination of modern and retro, and the characters have distinctive appearances to them that make them stand out. The storyline is captivating from the get-go, and the setting is a great blast from the past. All of the people you meet are special in their own way, and it brings life to the story. Choosing Lella's dialogue is an easy affair, and the swipe controls for changing lanes is intuitive. Having 16 different endings and the option to choose a starting chapter means you can skip the beginning and get right to the fun stuff.
While Wheels of Aurelia is a pretty solid game, I did get a bit overwhelmed with having to keep an eye on the road and choose dialogue at the same time. I know — multitasking is great, but if I'm in a street race, I want to concentrate on that first, and not have a bunch of dialogue on the screen that I can't read. I think the controls could be better optimized for situations like that, or at least have less going on the screen at once.
While I'm not usually big into interactive visual novels, Wheels of Aurelia is an exception. I'm loving the visual style of the game, and the music is delightful. Controls are simple enough for everyone to enjoy, and the character development and endings are done well. The game's all about the journey rather than the destination, and I think that's a great outlook on life in general. I may not have been on an actual road trip yet, but this game gives me a sample taste of it.
I recommend giving Wheels of Aurelia a try if you're in the mood for a narrative experience. You can find Wheels of Aurelia on the App Store as a universal download for your iPhone and iPad for just $3.99.