Wheels of Aurelia might come across as a poor-man’s racer, but under the surface there’s a much more compelling game.
When we say game, I should really highlight that Wheels of Aurelia is much more of an interactive story; gameplay is little more than the old game and watch racing titles, but this is used to contribute to how the story progresses.
Playing Lella, a rogue youth who’s on the run from her family, you leave town with your friend in tow and begin on your journey. Driving takes a back seat which is probably best due to the very basic controls: you move your vehicle left and right and control the speed with the triggers. Ideally you’ll want to avoid collisions, but we’ll touch on this a little later on. As you progress from one town to the next, you’ll converse with your friend and Lella will open up about her own background which is where Wheels of Aurelia gets a little more interesting.
Conversation is key, and how you interact with your hitchhiker will ultimately depend on which of the endings you work towards. Be considerate towards their feelings and they’re likely to stick around, but talk to them like sh*t (and Lella has a tendency for thinking the whole world is against her), and soon enough your hitch-hiker will part-ways and continue their own journey by other means.
Sometimes conversation will depend on, or break down because of your driving, so it’s worthwhile trying to avoid crashing into every oncoming vehicle you come across… However it’s not strict enough that you’re expected to drive miles without a single collision.
On my first few play-throughs I’d met a variety of hitch-hikers and covered stories ranging from mob bosses to abortion so extra credit has to go to the dev’s for covering some sensitive subjects.
Graphically there’s not much to write home about. The landscape and buildings feel more like a high-end mobile game than that of one of the most powerful games consoles to date, and while you wouldn’t usually expect much for the £7.99 price tag, it would be safe to say I’ve seen better quality on even cheaper titles. Saying that, the characters are sharp and mostly well drawn, but once again sit in the budget category.
Audio is a little better, with a catchy soundtrack good enough to keep your ears entertained. There’s no fluent voice acting so there’s a heavy reliance on the music to stop things getting stale.
With a single play-through taking minutes, certainly not hours, there’s limited replayability. Sure there’s over a dozen endings to discover, but most of the dialogue leading up to them is the same. This means you’ve just about cracked it when you’ve met the characters once, and trying to keep a certain hitch-hiker on board for a longer duration of the trip is the only way to really get to the bottom of the story. This highlights the less than perfect gameplay mechanics and that once again grinds down your patience.
Wheels of Aurelia certainly isn’t bad, but in all honesty it’s not very good either. It’s great to see some sensitive subjects being brought up, and the dialogue handles them with care. Gameplay is minimalistic which is fine considering the content of conversations, but it all feels like a slow puncture that’s slowly but surely sapping any life out of the actual gameplay.
Back as a child I used to love the ‘choose your own’ story books, where you’d read a page, then jump to a specific page dependent on the choice you wanted to make, slowly working your way through, discovering the adventure and then re-reading parts to work towards the other endings.
Multiple endings have been a big part of video games for many years now, and anything over 5 would be great if the entire game didn’t take less than ten minutes to complete.