Bravo, Santa Ragione and Brava, Lella! This driving sim/adventure hybrid’s a definite Game of the Year contender that will make those who “get” it want to crack open a few books and do some heavy reading and/or thinking.
Platform: PC (also on Mac/Linux/PS4/Xbox One)
Developer: Santa Ragione
Publisher: Santa Ragione
Release Date: 9/20/2016
# of Players: 1
ESRB Rating: N/A
Score: A (95%) BUY IT!
Calling Santa Ragione’s outstanding Wheels of Aurelia a simple “driving simulation” is REALLY selling it short. This brilliantly conceived hybrid game is more of a mature “choose your own path conversation-based adventure that just so happens to take place in a almost constantly moving car” with 16 possible outcomes and more than that many ways to reach them. From the beautiful stylized simplicity of the art, the great soundtrack (buy it!) that captures the spirit of late 70’s Italian radio tracks, and the mature script that may rankle a few overly sensitive types while striking others as flat out fantastic and thought-provoking.
Save for the ride you choose, the game’s opening is exactly the same each time. In 1978, Lella and Olga, two young Italian ladies who met the previous evening at a disco, set out on a road trip to France on the Via Aurelia along the western coast of Italy. Along the way, the pair talk about life, pick up a hitchhiker or two (or none – it’s up to you) and based on the path both the conversation and car takes, the game reaches a conclusion in all of 15 minutes or so. 16 endings at 15 minutes each ends up at 4 hours total playtime IF you’re silly enough to think you’ll see every conversation and character variant possible. The combination of period-era history, frankly spoken dialogue and some VERY interesting hitchhikers make this very replayable as well as a great exercise in storytelling.