An educational Italian road trip adventure
Platform: iPhone & iPad
The App Store is known for throwing up titles that mish and mash genres, but when we came across Wheels of Aurelia – an Italian road trip adventure with a heavy educational bent, even we wondered if these developers had gone too far.
Looking at the screenshots you’ll find that though individual in style, the game itself looks fairly straightforward. You play the character in the bottom left of the shot – Aurelia – and, together with a wide crew of motley, and not-so motley characters, you drift down the western coast of Italy searching for adventure.
The lead character is a punky, spunky lady with oodles of sass. She takes no BS from any of her fellow hitchhikers, and it leads to some interesting chats. Despite the educational aspect, this is not a little kids game: there are plenty of somewhat adult themes here ranging from a conversation with a young girl uncertain whether to keep her baby, to a nefarious race car driver on the lamb.
As the player, you’re in charge of both the car, its route and the conversation. But make no mistake, this isn’t an open world. The range of directions you can take is largely swiping to change lanes (though crashing into other vehicles has rare consequence) and taking the occasional turn off – if the narrative allows.
But the narrative itself is all about the conversation: how you respond, who you pick up, and which turnings you take. These choices will lead you to one of 16 different endings. While it makes a big point of offering you a few options in response, in reality, like many of these games, the writer has a story – or at least a handful – to tell.
As a result, you end up far too often feeling like a backseat driver than the one in charge. The game far too frequently becomes passive, and while the story is interesting in parts, it’s not dramatic enough to keep you entertained across the various narrative diversions you can take. Remember, great storytelling is to show, not tell.
Going back to the description of the game – the educational element is relatively unique. Various subjects arise through the conversations – mostly political and cultural references relevant to the game’s setting of 1970s Italy – and each time a new subject is discussed, it’s added to the Wheelspedia.
Subjects include feminism in Italy, the 1953 Italian general election, a list of Italian female Formula One drivers, and the history of the punk subculture in London. By tapping on each one, you’re provided a summary via Wikipedia. It’s a neat approach, and rather than overbearing you with stuffy history, it allows you to dive in as and when you’re interest is piqued.
However, the lack of an open world and some rather circular conversations makes Wheels of Aurelia more of a passing interest than a particularly exciting ride. If you like the sound of the unique Italian style and slice-of-life storylines, you’ll enjoy this app – but come into it with the expectation of a conventional “game” and you may wind up a little disappointed.
- Interesting graphical approach
- Multiple endings
- A range of conversations
- Circular dialogue
- Lack of driving interaction