Game review: Wheels of Aurelia simulates the pleasures – and boredom – of driving

Set in 1970s Italy, this basic “walking simulator” (but on wheels) is full of charm and randomness

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 1:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 14 October, 2016, 1:00pm

Wheels of Aurelia

Santa Ragione

3.5/5 stars

Italy just might be my favourite country in the world: the food, the climate, the history.

Wheels of Aurelia paints a near-perfect picture of both the country and its people, through its gorgeous west coast setting and Leila, the lead heroine.

Aurelia is a “walking simulator” of sorts – except you drive everywhere. We know what you’re thinking, but a “driving simulator” is a completely different kettle of fish, and this replicates that modern genre’s unique style through its soothing atmosphere, multiple paths and varied cast of characters.

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Set in the rebellious 1970s, the game has you cruising down the age-old, country-long Via Aurelia, nothing more. Along the way, you make a small series of choices on where you turn or stop, but this doesn’t offer a huge number of options as in open-world games.

Instead, it’s all about the passengers. You start off with one seated next to you, and the era-specific conversations you have along the way determine when you’ll ditch them on the kerb and take on a new one.

Admittedly, that does sound dull, and at times, Aurelia had me wondering what the point of it all was, with the intentionally aged graphics and cheesy holiday-coast vibe far from helping things. But embrace the game’s somewhat bizarre feel, and you’ll be rewarded with an almost hypnotic experience that sheds light on a very particular period of history.

Even though your relationships with your passengers become intimate in a matter of minutes, that’s to be expected in a game that only really last for half an hour at most. The point isn’t completing it once – the point is to keep playing, meeting new folks, and seeking out all its various routes and endings. You might be completely oblivious to Italian politics or religion of the ’70s, but after the 50th or so go-around, it washes over you like a warm bath.

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Aurelia’s appeal is hard to explain: like many a walking simulator, there are levels of confusion, contradiction and boredom to overcome before you attain a calming place that’s incredibly addictive. It’s far from the best of its sort, but its distinctive Italian setting makes it worth a cruise around for those seeking something different.