Fast cars and political turmoil: You should be playing Wheels of Aurelia

What is it?

A brisk, highly-replayable narrative 'racing' game set during Italy's tumultuous Years of Lead

Play it if you like...

Short, interactive stories with multiple endings; funky Italo disco tunes

  • Format: PC / PS4
  • Price: $9.99 / £7.99
  • Release date: Out now on PC / PS4, coming soon to Xbox One

Italy, 1978. For over a decade, the country has been besieged by terrorism. Important political figures, judges, and corporate leaders have lost their lives at the hands of the leftist Red Brigades and the fascist National Vanguard. A river of crimson flowed endlessly through the country, its citizens often caught in the crossfire. Those 14 years of Italian history are known as the Years of Lead, named for the amount of ammunition fired by both sides of the conflict. And Lella wants to get the hell out of there.

Wheels of Aurelia follows Lella's trek north up the titular Italian coastal freeway, on her way to France and parts unknown. She begins her road trip by driving to a disco late at night, where she picks up a posh-looking woman named Olga. The rest of the story is up to you.

Each run through Wheels of Aurelia will take you about 15-20 minutes. It uses the framework of a top-down driving game from the 80s and integrates multiple-choice dialog options to thumb through while you race down the freeway - think R.C. Pro Am meets Telltale, and you're mostly there. Along the way, you'll chat about the current political climate, discuss recent outrageous stunts you've seen on television, learn more about Olga's back story as well as your own sordid past - or don't. Like a Telltale game, silence is a valid option too, and the choices you make on your route will determine which one of sixteen endings you'll get.

Maybe you'll race a fascist down the freeway and win his car if you beat him to the next city. Maybe you'll pick up a hitchhiker on the side of the road. Maybe he'll turn out to be a famed race car driver long thought dead. Maybe you'll ditch Olga to let him ride along with you. All the while the wind whips through your hair as you speed up the coastline, noting the beautiful scenery and centuries of history passing you by, all while slick, funky Italo disco tunes pipe in over the radio. Once it's over, start a new game, pick your car, and hit the open road again, making different decisions to see how this narrative rubber band bends.

Wheels of Aurelia revels in the small, personal details shared between two people who are learning to trust each other, as well as a political and historical landscape rarely, if ever, seen in games. Whether or not Lella makes it to France isn't the point - on the Via Aurelia, the journey is more important than the destination.

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David Roberts
David Roberts lives in Everett, WA with his wife and two kids. He once had to sell his full copy of EarthBound (complete with box and guide) to some dude in Austria for rent money. And no, he doesn't have an amiibo 'problem', thank you very much.