The Wheels of Aurelia go round and round

Round and round

Round and round

The Wheels of Aurelia go round and round

And collapse flat on the ground because this game needs a therapist

Story

Wheels of Aurelia is a visual novel that disguises itself as a driving game. Despite the story being the only real focus of the game, it is quite a mess. Just as soon as the game begins, it nosedives into the uncomfortable misinterpretation that feminists are women that want all men dead. That’s the mentality of our main characters, and they stay by that mentality by the end of the game…

…Or at least that was how my first playthrough went. That’s actually 1/16th of the equation; there are sixteen different endings, and each path to one has its own series of dialogue exchanges. They can go as far as to change how the characters act completely; there are other routes that featured absolutely none of that faux-feminist nonsense. But what it did have? Well…Your guess is as good as mine.

Here’s the fatal flaw with the writing as a whole: it doesn’t try. You’d think with four writers in the staff credits, there would be some sort of story going on. There isn’t though. It doesn’t build off of anything. It’s as much of a series of throwaway lines as it could possibly get. If you’re lucky enough, a mentioned character trait may actually stick around for more than one dialogue exchange!

This is one conversation I’ve seen in the game. I kid you not:

“So, who are you meeting in France?”

“A nice French boy I met in Antibes last summer.”

“Before or after your kidnapping, Maria Grazia?”

“What the hell?! How do you know my name, asshole?!”

“I’m not the only one that’s been in the spotlight.”

“‘That girl that was kidnapped’ is not the same spotlight!”

And then it stops. It’s not addressed again, it’s not expanded on, and it’s just left behind like nothing about it matters! It abruptly and shockingly moves on to some other random topic. Imagine if I was going on a rant about Donald Trump’s Russia scandal, and then suddenly said “Man, this ice cream tastes good! What brand is it?” No matter how touchy, political, or pointless a subject is, Wheels of Aurelia throws it in without rhyme or reason.

Graphics

Visually, it’s okay. The environment has a charmingly blocky 3D style to it, and the character portraits are at least well distinguishable. There is hardly anything else to look at, unfortunately. What’s there is only appealing for so long; then again, each playthrough of this game lasts under 15 minutes, so I suppose it makes sense in that perspective.

What I’m raising eyebrows over is the Switch version somehow being a technically inferior game anyway. This is also released on Steam, PS4, and Xbox One, and those versions ran at 60 frames per second. Yes, a visual novel game (if you can call it that considering how disjointed and short-lived the “storytelling” part is) apparently had its framerate cut in half during the porting process to Switch. What happened??

Audio

Probably the best part of the game, the audio in Wheels of Aurelia is interestingly subtle. There is some atmospheric music that plays, but the game also conveys a radio broadcast. It kind of attempts to immerse players into the idea of actually being in the car they control. It’s a neat feature, which is more than I could say about a lot of other things in the game.

Gameplay

Since I have been noting that Wheels of Aurelia is a visual novel, you might suspect that there isn’t much to talk about in the gameplay category. If that’s what you’re thinking, then you are…completely correct. This game is all about its dialogue choice framework and nothing else. You can steer the car left or right, or you can make it go slightly faster. That’s it. You don’t even have to control the car if you want! The closest you can do to make the car affect the game is by choosing whether or not to make a certain turn to trigger a different part of the “story”. It’s kind of impressive, actually; at this point, one could expect to make those same decisions via the dialogue system.

Yet I think even the dialogue system could use improvement. Why do I have to scroll through each individual line by pressing the same button over and over? Why not have each selectable line mapped to various buttons? The D-Pad by itself is perfect for that! Why do I have to wait a few seconds for the game to register that I’ve picked a line? I’m pretty sure a confirmation button would’ve worked just fine! Why, why, why?

Verdict

Yeah…don’t pick this one up. Wheels of Aurelia is a big disappointment. If you are looking for a driving game, this isn’t the place to be at all. But what if you are into visual novels? Even if the Nintendo Switch may be lacking in the amount of visual novel games currently available, don’t be desperate enough to eye this. You will get nothing out of this game.