Wheels of Aurelia, now out on Switch, is a smart, charming game that takes you on a road trip through Italy in the 70s.
Wheels of Aurelia is a visual novel that originally came out for PC in 2016 and iOS last month. It's about two young women driving from Italy to France in 1978. Lella and Olga both have secrets that they share with each other, as well as with the hitchhikers they can pick up and talk to.
It's a calm game, consisting of nothing more than choosing between dialogue choices for Lella and steering the car to different Italian towns. Playing it is like dipping into a summer road trip at will.
Lella and Olga casually reference real political events from the late 70s in Europe, including the legalization of abortion in France, the political struggle between communists and fascists, and the kidnapping of Aldo Moro. As the two of them weave between cars, Italian rock songs punctuate their conversations.
Lella, with her modern short haircut, and Olga, who wears a flirty scarf, are two young women on the cusp of a new age, and they're on the road to escape an aspect of their lives that is chaining them to the past.
Although individual playthroughs are short, some lasting no more than half an hour, the game has about a dozen endings so there's reason to keep revisiting it. Going on different routes and talking to different hitchhikers leads to different conversations, giving you more insight into the characters' lives.
Playing this game is like playing an Italian neorealist film. Although the game takes place long after the end of the cinematic movement, it still captures the naturalness and honesty of the films of that genre.
Wheels of Aurelia captures a moment in time when conventions of Italian life were being challenged, and it's worth getting a little insight into these struggles.