Jalopy Early Access Review – PC
+ Putting a junker car together, keeping it running, and going on a road trip across ‘90’s Eastern Block is just as fun as it sounds.
- In its current state, many of the features that I feel would really sell this game are either broken or lacking altogether.
This is an Early Access Review and as such opinions and scores are based solely on the state of the game at the time of review and subject to change as development progresses leading up to final release.
Jalopy is a game about putting together and maintaining a car that seems to always be one pothole away from the junk-heap. You start your journey at your home/garage and begin by quickly putting the various parts of the motor in place, attaching the tires and even a mismatched door. After filling the gas tank and choosing a route, you begin your journey across various countries of a stylized ‘90’s Eastern Block Europe.
Along the way, you will have to manage the inventory of replacement parts, tools, spare fuel, and even possibly contraband, in order to keep your car going long enough to get you to your final destination. Your car will break down. You will either find yourself limping it into a town (if you’re lucky), or trying to fix it along the side of the road while other motorists honk angrily at you for taking up valuable road space. If you do manage to keep the car in working order long enough to make it to a town, you can sleep in a motel, do some shopping at the local car-mart to buy more supplies to keep you going a little longer, or even go to a dealership to purchase upgrades for your car, if you’re feeling a little flush.
The game uses a very minimalistic visual style that somehow conveys the bleakness of the represented time-period more starkly than, I think, any other style could manage. There is a depressing calmness that comes over you when you play the game. The driving experience itself is almost serene. The landscapes that you traverse are procedurally generated, so each leg of the journey, no matter how many times you play, will be slightly different than the last. Each country that you pass into after being checked through customs at the border posts has a different look and feel to it.
There are moments of comedy that come from this game. For example, I found myself chuckling at myself when I walked into a rest stop along the highway with barely a drop of gas left in the tank and smoke billowing out of the hood. I walked up to the register with the supplies I needed to hopefully repair the car enough to get me to the next town and then realized that I’d left my wallet in the car. I then had to awkwardly put the various things down and walk back out to my car in the rain, fetch my wallet from the glove-box and then return. I could almost feel the woman behind the counter judging me.
There are occasionally boxes that you will discover along the side of the road on your trip, as long as you’re observant enough to notice them. Some of these will have parts that you can use for your car. Others will just be things that you can take to a shop and sell to give you a few extra dollars to help you along your way, as long as you have the space in the trunk for them. But, as you carry more and more stuff, you’ll find that your fuel efficiency decreases, which in turn makes your various parts break down faster as well. There is a beautiful mix of give and take with this game. It has a lot in common with some of the best survival simulators out there, except that in this game you’re not trying to make sure that your character is well fed and hydrated and protected from zombies. No, in this game you’re trying to make your car survive, piece by piece, mile by mile. And, like most road trips, you can’t help but stumble across some amazing stories along the way, as long as you’re looking for them.
This game is still in early access and many of the planned features are yet to be included, but I feel that as a foundation, the game is solid. There is enough there that I can see the game that it wants to be and it makes me excited for what is to come. Not many games can make you feel a sense of accomplishment for driving a rickety, old car cross-country. It’s a game that makes you feel like you earn every accomplishment through hard work, ingenuity, or just plain old luck.