EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Johnathan Irwin
previewed on PC
Ah, road trips. You either love them, or you hate them. Whether you're alone, or with friends, you're crammed into a confined space for hours at a time with only the road on your mind. Jalopy takes the road trip concept with an Eastern Bloc twist. Get a drink, get a snack, use the bathroom and then let’s hit the open road!
They Tore Down That Wall!
The fall of the Berlin Wall gave way for East and West to be reunited, as well as family and friends the chance to meet once more. The entire premise of Jalopy is based around a road trip to the east. Just you, your Uncle, your jalopy of a car called the Laika and the open roads of eastern Europe.
While one may expect a cinematic experience in terms of visuals, the developer has opted for a more minimalistic approach. I've got to say it works much better than I would've thought. While there can be boring moments, like passing through an open, flat field rather than a hilly area, there are others where the minimal approach really shines. A great example of that is the lighting in some of the interiors.
The further east you go, things become a little less comfortable and a little more untame. The first time you go from paved roads to country mud and rocks, it's a bit jolting. When I had to pull over to change a flat, it gave me a pause to really admire the detail in the game.... that is until I opened the trunk and saw I had no spare! See, it does pay to actually play the tutorials sometimes.
Your Car, A Character
The game is actually more of a simulator than it initially lets on. While not overly complex, you will want to fill your trunk with necessary supplies (tools, a spare tire and water, for example) and frequently check your vehicle front to back to make sure it's up to snuff. Fuel also plays a role, though I found myself stopping at any available rest stops anyway just as an excuse to get out and explore a bit. The car is the central theme of the game, so you'll never be wandering off too far.
A Bumpy Road
Jalopy's strengths and weaknesses are both found in the procedural generation. No two times were the same and each held relatively interesting moments such as finding boxes on the side of the road. Goodies perhaps? Usually, that's the case, but some were very odd. Finding a cardboard box full of bratwurst and then willingly throwing it in the trunk to sell, that's something. Who's worried about food poisoning anyway right? The biggest flaw with the generation right now, however, is that hills are a death sentence for your playthrough with cars randomly becoming stuck and immobile on an invisible wall more often than not.
Jalopy is a game that is one part light-hearted with some (perhaps unintentional) humor, with another part of a foreboding tone of nations in recovery after decades behind the wall. Much of both is found in your Uncle, who at present seems... broken, at best. Outside of the car, he's a mess that frequently just wanders off aimlessly into the distance only to reappear in the car once it's time to leave again.
Engine Light On
Jalopy is far from finished enough for me to encourage people to jump on board, but that being said I love the premise. I love games like this with a relaxing feel, something to do outside of all the chaos and action we often seek. It's very rough around the edges at present, with a game breaking glitch and rough technical aspects that could use some work. Nevertheless, Jalopy is one I'll be keeping an eye on, and hoping for the best.
The game has potential, but we're not ready to jump in with both feet. If the game interests you, look, but don't touch - yet.