Jalopy is a game about driving a terrible car in a land of psychopaths.Developer:
Out now (Early Access)
I'm about 100 kilometres into my journey to Dresden when smoke begins to pour from the engine of my Laika 106 Deluxe, a car that is essentially a mechanical pick 'n' mix sat atop an axle. My Uncle, whose name is apparently "Uncle", burbles at me like a clogged drain to pull over and inspect the damage at the next opportunity. But opportunities to stop on the German Autobahn are fairly uncommon, and so I pull up at the side of the road near the entrance to a tunnel, where there seems to be a tiny scrap of hard-shoulder.
Before I can even turn off the engine, however, another car slams into the back of us, and I incur a penalty of 10, er, monies (I don't know what the name of Jalopy's currency is). Moments later, a second car bounces off our rear light like a pinball, shortly followed by a third vehcile. By the time I've decided that this is perhaps not the best place to inspect the now dramatically increased damage to my car, I've incurred a penalty of 40 monies for the audacious crime of being repeatedly rear-ended by a bunch of furious German drivers. Given I only started the game with 100 monies in my wallet, this is hardly a promising start to our journey.
This omen proved ill indeed. Our adventure ended about five minutes later, when our battered little Laika failed to climb a 20-degree incline, leaving us stranded somewhere between Berlin and Dresden.
When I saw the initial trailer for Jalopy, I was absolutely captivated at the prospect. Here was what appeared to be whimsical, laid-back road-trip game that sees you exploring the aesthetically abstract countryside of Eastern Europe during the collapse of Communism. It ticked all of my boxes as to what makes a great computer game, freewheeling exploration, a highly tangible world, oppressive Soviet dictatorships, I couldn't wait to play it.
Now that I have, I was surprised to discover that Jalopy is both exactly what I expected and nothing like it at all. It is a game that demonstrates a love for travel and exploration, but it's also fearsomely challenging. A dozen things can go wrong on your journey, and given my experience so far, if it can go wrong it almost certainly will.
The premise of Jalopy sees you driving your kindly, albeit worryingly drunk-sounding Uncle from Germany to Turkey, for reasons which I'm guessing will become apparent during the course of the trip. Only two of the total five countries are currently available to drive through, Germany and the Czech Republic. The game is split up into separate days, with each day seeing you complete a different "route" between two cities. These routes are randomly generated each time you play, and for each day you can choose between three of them which vary in both of length and challenge. Certain landmarks are fixed regardless of which route you choose, but the landscape between those locations is different every time.
So you drive merrily through picturesque locations rendered abstractly by the game's painterly art-style, enjoying the gradual sweep and meander of the tarmac in front of you, and listening to your old Uncle as he chats and directs you and reminisces about the olden days. It's all very pleasant and jolly and lackadaisical. And then you suddenly run out of fuel because you missed the turning for the last petrol station for fifty kilometres, at which point you're more or less screwed.