Jalopy, the road trip game developed by Minskworks, following the main character driving across the country with their uncle. Plotting itself within the simulator genre, Jalopy puts you in the seat of the driver, though with a rather limited speed, you are going to be fixing your car as well as optimising it more than anything, going for a more Mechanic sim.
Starting off the game your Uncle gives you a brand new Laika 601, though with an engine, door or wheels… so he basically just gives you a chassis. Putting the car together doesn’t take too long, since you seem to live in a dump of sorts, with a local culmination of car parts is nearby. You’re given a map and the final destination, choosing between several roads to get to the next pit stop. From there is a long drive on the open road, with only a few other cars to worry about.
Due to the game being slightly rogue-like it can be hard to put a time on how long it will take you to reach the end. Running out of money, fuel and the like will force you to start from the beginning. The length is also increased in the roads you choose, as they can vary in length, on top of how many times you will need to restart due to bad choices. It will definitely last you a few hours.
You can control both the character and car with WASD, using the mouse to look around and interact with the environment. Whilst driving you can look around the car, turning on the windscreen wipers, headlights, handbrake as well as turning the several mirrors on the car… that lack mirrors. Besides the lack of safety, the gauges all display information that is valuable to the player, especially when you need to keep an eye on fuel. There is also a radio, allowing you to play some music on the road.
As you drive through Jalopy you will pass through motorways, parkways, countryside and rough terrain environments. A lot of the time you will not be able to pull over and look around, but when you can there is a chance to find locked boxes or items to sell. This can be quite crucial, as getting to a new town will give you the option to sell items, buy fuel and oil or even upgrade the parts of your car. If you don’t pay enough attention to the pricing of items, or how much fuel you have spare you can end up dead on the path somewhere, requiring a restart.
Each part of the car has a durability and quality to it, besides the wheels that just need to be repaired or changed every so often. Depending on the parts you acquire the car can run faster, better or longer, this is the main goal of the game to make the journey smoother and to reach the end goal. You can store items in your trunk like spare fuel, tires and the like, but item management will become quite tiresome when you start picking up spare parts and loot to sell.
Overall Thoughts and Feelings
There isn’t much music in Jalopy, most of the ambient sounds coming from the areas you travel to or music being played on the radio. The music fits the themes, country and style of the game, but just like the game it can feel empty and boring. While I am a fan of some of the genres of music played it really only adds to the already slightly bland atmosphere of the game itself, appealing to a short audience. The sound design leaves a lot to be desired as well, going for a rustic feel and old-timey vibe.
Like many other “Serious” simulators, Jalopy really drives home the feeling of being on the road and keeping your car going. While some might find this fun and interesting I failed to get immersed in the world or the themes it was trying to put across. The procedurally generated maps can sometimes leave you with a long stretch of parkway, split up with some tunnels and the occasional bridge or turn-off. If you love driving, like actual driving in real life, then this will appeal to you, but if you like driving like in Grid or GTA… well this isn’t that at all.
The game suffers from a lot of bugs, glitches and optimisation issues. Your uncle will constantly bug out, walk off into the distance, not go to sleep, repeat animations over and over or simply disappear. Items will sometimes become impossible to interact with, characters won’t interact with you or your car will just suddenly stop working with no real indication as to why… then you find you’ve sprung a leak.
Overall Jalopy gets a 6/10, the “story” is rather boring, characters are plain, bugs plague every section of the game and finally the world can feel too empty at points. It does a driving simulator game justice, if a bit sped up due to fuel needs and repairing the separate parts. The game can be slow to start, but once you learn its systems and start upgrading it will start to become more enjoyable. If you’re into this Niche then that’s all well and good, but the game right now is a bit broken and devoid of polish.