Jalopy, a game about driving through the European Eastern bloc with your uncle in the early 1980s, is probably the slowest and least exciting game you might ever play. While it will not please action fans, there is something definitely unique about the obscure approach of Jalopy’s gameplay.
The ultimate gameplay loop involves driving from town to town, trying to keep a worn down car from completely falling apart, selling items you find on the side of the road as income to maintain/upgrade the vehicle, and having enough cash to spend each night in a hotel. While this might sound like an RPG or car simulator, it is really more of a survival game that just so happens to be based around driving uneventfully from town to town, learning about your family along the way.
Initially starting in your garage, your uncle tasks you with putting a beater together by fetching parts from a cabinet and installing them under the hood of the car. Herein lies Jalopy’s first problem – the interface. With minimal direction, the player is left to figure out where to go and what to do, often resulting in aimless wandering. During my initial playthough, embedded below, I actually got stuck due to a glitch with the car and couldn’t figure out where to go. Not only was the car furiously bouncing off the cinder blocks, the game wouldn’t let me progress, making me think I was doing something wrong but through no fault of my own. Eventually I found a way around the bug and started my journey to the first town of Desdren, leading to the game’s next biggest issue – the UI. Clearly designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind, toggling individual tiny switches on the dashboard is more tedious than entertaining with a controller. This Xbox One version of Jalopy has been ported from the 2016’s PC version after all, making little to no attempt to fix any bugs along the way or adjust for controller based gameplay tweaks.
The minimalist visuals also plays into the somber gameplay mechanics. Composing of massive untextured polygons and a near completely absent soundtrack, Jalopy leaves the player with little more than the open road and your thoughts. To be clear, this design choice was most likely made purposefully as it really does provide a unique feeling, for better or worse.
Jalopy is an acquired taste. Players might not appreciate the drab visuals, unexciting gameplay, lack of direction, and cumbersome controller based UI. However, the slow paced and melancholy presentation is a highlight in the modern gaming landscape and deserves a look if you into weird and experimental type stuff.
Not As Good As: trying to desperately fix your car on the side of the road
Wait For It: a new Outrun
Also Try: Bus Simulator