I’ve got to be honest; I don’t really like road trips. I love the idea of seeing and experiencing new places, but for me travelling to and from said places is rarely fun, mainly as I get travel sick easily. On the road for more than ten minutes and you can guarantee I’ll need a sick bag at the ready. Anyways, you don’t really need to know that and I’m fully aware that I’m in the minority when it comes to a good old road tripping adventure. But if you find that time restraints are holding you back from a family vacation, then why not jump in for the ride with Jalopy, one of the latest games to arrive on Xbox One.
Having already gathered a cult following on PC over the years, Jalopy’s arrival on Xbox One is one that brings a unique type of adventure. The idea of the game is simple; you’ll be taking a relatively beaten up car across the Eastern European Bloc whilst your uncle sits alongside for company, providing some details on your family history and lending a hand when your new car decides it’s seen better days.
After being woken up by your interestingly dressed Uncle Lutfi, you’ll quickly be introduced to the star of the show – the Laika 601 Deluxe. It’s something of an engineering legend in the GDR we’re told early on, but with no passenger side door, no wheels and more importantly no engine, you’ve got a few things to do before you’ll be going anywhere.
Something that stands out early on are the visuals, and from Uncle Lutfi’s eye watering jacket, to blocky and simplistic level and object design, the graphical prowess isn’t exactly a strong point in Jalopy. Of course, it’s not due to poor development and there’s no doubt what I’ve spent many hours looking at is a design choice rather than an issue, but for me, this is one game that would shine more if there was a little more attention to detail amongst the visuals, particularly in terms of a little more colour!
As for the gameplay itself, things are played from a first-person perspective, with the usual left stick for movement, right stick for camera control and A for your action button. Movement isn’t great and feels clunky and unresponsive at best – downright awkward most of the time, in fact. However, Jalopy isn’t a game to be rushed and if you’re willing to spend the time learning the ins and outs of the components you’re putting into your dinky Laika 601 Deluxe, then you’ll soon find the basic visuals and controls aren’t really an issue. The real heart and soul of the game comes from ensuring your new found mode of transportation can survive long enough to get you from town to town.
Once you’ve spent time installing the appropriate parts and have got your car up and running – something which took me a few attempts after bugs such as tires falling through the floor halted my progress – you are left to it. There’s no immediate sense of direction though and instead you must simply get on the road and search for the first border destination on the route through Eastern Europe – the CRSR border crossing through Desdren. This is where the game unfolds and the joys (or irritation!) of a real road trip begin to surface.
Driving isn’t just as simple as pushing the accelerator however, and you’ll need to focus on the little things like switches, surroundings and most importantly the current mechanical state of your car. If you thought installing a new engine, wheels and driver’s side door was enough to get you through the Eastern Bloc you’d be sadly mistaken. Be it tyre changes, filling up on fuel, swapping out your carburettor, or changing your battery, there are a ton of things that can go wrong with your big pile of metal.
Of course none of this comes free though, and to get new parts you’ll need some cash to be playing with. This means you’ll need to make the most of scavenged scraps and the odd bit of contraband smuggling every now and again, as you cross borders to ensure you can maintain your car repairs, whilst also having that little extra cash to cough up for a B&B from time to time. Working through the Eastern Bloc is no small journey after all!
Now I have to be honest, the enjoyment you’ll get out of all of this will be down to the individual, and while Jalopy is certainly a unique game to have on the Xbox One, there will be many out there who will find the repetitive nature of continuously fixing a beat-up car becoming a little tiresome after a while.
Of course there is a little more to it, and whilst conversation with Uncle Lutfi resembles little more than an irritating mumble, those that aren’t put off by a text based adventure will find progress allows you to learn a little more about the protagonist’s family, and a little history of the surrounding areas. It certainly helps that a continuous flow of hints ensures you don’t get too lost on what to do next.
Sadly, the game doesn’t play quite as smoothly as it should and it doesn’t take long to see the signs of Jalopy being a PC focused game first and foremost, with no real effort made to ensure an Xbox controller feels like the natural way to play.
What’s more is that Jalopy isn’t an exciting game to look at, and whilst I mentioned earlier that visually you shouldn’t expect anything spectacular, the dull colours, simplistic level design and lack of interesting ongoings once out on the road are all things which will ensure a bit of a tiresome time from players, all within just a few hours.
If you’re looking for a unique adventure of exploration and don’t mind a slow build-up, Jalopy on Xbox One isn’t a bad shout. However, should you be on the hunt for something that brings excitement, eye-popping visuals and a little more intrigue than simply where you’ll find the cash to repair your clapped out banger, then Jalopy isn’t the game for you.