Jalopy is a lovely road trip simulator that wheels players around the territories of the former Eastern Bloc. It's been in Early Access since April 2016, and has now set March 28, this Wednesday, for full release.
When I first discovered former Formula 1 developer Greg Pryjmachuk was partly responsible for Jalopy, I was intrigued. Driving an East German Trabbie-aping Laika 601 Deluxe is a far cry from high-velocity F1 cars, and while I loved my time with it I'm not sure I properly understood it.
Miodrag Kovachevic's 2017 Now Playing, on the other hand, is a wonderful example of someone who does. As explained in the article's intro, Miodrag grew up in '90s Yugoslavia, an Eastern European country that no longer exists. They speak about their family's Yugo—"a metal box with wheels that was the embodiment of cheap communist cars"—which, despite lasting 27 years, appears to mirror the game's Laika 601 Deluxe.
Miodrag's insights inspired me to return to Jalopy, which I then found more enjoyable than before. You should absolutely read the piece in its entirety, but I've pulled out a couple of paragraphs below:
As I drive through procedural ’90s Germany, I don’t recognise any of the environments, but I still feel a sense of nostalgia. My car is slow and the roads are barren, without a single billboard in sight. The radio plays songs that sound like Eastern Europe in the ’90s, (or Western Europe in the ’60s, depending on your perspective). A few infant ’90s tracks tentatively edge themselves in, not yet knowing whether they’re electro or industrial...
When I finally reach Yugoslavia, the game shows off the coastal area—something I’ve never seen before. But the roads still feel familiar. They bend in weird and dangerous ways, while stone hills loom over them. It’s nowhere in Yugoslavia; it’s everywhere in Yugoslavia. I gaze at the sea and reflect upon my journey. Have I changed like my Laika has? Different on the inside, with only the shell still the same? The car breaks down again and I’m reminded that no, it’s still the piece of garbage it has always been.