Long Haul 1983

Author – Sean Patrick Cain (@seanpatrickcain)

Where to Buy – https://spc.itch.io/longhaul1983 or, while it’s available, you can buy this as part of the Solo But Not Alone #2 bundle here – https://itch.io/b/1227/solo-but-not-alone-2

This game is about so much more than driving a big truck on a long road. I mean, it is definitely about that. It wouldn’t be the same game without that central conceit. But Long Haul 1983 uses that familiar concept as a sort of safe vantage point from which the player can venture into the strange, uncanny, and horrific world around them.

In Long Haul 1983, players take on the role of a truckdriver who suddenly finds themselves alone, desperate to reach their destination. Their truck still works, the street lights are all still on but, for some reason, there’s not a single person to be seen anywhere. In the author’s own words:

As this game is based off of The Wretched by Chris Bissette/Loot the Room, players use a deck of cards to generate story prompts to help guide their gameplay and to provide challenges to overcome. Instead of keeping a journal, players close out each day by recording their voice as if their character found a working payphone (not too hard in 1983) and is calling the person at their destination.

Sure, you could ignore that suggestion and just write up your daily entry if you wanted. Similarly, you could ignore the prompts that tell you to listen to a specific song on the curated Spotify/Apple playlist. But…don’t. It is seemingly minor things like this that make this game truly special. Truly immersive.

Unlike most games based off The Wretched, Long Haul 1983 forgoes the Jenga *ahem* falling block tower in favor of four Fate Dice. Players have to roll in the beginning of each day to see if their engine starts and will have to roll whenever a card prompt tells them to. Whenever a player fails a roll from a card prompt, they’ll remove a die and, when the final die is lost this way, the game ends. The last step of the game changes depending on what roll triggered the loss of the final dice.

Of course, the game doesn’t have to end with a failed roll. If a player manages to keep their rig moving, avoid the ever-escalating threats, and survive their wounds, they can reach their destination. Even this victory is short-lived, however, as every positive result ends up with the character back on the road after a while, making one final call back to say something they forgot to say.

As I said before, this game is special, standing out even among other successful hacks of The Wretched/Wretched & Alone. Every part of this game, from the art and layout to the suggested ambient music to the lonely process of recording your voice at the end of each day, supports the games themes of seclusion, distress, and futility. And yet, somehow, the game isn’t impossibly bleak. The scenery and circumstances change often enough to keep things exciting and to make it seem like progress and success are possible. It’s a difficult balancing act but Long Haul 1983 pulls it off flawlessly.

DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this game, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. I plan on reviewing more solo RPGs for the next few months in an effort to bring more attention to the amazing Solo But Not Alone #2 bundle on itch.io. I hope you’ll stick around and consider supporting an amazing charity that’s doing a lot of good work to help prevent suicides.

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