Developer: Red Dot Games
Release Date: 08/11/2021
Also Available On
Simulator games these days are becoming a serious addiction for me. With Power Wash Simulator becoming one of the best zen-like time sinks I’ve ever played in my life (when it’s out of Early Access I will do a full review) and my past addiction to time management games like Diner Dash I can easily play this game for hours on end with tunes in the background cranking out cars. There’s not really a story here, obviously, but you start out from scratch with the most basic tools and a small garage, but over time you can expand, make repairing faster, and fix up cars from the ground up even.
You start out with just the basics. One lift, slow examination, mounting, and screwing skills. You start with the first of 30-story repairs by doing tire changes, fluid flushes, and basic repairs. The great thing about CMS is slowly getting you familiar with how cars work and break down. I felt like the game was rocket science at first and quickly got frustrated. What’s a rubber bushing?! Where are they all?! Then I realized that all the bushings are tied to the suspension. You eventually learn each section of every car and will start building engines from the ground up and then entire cars. After about three or four hours I was expanding my garage by adding car washes, another lift, spending XP to make my skills faster, and adding things like a welder to get rid of rust on bodies.
Things get easier and faster once you unlock diagnostic tools like an OBD scanner, multimeter, and fuel and engine pressure tests. In the beginning, you basically have to take everything apart and look for the completely rusted parts as those are the ones needing replacement. The beginning cars will tell you what’s wrong so you get the hang of how the gameplay loop works. Later on, every part will be undiscovered and it’s up to you to diagnose, visually examine (it’s an actual diagnostic mode), and know-how to spot fully worn parts. Sometimes you can take a car on a test track to get a wider diagnosis of what’s wrong, then there’s the test path for brakes and suspension. Eventually, you’ll get the hang of what diagnostics work for each condition of a car. If the car won’t start then you should use your examination mode first, then your OBD scanner and multimeter and fix those parts. If the engine fires up but won’t drive then you need to do the other tests. Sometimes non of the tests will tell you what’s wrong and you have to do exploration diagnostics.
There are other elements like a spring puller for shocks, tire separator, and balancer, a brake disc lathe, and you can do a small minigame to repair parts that aren’t completely destroyed, of course, once you unlock all these tools. You can even do headlamp adjustments and alignments. It’s fun changing fluids, screwing in parts, and discovering new engine types with more pieces than before, but after you finish the story all that’s left are random repairs (which are quicker than story missions) and visiting the junkyard and auction to rebuild cars and sell them for more money to turn around and buy more cars, but what’s the appeal in that? Driving the cars on the track is really generic and boring, and the fun part of the game is the mechanic part. I don’t want to collect cars really. Once I upgraded and bought all the expansions there wasn’t anything left to do.
After about 20 hours I could build any car with my eyes closed, and this is my main concern with CMS. The individual car systems are limited in scope. Yes, there are many engine types, but they all go together basically the same just with different parts and varying sizes. It was fun to build an engine on the stand and lower it into the car. I had fun restoring several cars and repainting them or giving the car performance parts to stick on the dyno. However, if it’s not for a repair I didn’t feel any satisfaction. Once you rebuild a few cars you experience the most challenging part of the game. There were a few issues early on in which you can get stuck with no money if you start buying up too much. You need to grind repairs until you get around 30,000 credits and can rebuild and sell a simple car from the junkyard to give you your first serious payment.
The other issue is that everything is canned. All animations and movements and actions. This isn’t Surgeon Simulator or Cooking simulator. There are no hands you control in real-time. When you click apart there’s an outline of where it needs to go. You hold the mouse button down and the part appears and so do the screws. You hold the mouse down on all the screws and you move on to the next part. It’s essentially like building Legos. The overall longevity outside of the story missions will determine how much you get out of these limited systems within the cars and various small mini-games. It becomes redundant and almost boring after so long when the entire reaches its peak early on.
What’s here is a satisfying and fun simulator for at least 20-30 hours. You will want to grind the story missions, unlock everything, and experience everything at least once. Restoring cars from just the frame is fun, but I also would have liked more exterior customization. It’s very limited to just doors, windows, hood, trunk, lights, mirrors, and that’s it. There’s also almost no satisfaction from just buying cars, restoring them, and keeping them to race on a dull track, or selling them for money that isn’t really needed anymore once you unlock everything.