Be careful what you wish for. Upon beating down the door of Maximum Games’ press contact for a Car Mechanic Simulator code, downloading, then launching the game on my Xbox One, I was met with instant regret.
After a text-based tutorial, the first mission was a simple tire job and oil change. It took me about 45 minutes of in-game time. It was irksome, lonely, and required placing each new tire on a machine, waiting in real-time for the machine to finish, then attaching each of those tires individually. Then I changed the oil before forgetting to use an oil pan and sent the car away repaired.
The next job involved buffing out four brake pads and locating a fuel filter and air filter. While fiddling with tiny little screws on that air filter to remove and replace it I realized, this isn’t much ‘fun’ at all! And after accidentally returning a car as ‘repaired’ that was not repaired at all, it became apparent I sort of hated Car Mechanic Simulator.
Worse, I hated it for being exactly what it promised to be. Car Mechanic Simulator is what it promised to be on the box; a dry, technical abstraction of the day-to-day duties of car mechanics. Balance tires, change the oil, replace hub caps, figure out where the actual heck the fuel filter is, waddle over to the computer to buy new parts, and so on. As time rolls on eventually you get drops and the ability to purchase and upgrade cards for sale, but this is a ways away, and equally as dry.
If there’s an annoying little bit of a car that can break, you bet your crankshaft you’ll have an opportunity to fix it in Car Mechanic Simulator. But you probably won’t want to. While control is as solid as you can hope – and the game does do an excellent job of helping you locate the parts you need to fix and isolate, cars are nefariously finicky beasts. This means there’s a lot of micro-management required to perform simple tasks. Which is sort of the point, but also sort of a bummer. This might be easier with a keyboard and mouse on PC, but I suspect it doesn’t dramatically alter the gameplay.
Thus, there are likely two sorts of gamers into the notion of Car Mechanic Simulator:
Gear-heads. Those who love the idea of tinkering with a car’s gizmos and whatsits to get the most performance out of the vehicle. The kind of person who puts a supercharger on a Reliant Red Robin to see what happens. You know these folks.
Dorks. Those who see something unique or interesting and decide to stick their fingers, hands, mouth, tongue inside of it before even really thinking if it’s a good idea in the first place. Who look at titles like Euro Truck Simulator and Haitoful Boyfriend and Train Sim World as an opportunity to expand their minds beyond their own personal window of experience. The kind of player who buys Don Bradman Cricket because they’ve never experienced the game before. You are these folks, most likely.
Gear-heads might just enjoy the title. I’m not sure how accurate it is to the cars it depicts, but there’s enough nuance here that aspiring kids who haven’t had a chance to get their hands on a real vehicle might find themselves satisfied by all the gizmos. Those who love the idea of buying, fixing, and re-selling old cars will also likely enjoy the title, as you really work to rebuild these things, and the satisfaction is quite tangible. Heck, I felt like a champion for simply remembering how to change oil from my high school days.
Dorks…well, dorks might get a solid 45 minutes out of this thing, realize the gameplay loop is not likely to change significantly and trot off to the next weird and wild distraction. But you give that dork a game this specific about a subject they care about, well, you’re off to the races.
I am a flat-out dork, am *not* in any way interested in actual cars, and should have known better (Lego Car Mechanic Simulator please). This, to me, was a curiosity, and while not explicitly fun or something I am fully qualified to recommend or even review, I’m glad I ‘played’ it.
While on a sale, it’s absolutely worth nine or ten dollars to just about anyone. For full price, well, how you’ll feel about it depends on your capacity for enjoying the minute-to-minute minutiae of mechanic work. Replace mechanic work with Tech Support and I’m there with bells on. Replace mechanic work with graphically accurate surgery simulation, and well, I may run for the hills. Such is the subjective nature of gaming, and why sometimes, an impression like this is more valuable than a review. If you put a gun to my head and made me review this game? I couldn’t score it very high.
Which is to say, as an educational tool and introduction to a world I’ve avoided, Car Mechanic Simulator is great. ‘Games’ have an amazing capacity to educate in a way books and movies do not. From my begrudged time with this title, I learned more about the ‘bones’ of a car than I ever have, and have a hell of a lot more understanding regarding why car mechanics always seem so stressed.
I found myself interested in the title simply because it was about a world I never knew or understood and so desperately wanted to. For years and years friends, relatives, and those I was jealous of could rattle off the details of liter engines and V8 Cylinders and makes and models and superchargers. Alas, I still don’t get it. But I tried.
Yet, like clockwork, here I was this morning, viewing the trailer for “Bakery Simulator” and contemplating sending a code request email – that looks interesting. Not fun. Or even exciting. Just interesting. There are shooters and action and strategy games for ages – I’ve been gaming since I was three years old. I’ve stabbed, shot, killed, jumped, and crafted enough to a lifetime. Titles like Car Mechanic Simulator, Bakery Simulator, Euro Truck Simulator, and Train Sim World are by-design one of a kind, and what is this medium – and life for that matter – if not the dorky, dogged pursuit of the unknown, even if it comes one tire turn at a time?
Paul Meekin writes, edits, and consumes all things interactive, interesting, weird, and unique. Reach out via [email protected] or via Twitter @MeekinOnMovies