Big wheels keep on turning !
I own a car. It’s a red Toyota Yaris and he’s called Clifford… like Clifford the big red dog…
Anyway, he has a minor but badass scar under his left eye because multi-storey car parks are the absolute worst, but I know how to feed him and I wash him when the insect graveyard on the windscreen gets a bit apocalyptic. I might need a bit of moral support/supervision when it comes to topping up the windscreen wash and I’m vaguely aware that locking wheel nuts are a thing…
So perfect candidate for Car Mechanic Simulator!
Back when I first entered the absolutely bloody expensive world of car ownership, I initially had lofty ambitions of attending engineering night classes so I could stand next to a mechanic, stroke my chin, nod sagely and say “yes it seems to be a problem with the cathode wing nut flange”. Alas this never came to be, but I saw this game as my closest opportunity to learn, and when I was presented with the difficulty options I figured I’d start small and go for standard difficulty with the understanding that there would be some sort of tutorial.
There is no sort of tutorial at all!
You awake in a massive garage with a couple of cars at your disposal while a vague hint tells you to complete the test track to end the “tutorial” and not much else. The most you get in the way of a tutorial is a tooltip that explains what the various bits of machinery are. Once I had figured out how to get to the test track I was then informed that my car needed oil.
Now I’m not a complete automobile dunce
I do know how to check and change the oil in an actual real-life car, but I was initially stumped by this simple piece of car maintenance in the first few minutes of the game. Maybe I was overthinking it as I scrutinised every square inch of the garage looking for engine oil. As it turns out you just need to remove the oil cap on the engine and the oil can simply apparates into the air! Yes, you’re a mechanic wizard Harry!
Driving on the test track is not a pleasant experience. While you are given the opportunity to drive cars, this game does not feel properly geared up for driving. Pun intended. The vehicle controls are fairly standard but they are also extremely light and twitchy so it feels like you’re being piloted rather than piloting the car. There’s no feedback or responsiveness in the handling that you would normally get from a racing game, so I’ve mainly stuck to being in the garage rather than being out on the track.
Your wizard-like abilities continue as you can seemingly phase through the solid car body to get at certain parts. However, while the controls are generally ok, the camera is a ginormous pain in the bumper, and I found moving the camera, especially around the engine, fully frustrating as other bits of the car phase in and out of your vision and get in the way. For full disclosure, I will admit my controller has suddenly developed a bit of a drift issue which meant that the camera would routinely and dramatically pan slowly around like I was in a Michael Bay film, so maybe the control issues I experienced were purely down to that.
Because I’m not a mechanically minded person I settled into this game by seeing it more as a puzzle game rather than anything that realistically portrayed the life of a mechanic. At its core this game is, identify and remove the broken thing, buy a new shiny thing and insert shiny thing, and yet I found it strangely addictive. Much like my rampant Dragon Age problem, instead of muttering “one more quest, one more quest” till 3 am it was, “one more car, one more car… this one only needs a quick oil change…”
Worryingly I found that the stereotypical mechanic “mindset” soon developed. I went from a conscientious repair person who went above and beyond the repair list, to getting away with the bare minimum of work and making a cheeky profit. This was when I started to notice that you could play this game quite strategically.
Calls come into the garage and you get a list of jobs you can pick and choose from. Each job, with the exception of story jobs, has a period of time in which you can accept it before it is gone forever. This seems to be the only time penalty I’ve noticed so far, as you don’t appear to have a deadline to get any of the work done, and either I’m really bad at changing calendars or it’s been the 18th May for a few months now.
The jobs give a brief overview of the problem and the strategy lies in what details have been included. Jobs that have “list provided” as part of the description, means that all the parts that need replacing are listed for you, and as a wizard mechanic you have eagle-eye-survival-vision which highlights these troublesome parts in red so you know what to dismantle straight away.
Other jobs, and story jobs, in particular, will just give a bit of an explanation of the problem and you will need to figure out what needs replacing, your mech-eagle vision will not help you here. Thankfully you can identify the offending parts by the level of rust covering it. The more rust there is the more likely it needs replacing.
For every job you complete you get experience points and money
Some jobs do give extra money or experience bonuses and these are always worth snapping up when you see them. You level up with a skill tree of sorts, unlocking more garage space, access to more kit and the ability to screw faster (lol). At writing I am at maximum screw speed (wink wink) and I’ve got to the point where I can happily remove and reassemble entire suspension rigs and strip down V8 engines. Which is a little bit exciting!
Other rewards for story progression include crates that contain higher quality parts than you can buy from your suppliers and maps to various barns where you can rummage through junk piles and buy parts or pick up a wreck to pimp. It’s a bit like Storage Wars except everything is a fixed price, there’s no bidding and there isn’t a big dude shouting “MONEY!”. Ok, it’s nothing like Storage Wars but you get what I mean.
It was on one of these shed excursions where I picked up my baby Bolt Hellcat for $20k pretty much wiping out my cash balance to the point where I had to sell all my epic shiny parts to buy standard parts so I could continue to fix up other people’s cars. Running a business is hard!!!
So at present, my beautiful Hellcat is gathering even more rust and dust in a parking garage because my workshop is still a bit on the small side. So if you don’t mind I’m off to do a few more cars… and maybe a few oil changes so I can get him some new parts.
This was a game that I took on for a laugh and then in a strange turn of events got fully into it! I am honestly and genuinely surprised at how much I enjoyed it and am still enjoying it. Will I be wearing overalls and Castrol GTX stains next season? Do I feel confident to stand next to Kwik Fit Kevin and go “yeah, yeah it’s the rear muffler that’s the problem cocker!” Maybe not, but I might make more of an effort to check the old dipstick now and then.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, PlayStation, Xbox
Release Date: 25/06/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Racing, Sim
Developer: Red Dot Games
Publisher: PlayWay SA
Download link: Microsoft Store