Kick it in the nuts (and bolts).

Title: Car Mechanic Simulator
Platform: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
Developer: Red Dot Games
Publisher: PlayWay
Release date: Out now
TL;DR: You can ruin an imaginary person’s day by dismantling their whole car when you only need to change the oil
Price: £25/$30 (across all platforms)
Family Focus?: Click here for more information

There aren’t many games that let you methodically and completely disassemble a Jeep Cherokee to its bare bones when all you were supposed to do was fix the brakes. No, there aren’t many, but Car Mechanic Simulator – for better or worse – lets you do just that. Unfortunately, it was the most diabolical idea I could think of in an otherwise drab game that looks nice, but does little more than hypnotise you into an endless string of fairly mundane jobs.

The pull of the game is a straightforward one: play as a mechanic, fix cars, and grow your garage into an organisation that can pimp any ride. There’s not much else to it than that; no murdered father to avenge by fixing cars, no criminal mechanic underbelly for you to combat; you’re just an average worker, where people call into your garage with jobs that need doing and you get them done – that’s it.

The jobs themselves range from changing the oil of someone’s trusted motor to trying to repair a few choice components of an engine. You’ll be eased into the world of mechanics, but even something as simple as changing the brakes and tires of a car will have you getting your hands dirty with virtual grease. It’s a clever way of getting you comfortable with the catalogue of deadly tools at your disposal in the garage, with even a tire change making you use a car lift to elevate the whole thing before unscrewing the whole wheel, finding out its size and grade, order new tires and rims from the in-game internet, attaching those new tyres and rims with a machine, then using a balancing machine on them, and finally screwing them back into the car (imagine I’m very out of breath after explaining all of that). So yeah, even the game’s simpler jobs require a fair bit of work.

The strange thing is that I never really got bored with the jobs; don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t bouncing from wall to wall with excitement, but there’s something devilishly addictive about the small satisfaction of getting a job done. It helps that alongside those jobs, there’s the bigger picture of the garage itself; the jobs you complete get you a little bit of extra cash depending on the complexity of the task, and you can sell the parts you keep for a little pocket money. All these funds go towards the expansion of your business, like expanding your garage so that you can fit in an extra car lift. The expansions will eventually offer you a car respray station, a tuning studio, and an extra large bench to do repairs, meaning you can fix up second-hand tires and treat them like they’re new.

Those snazzy new expansions aren’t so much for the run-of-the-mill jobs in the game as they are for the long-term projects of fixing up rusty old gems. Car Mechanic Simulator has a handful of spots that you can visit to purchase banged-up cars and begin working on them; you can visit a junkyard and buy a rusted pile of crap for a few thousand bucks, you can bid at an auction like a chump, or you can visit a creepy old man at a barn that always has a new car, suggesting this farmer is murdering people and selling off the evidence. You’ll be taking the old bangers and murder evidence back to your garage, figuring out what needs replacing, what can be repaired, and then deciding whether you want to hold on to it or sell it off.

There’s no real need to hang on to the cars other than being able to look at them. Granted, you can take them for a drive, but once you get on to one of the game’s three tracks, you’ll want to get off it as soon as possible. Actually driving in the game feels incredibly soulless, and it doesn’t help that every location in the game is devoid of any life, giving the whole game an eerie dollhouse vibe.

Car Mechanic Simulator is, despite its many flaws, a clever idea. It manages to give you an ever so slight understanding of how a car works; the jobs in the game do well to get you exploring every nook and cranny of a vehicle while balancing the basics of business with it, teaching you to keep or repair what you can in order to turn a quick profit when you need to. Meanwhile, the customisation and fix-em-up aspect of the game means that there are enough long term goals to make the string of customer jobs feel more necessary than they perhaps are. All in all, Car Mechanic Simulator feels like it’s a nice way of teaching a kid about how a car works without threatening the safety of your own car in the process – and you can take apart a whole car itself, which is always fun.

The Good:

  • Enough variety in the game to keep you interested for a while
  • The car refurbishment projects you can do are incredibly detailed
  • A clever way of teaching you about the different components of a car

The Bad

  • The driving gameplay is flat

Family Focus

PEGI: 3 ESRB: E for Everybody

Car Mechanic Simulator doesn’t have the thrills and spills of other sim games but it does a decent job of getting you to grips with how a car works, making it a clever game for any wannabe mechanic kids you might have wandering around the house.

Disclaimer: This review is based on a copy of the game provided by PR for the purpose of this review.