Power Wash Simulator Proves Simulators Just Aren’t For Me

Because I’m a big time gaming journalist shill, I received a mailer for Power Wash Sim yesterday. It had a cap that said DING!, a t-shirt that said DING!, and a foam gnome. You know, the summer essentials. Partly because I’m clearly subject to direct marketing, and partly because several staff at TheGamer won’t stop going on about it, I tried my hand at Power Wash Simulator. I think that’s me off simulators for good, thanks.

Simulators have always felt like a strange genre of video game. There are some that make sense – sports sims, life sims, pretend to run a hospital and try not to burn it down as you cut costs on everything sims. But Microsoft Flight Simulator? Just fly a plane for eight hours and that’s it? I don’t get it. Drive a truck across Europe? Build a PC? Cut the grass? These are incredibly mundane tasks. It’s very different to being a hospital director or a professional athlete. Power Wash Simulator definitely falls into the mundane category, but also, I see the power in the satisfaction it offers. Unfortunately, the mundaneness of it all was what won out.

When I first booted up Power Wash Simulator, my wife looked at me and told me firmly, “They have run out of things to make a game out of”. Having spent her last weekend power washing our real garden, she probably had a right to roll her eyes that I was power washing for fun after she had power washed for function. For all we love viral videos of things being power washed clean, and perhaps even enjoy blasting grime from our own decking or garden paving, it felt as if she had a point.

The game is what it says on the tin. You power wash things. You might unlock some extra nozzles (I’m unclear on how exactly they help) along the way, and there are challenges based on time used and water used, but yeah, you just power wash things. My issue isn’t quite in the task itself though – it delivers on its promise – but the scale.

The first job sees you cleaning your own van, and it’s a good way to get to grips with the mechanics. Initially I just used the biggest nozzle everywhere, and once the van was clean, used the dirt tracker to check for any missing corners. Turns out that the widest nozzle is also the weakest (less pressure, you see) so quite a lot of muck still remained. Lesson learned. I doubled back with a small nozzle and caught most of the leftover spots. After another once over, I had less than ten percent to clean, so had to look more precisely. One more sweep, and I was done.

I’m not sure it was fun, necessarily, but I understood the core appeal of the game. I had achieved something, and was satisfied. The time lapse at the level’s conclusion, showing me exactly how my mighty hose had brought the glory of cleanliness upon the world, only made it better. Then we went from a teeny little van to a rather large garden, complete with lots of faff like a kennel, a birdhouse, and a lawnmower. The propane tank of the barbecue needed cleaned. The tops of fences needed cleaned. The underside of the steps needed cleaned. It’s all just a bit much, isn’t it?

After managing with the van and even relishing having to go over each part three times, the garden was far too much. Cleaning the patio had that sweet satisfaction the game was sold on, but being so light meant the dirt tracker didn’t work. Likewise, cleaning the pond lining was easy and fulfilling, but the craggy wall with all its crenellations was a pointless time sink. Does it really matter if the inner grooves of some rocks that will be covered by pond water have a bit of dirt on them?

Eventually I finished and the time lapse made me forget how irritating parts of it was, so the next task ensnared me. It was a dirt bike, and the smallest yet. That’s more my speed. I struggled with the last few bits (being told the sprocket or the radiator is only 84 percent clean doesn’t help when I don’t know what they are), but it was the most I’d enjoyed the game so far. Small tasks that can be finished in a few minutes and don’t have a lot of running about to far flung corners, that’s what I wanted. Of course, next up was a huge golf course at least twice the size of the garden, so I’m out.

I suppose I understand why this genre exists, and I see why it appeals to people, but it doesn’t appeal to me. I’d dismissed the planes, trains, and automobiles sims out of hand, so it’s only right that I eventually try them out – even if I did discover that I was right all along and they are in fact some of the most boring experiences you can have with a controller in your hand. Hey, I’ll always have my DING t-shirt.

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