Powerwash Simulator is an interesting game to attempt to review. Just looking at any footage of this title will likely tell you everything you need to know. Either this game is exactly up your alley, or it isn’t.
Powerwash comes from UK developer FuturLab and publisher Square Enix, a partnership with the added benefit of crossover campaigns with (so far) Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII. It’s a relatively simple title that gives you a pressure washer and a multitude of filthy environments to clean, one spray at a time.
There’s more going on in the background – the town where the game takes place is so filthy because it sits next to an active volcano that constantly rains ash onto it, and there’s a subplot about all the cats in town going missing. So if you pay attention, there is a plot here, but it’s definitely happening offscreen.
The main focus here is on the gameplay itself. Career mode puts you into the role of a new power washing service owner, starting by cleaning your van and then quickly moving onto much larger environments.
Cleaning the van is a simple affair that gives you the basics of what you’ll need to know. You have several angles of nozzles that can cover more area with a weaker pressure stream or more concentrated ones to get tough dirt off. A progress meter at the top of the screen shows your overall progress on the current job and whatever individual piece you are currently aiming at.
After the van, though, your next job is to clean an entire backyard with a water feature, and this is the moment that will determine whether the game is suitable for each person that plays it.
This is just step one for those who vibe with Powerwash Simulator. So put on your choice audiobook or video essay, and get to work. The game offers a satisfaction not present in many other titles, and watching the progress bar tick up with each spray, combined with seeing all the surfaces beneath the grime you clean up, is enough to induce a zen state. You can even toggle the washer to spray continuously without holding the trigger.
For those that aren’t going to enjoy this title, the very sight of this level is going to fill you with dread because the amount of time you spent cleaning the van compared to this yard tells you that this is probably going to take an hour, and this is all that this game is. Every new level drops a tiny bit of lore in the form of the texts you receive and the assignments you accept, and then you get dropped either into the garage or a new environment covered entirely in the dirt.
To count any individual part as “clean,” you have to remove ninety-nine percent of the dirt covering it, which typically involves a cycle of cleaning large parts before having to use the dirt highlight button for hunting down the smaller remaining spots you missed. This, too, will be very satisfying or frustrating, depending on the player.
All this was already true of the PC version that fully launched last year, but extra considerations must be had with the console ports. Extra screen real estate (at least, if you’re playing the docked Switch or PlayStation ports) is a positive for your spot-hunting, but the trade-off is having to use analog sticks instead of a mouse and keyboard that gives you more precise control over your movement.
Because Powerwash Simulator is effectively a first-person shooter, you will constantly use one or both sticks to move and turn the camera. While that can feel natural for other games, it is less so in a title where you will spend most of your time closely examining the environment. So it certainly isn’t a dealbreaker, but it can feel a little disorienting.
Like many terminally-online video game players, I’ve been hearing about Powerwash Simulator for several years now, as people discussed its time in Early Access, and the game went viral for the simplicity with which it ropes in a specific kind of player. It’s the very definition of a game designed for you to sink a lot of time into it without giving you a ton to think about, which I’m not a fan of…. Still, the timelapse video it makes for you at the end of each level ended up being cool enough to sell me on wanting to invest more of my time.
If what you want in a game is a simple, relaxing cycle that doesn’t require more from a player than their time and doesn’t offer much more than the enjoyment of playing it and the satisfaction of completion, Powerwash Simulator might be perfect. Of course, it’s not for everyone, but if it hits right, you too might find yourself up late into the night, looking for that last…little…spot.
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