As soon as I spot the word ‘Simulator’ within the title of a game, I know it’ll be a game I end up loving and/or losing hours to, as I learn the ropes of performing a real job. I know this as it’s happened previously with titles such as Train Sim World, Airport Simulator 2019, Construction Simulator 2 – US Edition, and Fishing Sim World. As such, I prepared myself for many sleepless nights and long play-sessions with the latest simulator game in my library, Car Mechanic Simulator.
Developed by Red Dot Games and published by PlayWay, the authenticity and realism of Car Mechanic Simulator exceeded my expectations, delivering us an ‘edutainment’ title which is borderline as close to the real thing without getting your hands dirty – just as we saw with the brilliant Train Sim World previously. Sure, some people will be instantly put off due to the nature of the niche genre, but I encourage you to read on as this is one of the most addictive and satisfying games you’ll find which also sneakily teaches you at the same time.
You awaken in a dark room, the smell of oil and grease fills the air making it hard to breathe as you frantically search for a light switch to illuminate this foreign location. After what seems like an eternity, you find the bringer of light and push its switch with a sense of urgency, watching as the fluorescent lights flicker and gradually unveil your surroundings. Much to your surprise, you’ve awoken within a garage, not a small one you see attached to the side of a house, but one which services and tests motor vehicles for paying visitors – just what is this? Why are you here?
It turns out you’ve been taken hostage, made prisoner within a mechanic’s workshop in exchange for the safety of your family. You must now repay a debt you owe via the skills of your trade – fixing and flipping vehicles. A small sheet of paper is all that guides you, “Tend to the customers, fix their vehicles, make money, then buy and flip your own vehicles – and your family will be safe”. With your wrench in one hand and the threatening letter in another, you must ensure you deliver your best performance with every patron should you wish your wife and children to remain safe; and alive.
Okay… Maybe the story isn’t as sinister or dramatic as that, but how cool does that sound?!? Simulation games don’t have to be monotonous or ‘boring’, you can invent your own reasons for doing what you’re doing and build on that with your imagination. Seriously though, Car Mechanic Simulator is a game in which you service cars whilst expanding your arsenal of tools and the size of your garage as you move towards flipping over cars for massive profits and even building your own cars from (almost) scratch. It’s an addictive and strangely satisfying game which I feel everyone will find some kind of enjoyment with.
Car Mechanic Simulator is all about simulating the role of a mechanic, who works on cars – in case you hadn’t noticed. Everything from receiving and accepting the maintenance request, diagnosing the trouble components, purchasing new parts, and then stripping down and repairing the vehicle, is within your job description. Not to mention the more advanced and adventurous parts of the job, such as buying cars in auction, digging through junkyards for spare parts, competing in races and taking to the test track in order to see just how messed up the latest job really is!
For me, I absolutely love games like this. I’m a massive puzzle fan with a keen interest in problem solving and micromanagement – most likely stemming from my previous roles in Technical and Application support for various big companies. I love breaking things down in order to see not only why they’re broke, but also how and why they work in the first place, Car Mechanic Simulator is brilliant at doing this with all of the tools and mechanics you have in place.
As such, the gameplay actually breaks down into various segments – Requests and diagnostic tests, Manual investigation and problem-solving, Ordering parts and fitting them, and the various other things you can do in the world of Car Mechanics. So, let’s take a look at these ‘exciting’ tasks…
Requests and diagnostic tests
Requests come in via your phone within Car Mechanic Simulator, although the consumers seem to be a little impatient in waiting for a response. Each request, bar the ‘story’ missions, has a timer – once the timer runs out, the request vanishes and is subsequently replaced with another order. Why does this matter if they are replaced? Because some orders come with a monetary or experience bonus upon completion, and some of them grant much bigger profits depending on how far into the game you are. As such, it’s always best to keep an eye on the orders, even if you’re working on a car – your initial garage can hold two cars, one via the loading bay and one on the lifting bay.
Once you’ve gained enough experience to buy various ‘upgrades’ to your arsenal and garage, you’ll slowly gain access to various new tools and rooms. These vary from a brake and suspension testing facility, a bunch of tools for testing everything from the tyres to the electrics without taking off any parts, and the superhuman ability to instantly diagnose a number of parts just by looking at the vehicle. You can technically skip this step and jump straight into the Manual stripdown and problem-solving segment, but you can save a tonne of time by running through all of the tests available – including the test track (if the car is drivable). Each one will diagnose various parts of the vehicle and update your job list with the faulty parts which need replacing.
What I love about Car Mechanic Simulator is the helpful nature of the actual diagnostic stage. Once you know which parts need replacing (by diagnosing or the client giving you a list of what parts they want changing), you can push Square on them in the job list and they will magically get highlighted in the real world. This way, you now know which parts need to come off and get replaced without taking the entire car apart (which I have done before), allowing you to pinpoint the problem areas in an efficient and timely manner. Seriously, this simple process of highlighting the problem areas upon diagnostics is simple the best mechanic in the game (bar yourself, of course!).
Manual investigation and problem-solving
If the above diagnostics didn’t find all off the parts you need to fix (as indicated by the mysterious question marks on the job list), or you’re just not experienced enough to unlock any of the fancy tools at your disposal, you can always resort to good old instincts and common sense. There are a few ‘manual’ abilities you can use to help you in your quest to be the best Car Mechanic in the universe – look, touch, and mind powers!
Look: First things first, look at your job list, if the customer is complaining about a rattling within the engine then you know it isn’t going to be a problem with the rear suspension – so open the hood. Once in there, click on something so your face is a mere few inches from the mechanical beast and look around – you’ll most likely see a number of parts which are rusty beyond all repair. I’m talking pieces of machinery which are browner than a bar of chocolate! Usually, it’s safe to say that they are most likely the problem here. So, use your instincts and simply look in the area you’d expect a problem and remember, rust = bad…
Touch: Once you’ve found the rusty remains of a potential problem, yank that part out with all your might (after unscrewing any nuts and bolts or removing clips and adjoining components) and shove it in your pocket. You’ll inspect the part with your eyeballs in doing so and the health will be displayed in the top corner of your HUD-enabled vision. Anything that’s below 40% is usually dead and requires fixing or replacing. Also, if you do find the culprit, a question mark on the job list will change to the part name, enabling you to Square it and have it highlighted once you enter ‘build mode’ later on.
As a side note to the ‘touch’ mode, if like me, you know nothing about cars outside of the fact they are magical chunks of metal which move very fast in order to get you from one place to another, you can take this opportunity to become a car murderer! There was a number of times where I had no idea what the issue was with the car (it always turned out to be the small fuel pump in the rear of the vehicle), so I literally took everything out of the inside of the car and shoved them in my big pants. By everything, I mean EVERYTHING. I took apart the wheels, dismantled every structure within the inside of the car, took out the engine, took the engine apart piece by piece, and even stripped out all the seats and the body.
It’s fun, but expect to spend about two hours pulling it apart then putting it all back together again. Although, this method will result in all the problem parts appearing on the job list – as there’s literally nothing left you haven’t touched with your magical hands.
Mind Powers: The above methods are all done via the equivalent of Google Maps in Satellite mode – you’re seeing the parts as they would look in real life. However, if you swap to the games’ version of Google Maps’ ‘Map’ mode, you’re shown all the mechanical parts as white objects. Any parts you’ve already diagnosed via the initial tests will be colour coordinated – Green means they are 100% fine and red means they are broken and need replacing. However, it also scales from Red to Green, including yellow, so you know just how good or bad a part is – yellow is usually fine but almost broken.
Whilst in this hypnotic state, you can inspect a number of parts by simply looking at them via holding the Cross button. This saves you removing any parts as you magically look (and probably sniff) the various components in hopes of detecting the parts which are causing an issue for the driver. Sometimes you can get lucky and uncover all of the missing job sheet parts without even taking a single component off the car, but most of the time you’ll be left with one or two parts you can only inspect with your magic hands or via one of the tests you can perform – which is why I recommend doing all of those first.
So, once you’ve found all of the key components and successfully removed them from the vehicle, that’s only half the job complete! Next, you have to order the new parts (or reuse naff ones if you’re lucky)…
Ordering parts and…
There are some parts of Car Mechanic Simulator which go a little too far when it comes to the simulation side – the order mechanic is one of them. To make it easier, you can make yourself a shopping list, so you know what you have to order. This is simple, go into your pants, look for all the damaged parts, push the TouchPad on each part you need to replace, then you’ve just made yourself a shopping list of parts. Head on over to the shop on the PC (or iPad if you’ve unlocked it) and begin the long, tedious task of finding and buying all the parts you need…
There are multiple shops offering standard components, pimped-out engines you can tweak, custom body parts, rims, tyres etc… It’s quite in-depth. Now, there are two ways to browse for the parts you need – the right way and the wrong way! There are hundreds of car parts you can order, each one with multiple adaptations for certain engine sizes or chassis designs. As such, scrolling through them, looking for the parts in your shopping list, would take hours in itself! Thankfully, you can push Square and type in the name of the item you’re looking for – this is why the shopping list is essential as it has almost every piece of info you need.
However, this process isn’t the most intuitive, despite the rather helpful search option. The shopping list is the work of the devil and I really hope the developers provide a patch to resolve the tedious process which had me annoyed at various stages during my 45+ hour playthrough. First of all, there’s no sort option, so items appear in your shopping list in the order you put them there – which for me is the order I take them off the car and add them to the list. This means you may have multiples of the same part but it’s scattered throughout the list, requiring a lot of going back and forth between the same parts if you’d not noticed you had duplicates on there. I would have loved a sort alphabetically option, listed items automatically get added in alphabetical order, or the parts stack (e.g. Brake Pad x4).
Secondly, you can’t remove individual items off the list. Imagine this – you have a pad and a pen to write a list so you don’t forget. You have now bought a few items so want to remove them so you don’t accidentally double order, so you go to cross them out. Instead, you grab the page, screw it up and throw it into the fires of Hell. That’s basically what happens here – you can’t edit the list other than wiping the whole list in one go. It doesn’t make sense. I would love an ‘edit list’ option, as well as the previously mentioned sorting option, and maybe an option to just auto-order all the parts in my list for those like me who are really lazy!
Imagine yourself taking the parts off the vehicle, one by one. Now, imagine that same process but in reverse – that’s pretty much what it’s like putting the car back together. The game stops you from fitting a part until all the prerequisite components are there – for example, you can’t put the wheel back on if you’ve forgotten to fit certain components you won’t be able to reach once it’s been attached. Car Mechanic Simulator also warns you if you’re about to return a car with parts missing or you were caught replacing the parts with inferior replacements rather than new or improved components.
Various tools at your disposal
Realism is the main thing within Car Mechanic Simulator, this is very clear when you start to dive into the more advanced repairs and constructing your own hobby-car. For example, if you have to change a Rim or Tyre, you have to first remove the wheel, then use a machine to separate the two components, then use the same tool to fit new parts together followed by another device to balance out the tyre so it’s roadworthy before you can fit it back onto the car. There are even cranes to remove the engine, an oil dripper, an engine rack and other actual devices you would see in your local mechanics. This is why I believe this would be a great game for those interested in becoming a mechanic or has an interest in cars and how they work.
As you progress, after many hours of doing odd-jobs, you’ll get access to the junkyard and various barns. In these, you can find scrap parts for you to repair, resell or use, as well as worn out chassis for you to buy. This is where the game becomes more hands-on as you can buy your own vehicle in order to strip out all the broken components and then practically rebuild it from the ground up with your own mechanical and visual choices. You can even tweak the gearboxes, boost the engine, pimp out the look with various paints, and then take it for a drive or sell it on for a nice profit. This part of the game is beyond satisfying.
I just wanted to point out here that I’ve seen a few people complain about the driving within the game, saying it’s not the best as it feels clunky and all over the place… you’re driving broken cars on a test track – that’s the whole point! The cars all control poorly based upon the faults they have, thus allowing your in-game character to pinpoint the faults and determine what needs to be repaired. True, a 100% car isn’t the greatest to control either, but it’s not as bad as some people make out – the driving is purely another tool to diagnose issues, not a core gameplay mechanic.
Car Mechanic Simulator looks great for an educational simulation game. I’m not going to lie, I know nothing about cars and how they work, so I can’t honestly say that every single component, make and design within this game is 100% accurate, but nothing ever felt fantastical or ‘wrong’. Taking apart the engines, for example, felt real as you drain the oil then proceed to remove every single part one-by-one until you’re left with nothing but an empty shell. I feel I now know a lot more about the workings of a car and where to look if a certain symptom is detected – although I wouldn’t say I feel I’m qualified to strip down and rebuild a real engine! However, the level of realism really plays in this titles favour and will certainly appeal to those within this industry.
Soundwise, the game has a generic rock soundtrack, the kind of music you’d expect a mechanic to play in the background as they’re all sweaty and covered in oil whilst working on your car. Interestingly, you can walk over to the radio within your garage and simply turn off the music should you wish to listen to the sound of the electronic wrenches and various tools instead. Personally, I turned off the music as I was watching a few TV shows on my iPad at the same time as working – just don’t tell the clients!
Finally, I just wanted to state how good the game actually felt to play. Sure, I had a few issues with the controls at first as they are a little unusual (one stick is to move the camera and the other is a mouse-like cursor for more accurate selecting), but I got used to it after an hour or so.
For those of you who like to look at the cars, there’s a mode where you can see all the vehicles within the game and spin them around, zoom in, open the various doors, examine the mechanics and repaint to your heart’s content! I spent a while in here just messing around and looking at all the various vehicles I’ve not yet seen.
Despite not having any interest in cars whatsoever, Car Mechanic Simulator blew me away with its realism and fun factor. Sure, some people may see this game as a boring, mundane job-like experience where all you do is repair cars for the various clients who contact your shop, but others will find relaxation, satisfaction, and interesting educational aspects to the same concept. As someone who loves to take things apart to find the fault in them, then put them back together and witness the once-dead device come to life, this game was perfect for me. Progression is, unfortunately, a long and tedious journey which will take you many hours until you begin to unlock the more advanced tools and abilities which makes the game much more entertaining and enjoyable. My advice – stick with it as it’s worth it.
If you’re a fan of simulation games, know someone who is a ‘casual gamer’ but likes to take things apart and fix them, or if yourself or someone you know is really into maintaining and fixing cars, you really should pick up Car Mechanic Simulator and give it a go. Every job you get is randomised and the ‘story’ based ones have a catalogue of errors for you to diagnose and fix. Seriously, this game sucks you in and has you addicted as soon as you successfully repair your first car.
All I really want now is a PSVR mode… Also, there is a Nintendo Switch version but it’s based on the mobile port and not the PC version (which the PS4 and Xbox One versions are ports of).
Car Mechanic Simulator£24.99
- - Very, very addictive as every car has different issues
- - The realism of the tools, vehicles, and components is far beyond what I was expecting
- - A rewarding and satisfying progression system, even if it does take a while to get the good stuff
- - Teaches you things as you play
- - Can be enjoyed by people who love cars and those who don't really care
- - The shopping list is lacking in simple sorting and edit features
- - May not appeal to people who aren't into simulation-type games due to the pacing of the game
- - The tutorial isn't the best but you'll pick it up on your own as you experiment