Now You’re Playing With Power. Washing Power!
A 2021 early-access title, PowerWash Simulator is exactly what you think it is, and despite some initial reservations, I did end up falling prey to its sweet siren call. I can’t always seem to muster up the willingness to scrub the bathtub, put the dishes away, or fold the laundry, but give me a digital water blaster and I’ll polish your car, boat, plane, or house to a shine. It’s hard to deny the monotony that can come from some of the larger jobs in its career mode, but there’s still something so Zen about PowerWash Simulator that it continues to gnaw at my mind even as I type this review.
From the main menu, we dive into the Career section, which houses essentially all of PowerWash Simulator’s content. In addition to the time and resource-based Challenge Mode, extra Bonus Jobs (like cleaning a Mini Golf Course), and Free Play, Career Mode houses over two dozen cleaning jobs for players to take on. From more simple tasks like cleaning a dirt bike to more involved work like powering the dirt off a Ferris wheel, there’s no shortage of grime and dust that needs removing. It’s fun to alternate between cleaning vehicles and buildings, and the money and stars earned by finishing each job to completion allow you to unlock and purchase upgrades to your kit, such as new, stronger power washers, special attachments, and even clothing to alter your appearance.
Why would one want to spend their in-game dollars on cosmetics you ask? Well, there is online multiplayer available for up to six people. Unfortunately, the Switch doesn’t have cross-platform play, so the experience is much more limited. I found it disappointing that there aren’t any local split-screen options, either. I’d hoped to dock the Switch and play with my son, showing him the joy of cleaning so as to inspire him towards some real life tidying up, but alas my plan never left the ground. The free Tomb Raider DLC is nice, but cleaning the front of Lara’s mansion is a hefty chore for a single power washer.
The primary gameplay loop, as basic as it is, involves moving around the particular level and using your power washer to spray down every part of a vehicle, building or structure until you reach 100 percent completion. PowerWash Simulator does a great job of hitting you with a pulse of light and a “ding” sound whenever you’ve cleaned enough of a particular segment, like a car wheel, the window of a bungalow, or the slide at a playground. Taking care of these segments often rewards you with small sums of cash as well, and eventually individual stars to fill up your meter to five. If at any time you can’t quite see the spot or spots you missed, a simple press of the right directional button flashes in orange the places you still need to hose down.
What works fairly well in its transition to consoles is the control scheme, with almost every button having a specific and useful purpose. Pressing the right stick in allows you to drop to your knees or to a crawling position; the L and R buttons let you scroll through your different hose attachments (so that you can adjust your spray to the task at hand); and as you might expect, the ZR button is your trigger (although I liked pressing the left direction button to activate continuous spray). All this said, the cursor controls of the menu are a little slow and less snappy than I’d like.
The visuals and performance do leave something to be desired, though. Loading times to get into each level range from 30 seconds to almost 2 minutes, and the resolution can certainly have an impact on one’s enjoyment of the game. Especially when playing handheld, there can be a fairly muted difference between a wall or fence post that’s clean and one that’s still dirty, which means you sometimes have to make very liberal use of the “show dirt” button. I wouldn’t say any aspect of the Switch port is a deal breaker, but it just isn’t necessarily the best place to fulfill all of your power washing fantasies.
PowerWash Simulator definitely lives up to its namesake, and while there’s something quite satisfying and calming about slowly spraying a concentrated beam of water at objects to rid them of dirt, the repetitiveness of its gameplay can’t be ignored. If you’re looking for a by-the-numbers time waster that feels a little like painting towards a set objective, then hop into your cleaning suit and equip your nozzle of choice (even better if you pair it with your favorite podcast). However, some will definitely find the power washing itself to be more of a chore than a blast, so splashing around with PowerWash Simulator is better left to anyone looking to zone out and clean to their heart’s content.