PowerWash Simulator Review - Clean Me Up, Scotty!

Get down and dirty with FuturLab's oddly addictive PowerWash Simulator.

July 18, 2022

The wonderful and weird world of simulator games has another to call its own with PowerWash Simulator, a game that tasks you, the player, with blasting grime away from homes, vehicles, and even the Mars Curiosity Rover. Yeah, deep cleaning in deep space is now a leisurely pastime, but is it really all that leisurely?

For many of us, cleaning is a chore; a task to be done to keep up with society’s expectation that the carpets must be visible at all times and that the original paint job is better than nature’s muck. Unless you’re a cleaning enthusiast, pulling out the marigold gloves, a bowl of hot soapy water and a big ol’ sponge isn’t the best way to spend a weekend. Well, throw in some Daisy Duke hotpants and my criminally filthy car and you’ve got yourself a decent afternoon, but my point is that out of all the possible simulators that could be made, surely cleaning isn’t the go-to fantasy?

Our Score: 6/10 – Good
The Good: Strangely compelling gameplay. It doesn’t hurt that the game looks pretty decent, too.
The Bad: Working with no music? What is this, 1922? Also, repetition kicks in very quickly.
Release Date: July 14th, 2022
Developed by: FuturLab
Available On: PC, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
Reviewed On: Xbox Series X

To be fair, I can see the appeal behind PowerWash Simulator. Seeing something filthy getting clean is satisfying, in the same way that I like to rub my thumbs across my phone’s screen to make patterns with the built-up grease. Or coloring in a page of a notepad one square at a time. Or running my fingers through the condensation across the shower door as I contemplate life and the meaning of existence for 45 minutes each morning. Basically, we humans – most of us, anyway – like the satisfaction that comes with orderly, structured cleaning, and PowerWash Simulator taps into that satisfaction by giving you filthy things to clean with a progression system that activates the reward parts of your grey matter. It’s simple stuff but don’t go into this one thinking it’s going to be an easy ride. It’s hard work, actually.

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No, really, it is hard work. Maybe not in the physical sense that you’ll get a builder’s backache, but you’ll definitely tire of the repetition eventually. For me, this occurred on my second (or third?) job in the game’s Career Mode. After an introduction to the game’s cleaning mechanics that saw me spruce up the company van, I was tasked with cleaning a playground covered in filth. After an hour of constant hosing, I was barely done with the floor. I still had the climbing frames, towers, slides, and other playground equipment to clean. All said, that particular job took over three hours of “play” time to finish, and that was split into shifts between me and my minion, six-year-old Charlie, who won’t lift a finger to tidy his room, but he will take the finger cramps to get an achievement on a game about cleaning. Trooper.

Thankfully, on Xbox Series X|S, one can switch between games really quickly, so when I found myself tiring of blasting dirt from kiddy playgrounds, haunted houses, and so on, I’d switch to something a little more taxing. And yet, within an hour, I’d find myself back “on-shift” trying to clear away the last few percentage points of filth. It’s strangely rewarding, relaxing, and satisfying, even if it does dull the brain to the point of sleep; I honestly nodded off during a few late-night sessions. An unlikely sleep aid, perhaps?

PowerWash Simulator is broken up into a couple of different modes. You have the Career Mode where you’ll be assigned jobs where you can earn cash, buy new equipment, and follow some silly in-world stories. Nothing major, mind you, and you won’t actually meet another character, but you’ll receive humorous messages through to your tablet, like the ones I was getting while cleaning Martha Hubbard’s shoe-house. She’s an odd lady, for sure. Why would you tell your cleaner you need to poop? Was she readying me for the cleaning job? I don’t think my pressure washer had a suitable nozzle.

Then there are the Special tasks where you’ll get the chance to clean (yay!) the Mars Curiosity Rover and even walk the surface of the Red Planet. And then there’s the Challenge Mode and Free Play Mode, which are self-explanatory but didn’t appeal to me at all. I was all about making those coins, so I stuck to Career Mode and inched my way through, one dirt splatter at a time with very little to show for it, aside from some new cleaning equipment. I should mention that there is the option to play in online co-op, though I never tried this, but more out of my own social anxiety than anything else. What kind of conversation would I have with a stranger online while we’re working our make-pretend job? Would we have coffee breaks? Would we get together on Skype after “work” for some beers? Discuss our war stories of the filthiest things we’ve cleaned? Best to roll solo, I reckon.

I’m conflicted when it comes to PowerWash Simulator. On one hand, it’s an absolute bore and a chore with one-dimensional gameplay – can I even call it gameplay? – but on the other, it’s still strangely fun and moreish, and seeing the grime trickle away and the percentage done counter ticking slowly upwards was enough to keep me wasting water for hours on end. It’s an oddity, for sure, but one that I can’t seem to peel myself away from, and the more I play it, the more I wonder if the world wouldn’t be a cleaner place if we could all get the job done with a gamepad. C’mon, billionaires. Make it happen.

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Chris Harding

British fella who lives off of tea and coffee. Fanatical about anything gaming, even partial to a bit Snakes 'n' Ladders, a game which he takes much more seriously than anybody else does.

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