Review – Rover Mechanic Simulator
Somehow I’ve been designated within the WayTooManyGames team to tackle simulator games. I’ve recently reviewed Lawn Mowing Simulator, and I will admit there is a certain mind-off Zen state you get into with simulators. They’re for the most party mechanically simple with a lot of small steps most games would streamline. However, within these multiple small steps you get into this zone where it becomes relaxing in a way. Unfortunately, if there isn’t enough detail in these small steps that allows you to feel like a real person working, then it can become tiresome. Unfortunately, this is where Rover Mechanic Simulator falls short, but let me explain further.
In Rover Mechanic Simulator we have successfully created the first Martian colony and you’re the new mechanic tasked with repairing and maintaining the rovers. It’s a simple idea, but one that is interesting since it deals with machines that not a lot of people have the opportunity to work on. Unfortunately, you do not get to actually use the rovers to explore Mars, but I guess you’d leave that up to the controllers anyway.
First things first, we have to get used to our shop and what each thing does to help us with our job. Workbench is where you will be able to clean dirty equipment and also break down smaller components. A lot of the time it isn’t the entire object that needs to be replaced, but a smaller component within it that does. The 3D Printer is where you’ll spend resources to build new components for the rovers. You’ll be able to print out individual pieces which are quicker and cheaper, or print out entire sets that are costly and take more time.
The M.C.U. (Main Control Unit) is where you’ll access your crane to move the rovers over to your workstation when you first start a contract. You will also be able to play some mini-games on the M.C.U. like Snake and Pong if you want a bit of a break from unscrewing things. PCB Table (Printed Circuit Board) is where you will break down and solder the rover’s PCBs. Often times you’ll need to use the compressor to clean them off before you can find out which components need to be replaced and soldered on. The last step before you can complete the rovers is configuring them. At the Rover Configurator machine you will play a small mini-game in the form of those circuit board mobile games where you connect straight or 90° pieces from a starting point to the finish. Once this is finished, you can complete the contract and collect your reward.
Once you get done with the tutorial you’ll have full access to all the contract options. This includes various repair tasks for the five NASA rovers: Sojourner, Spirit and Opportunity, Curiosity, and Perseverance. Some of these will only be unlocked once you reach a certain rank, which is achieved by gaining one thousand experience points. As you continue to rank higher, you will gain access to more complex contracts that will earn more money and experience points as well. Upon each level you will also gain a level up point to spend on one upgrade grouped into three disciplines. The Analyst tier helps find broken or malfunctioned components faster. A Technician specializes in disassembling and installing components faster. Economists focus on making sure you aren’t spending too much printing out new components.
The level up system easily shows where my main issues with Rover Mechanic Simulator lie. The first thing I upgraded were my Technician skills so it wouldn’t take me forever to simply unscrew five screws and then replace them. Even at the fastest upgrade, which is a ninety percent speed increase in unscrewing, it still feels like a chore. However, the main act of needing to unscrew components isn’t my issue. It’s the fact that you can’t choose which main component to unscrew. When you’re needing to clean, repair, breakdown, and re-solder components you do get into that simulator type Zen. Unfortunately, there is a lot of unneeded steps things that make continued play aggravating.
Your first step is to scan and identify the components that need to be replaced. This is done by switching to the scanner and holding the scan button for a second on each component turning it either green, yellow, or red. Green is good, yellow is slightly damaged, red is damaged and absolutely needs to be repaired. If the component is brown this means it needs to be removed and cleaned before being scanned to see if it is damaged. With how the process is setup right now you need to unscrew every component that is even touching the component you need to replace.
It’s easier to explain with a visual aid so I will be addressing the image below this paragraph. As you can tell, I clearly need to replace the suspension system on this rover, but as you can see, the struts and wheels seem fine. Instead of being able to simply remove the strut with the wheel and rotor components intact together, I still have to remove the wheel, the rotor, and any other item attached to the strut. Then I need to remove the strut and its components before I can even start to remove the suspension system. I have to do that for every wheel that is attached as well. This becomes tiresome and no upgrade can even unlock that ability, they simply make the processes a bit faster. This has to do with every component as well. Instead of being able to remove the entire Solar Panel A & B together, I have to remove piece by piece even if they aren’t damaged.
Visually I wasn’t super impressed, but for the most part the models of the rovers are well done and look realistic. There are plenty of details in the models, but up close textures can be a muddy. Which is a shame since a lot of what you do in the game is looking very closely at individual components. It’s not ugly, but I expected a bit more considering the performance is terrible. I feel like majority of the time Rover Mechanic Simulator is not even running at a 30FPS considering every moment and camera turn is met with terrible shuddering. It feels choppy, which makes small movements navigating components annoying.
Sound design is a bit of a tough one here because it’s very minimal and likely this is a design choice. You’re on Mars within an airlocked mechanic shop with no one else in it. There isn’t going to be much ambient sounds or anything else going on. There is a radio that has a selection of various genres of music with basically a couple of license free songs for each genre. You’ll go through the soundtrack in thirty minutes and then it just repeats from there. I absolutely recommend playing your own music while playing. Besides that, all you get is the little sound effects from the actions you do. Screw guns, air compressors, and the 3D Printer all have their own sound effects and machine whirs, which are all decent.
Rover Mechanic Simulator does have a theme that interests me and I really like the idea of fixing things like Mars rovers. Unfortunately, there are just too many aspects that turn that simplistic Zen gameplay into a chore. Not being able to choose the parts you want to disassemble and being forced to unscrew unnecessary components is not what a professional would do. Also, with only five rovers you’ll be repeating the same actions a lot on the same machines, and with the performance issues, there is more frustration then there are moments of Zen.
The main portions of the rover and its main parts are accurately designed and detailed well. However, up close textures become muddy which is a shame since you see everything up close.
There is plenty of details and steps involved into identifying the issues and repairing them, but unnecessary deconstruction bog down the experience greatly. Performance is also not great.
There is a radio with some various generic license free music with a couple songs per genre. Besides that it’s general sounds from the drill, canned air, and mechanical whirs.
Fun Factor: 4.0
With only five rovers to fix, there isn’t a lot of variety here, and with a lot of unnecessary deconstruction needed it can be frustrating. Upgrades help make the game slightly less grating.
Final Verdict: 5.0
Rover Mechanic Simulator is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Reviewed on Xbox One.
A copy of Rover Mechanic Simulator was provided by the publisher.