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PowerWash Simulator review: a first-person soother built to relieve pressure

Don't faucet

A screenshot from PowerWash Simulator which shows the player powerwashing a theme park sign.
Image credit: Square Enix

If the word "simulator" in PowerWash Simulator puts you off, please don't let it. Where other simulators double down on the minutiae surrounding the thing you're meant to be doing, that they put you off the thing you're meant to be doing, PowerWash Sim understands that you just want to rid surfaces of grime in the most satisfying way possible. You do not need to prize open your powerwasher with a tri-wing screwdriver or manage your finances via a convoluted banking app or determine whether a kitchen sink delivers enough pressure. Instead, you wash things with power: you power wash. You wash, powerfully.

After a year in early access, the game's launching in full with a variety of modes and I cannot stress enough how stress-less the experience is. This is a first-person soother you'll either think is an absolute bore or the best kind of meditative chore.

Career mode is the game's zero to hero story, with a plotline that gradually escalates until it erupts (I can't say anymore on this front, but it's very good stuff). The mode makes the perfect start for budding powerwashers, as it steers you through the mechanics with a variety of tasks that tie into the story itself. Your first job is to clean the muck off your new company van, as you can't be zipping around Muckingham in a grotty box can you? Then once it's in good nick, you arrive at gardens. Bungalows. Playgrounds. Deserts. You go from a simple box to more intricate spaces, with many different surfaces and shapes all in need of a deep clean.

Joy stems from how you make the game's spaces glisten, which encompasses many different things. Of course, the art of cutting away grime with different powerwasher attachments lies at its core. You're able to easily select the nozzles you'd like to work with, so the 40 degree one sprays wide, but lacks power to cut through the most stubborn, baked on grime. The 25 degree nozzle is my favourite, as it strikes a midground between coverage and strength. Different hoses let you tackle mud from a greater distance or improve close range punch. And there's nothing better than investing in some cans of cleaning fluid and watching muck disintegrate like strands of rotten pulled pork falling off the bone.

All of the nozzles are easily popped on using a radial menu, eliminating needless faff. A quick button press lies between you and customising your powerwasher, too. And aside from visual cues, progress bars let you know when you're nearing pristine. It's a slick operation.

There's joy in the feel of powerwashing too, where it becomes a meditative escape backed by the sounds of chirping birds and whoosh of water. Initially, I thought it would pair nicely with a podcast or a chat with friends, like a background activity I'd be half-invested in. After absorbing nothing from a podcast and sitting in silence while mates slung words, I found the game suited solace to a tee. In five minutes it unironically became... everything? I entered a zen state where I was relaxed and totally focused on getting the job done, both thinking strategically about what nozzle would hit those diagonals best and whether Juan Sheet could take me in a fist fight.

Complete jobs in career mode and you'll earn money, which can be spent on upgrading your powerwasher. The excitement that stems from new purchases – or the promise of a new purchase – mirrors that of treating yourself to a new vacuum cleaner and being overcome with a shameful glee that's specific to young adults who've transitioned from wanting pick 'n mix to practical things. Free Play lets you replay jobs you've already completed, which is a nice bonus. And Specials let you clean fan favourite locales and zany spots, like the Mars Rover or a theme park filled with garden gnomes. The real highlight is Challenge mode, which sees you tackle jobs under a strict time limit or earn medals for staying within water consumption limits. It's neat how it switches your mentality from "zen" to "my life trajectory hinges on this moment", as cleaning becomes a form of competition, not detox.

Here I am testing out my new powerwasher, the Urban X. According to its stats, it's better in every way than my old one.

If you fancy some dirt-busting with a few buds in tow, the game supports up to six player online co-op. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test this out, but hey, everything's better with friends. You'd either have a doozy of a time chatting and blading away all that scum or partake in zero chat and move around each other in total silence and with frightening efficiency.

Despite all my gushing, the game won’t be for everyone. You might not take to what's – in the grand scheme of things – a quiet, mundane job. No matter how satisfying powerwashing a surface might be, jobs can drag on a bit longer than you'd like as you – quite literally – miss a bit, then have to consult your list, find it, and look for whatever furnishing flashes briefly to draw your attention. Sometimes, it's really hard to see what's unclean about something that you might think is sparkly white, but the game's progress bar has deemed otherwise. Wildly spraying down something that looks immaculate does make you lose a bit of faith in the simulation, even if it's a lighthearted one.

But issues with the game are small in comparison with the true satisfaction and serene spaces it provides. While not everyone will get on with its brand of manual labour, it's a simulator for the everyman. It's not overly complex, doesn't take itself too seriously, and still has plenty of depth for those who just want to hose down a bungalow.

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About the Author
Ed Thorn avatar

Ed Thorn

Reviews Editor

When Ed's not cracking thugs with bicycles in Yakuza, he's likely swinging a badminton racket in real life. Any genre goes, but he's very into shooters and likes a weighty gun, particularly if they have a chainsaw attached to them. Adores orange and mango squash, unsure about olives.