PowerWash Simulator feels perfectly, numbingly mindless

Zen and the art of high-pressure maintenance.

I’ve been aware of PowerWash Simulator for some time now. The game has been out on Steam Early Access for a little over a year already, but I’ve been holding out for the console release to actually play it for myself. Well, that moment is finally almost here, and after going hands on with the game during Summer Game Fest Play Days, I can say it’s exactly what I hoped it would be: mindless.

Usually, calling a game mindless would be an insult, I know. But with PowerWash Simulator, it’s really a plus. The reason power washing videos have carved out a niche on social media isn’t because they’re thrilling. It’s not like people are out there doing trickshots with streams of pressurized water. (Actually, it’s the internet, so they probably are, but my larger point stands.) The power fantasy of power washing is turning something impossibly filthy into something sparklingly clean without hard work. You’re not scrubbing on your hands and knees. You’re pointing and shooting—results like magic.

And that’s why it’s a great thing that PowerWash Simulator is a game you can truly zone out to. As I scrubbed away on two levels—a fountain and a subway station—I never felt pressured to work faster, or to do a better job, or to maximize my strategy. All that mattered was I transformed filth to cleanliness, however I wanted, at my own pace.

It may not get your adrenaline pumping, but it’s important to remember that action is just one of the many ways games can be satisfying. PowerWash Simulator taps into an entirely different side of the medium, rewarding the part of our brains that loves ticking off items on a checklist and making incremental progress toward a goal. Much in the same way you might throw on a podcast or music and hunt down collectibles in your favorite open-world game, so too can you let PowerWash Simulator occupy your hands while demanding just a fraction of your focus. It’s a great, zen autopilot experience.

And to be clear, the game does have a few design touches that make it extra satisfying within those parameters. Levels can be huge, requiring multiple hours to complete, but you can save your progress midway through. Better yeah, each job is chunked down into smaller segments: in the subway station, for instance, each bank of chairs is its own object, with its own progress meter. Finish off a segment of the environment, and you’re rewarding with a satisfying flash and ding—making for either a natural stopping point or an incentive to keep pushing on.

The 1.0 version of the game, which will also mark its launch on consoles, will pack a pretty robust feature set alongside the basic washing gameplay. There are multiple power washers and nozzles, a full career mode with a story, online co-op for up to six players, challenge modes, and dozens of levels. But I can’t imagine any of that will upstage the core appeal of methodically turning dirty into clean, one high-pressure water jet at a time.

One more quick note: Though I played the game on PC, I did use a controller, and it works exactly as well as it should with a dual-analog control scheme. I didn’t notice any auto aim, but of course, the game doesn’t need it, since snapshot accuracy is way less important here than thoroughness. I have no reason to think the native console version will be any less satisfying than its early-access-road-tested PC counterpart.

PowerWash Simulator launches July 14th on Xbox Series X/S and Xbox One, the same day the 1.0 patch arrives on Windows PC.

Check out all our Summer Game Fest Play Days 2022 coverage.

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