Simulator games are infamous for having titles that make you think “That’s a game?” For every high-budget Microsoft Flight Simulator, there are dozens of Electrician Simulator, Chinese Driving Test Simulator, Motorcycle Mechanic Simulator 2021 and Ship Graveyard Simulators. We called Bus Driver Simulator “just another trash sim game” so, yeah, you get the point.
Those are all real games on Steam. I don’t even want to know what Chinese Driving Test Simulator is. So where does Rover Mechanic Simulator fit in this genre?
Rover Mechanic Simulator tasks players with becoming a mechanic specializing in Mars rover repairs. It came out on PC in 2020, on Xbox consoles in Sept. 2021 and on PlayStation 4 and 5 in Dec. 2021. I reviewed it on a PlayStation 5 and had no performance issues.
The gist of the gameplay is you get assigned an order to repair a Mars rover and a simple, familiar formula repeats. First, you figure out what the problem is (with some help from the order description) by analyzing various parts to see if they are working properly. Then, disassemble the necessary parts to repair, clean or replace them. Once the repair is done, reassemble the rover and finish the order. The last step is to complete a pipe mini-game that is nothing new to video games.
That’s it. You’re going to do that in some fashion over and over and over again. For the most part, you’ll see everything you need to see in the first hour or two of Rover Mechanic Simulator. The formula never gets drastically changed and there are only a few different rovers to work with so the parts will become very familiar.
The beginning is tutorial-heavy, but that’s necessary and effective, even if there are some typos and missing words in the descriptions. After understanding the basics, it’s a relatively simple game with a large amount of detail. The rovers are broken down into each part, like an erector set.
The tasks can be mundane, but after all, this is what they promised. This is a game for engineers and mechanics at heart. It is a way to learn about the rovers, which I found interesting, but that was research I was inspired to do on my own and didn’t necessarily get from the game itself.
You may have to fix a part, but sometimes you will have to take things apart to see that the parts on the inside are broken. That could mean unscrewing both the cover and then the wheel just to reveal the broken parts you are looking for.
Once you have determined what part is broken, you use your 3D printer to make a new part and then put that in place of the broken one and reassemble everything else. Finally, the pipe mini-game, which I found fun, but not challenging enough.
The controls are a bit awkward at times, not as intuitive as I would like. It seems like it would be better for keyboard and mouse to move around more quickly and type in names of parts. There’s a huge catalogue of possible parts in the 3D printer and you have to type in at least part of the name to search for it. This would hardly be a bother with a keyboard. With a controller? It’s like entering passwords on your TV.
There are four rovers you get to play around with: Spirit, Sojourner, Opportunity and Curiosity. They’re made to be detailed replicas of their real life versions and the detail is impressive on them. Unfortunately, Spirit and Opportunity are twins, so I got tired of that design quickly. There are a couple orders for the Mars helicopter Ingenuity, but the model for that is very basic. Perseverance, the rover that landed on Mars just under a year ago, is DLC in the PC version, but is not on the PlayStation version. I didn’t know the difference until doing some research, but Perseverance’s absence in this version feels like getting a sports game without the latest rookie class in it.
There’s a skill tree as you level up, which mostly just makes things like screwing/unscrewing and assembling/disassembling go faster. There’s also an in-game economy, although it didn’t seem to have much impact overall.
The question I always try to answer when reviewing games is “is it fun?” The answer doesn’t always have to be yes for it to be something I would recommend. Sometimes games can have moving stories that are experienced differently because of the way we interact with video games. They don’t always have to be fun to be worth your time. However, fun, or at least enjoyable, is usually the goal.
Does Rover Mechanic Simulator have enough staying power to be fun? Ehh.
I’m not sure I can say Rover Mechanic Simulator is fun. It’s methodical in what it has you do and that is more soothing than fun. The gameplay loop gets tired quickly, but it also is inoffensive. I found Rover Mechanic Simulator to be a really good podcast game. I sat down to play through some orders, put on a podcast and suddenly an hour was gone. I was surprised how quickly the time went.
Obviously, that’s not the most glowing review I can give, but it’s far from the worst thing you can say about a game. I think it’s only worth recommending if you’re into engineering or, at the very least, Lego or erector sets. The details of the parts are immense. If that interests you, you might learn something or find it cool to be able to play with all these parts.
Overall, Rover Mechanic Simulator isn’t a good game. The jobs you do are repetitive and there’s not enough variety to justify playing past a few hours. However, it’s a calming way to spend some time if you’re the kind of person who has a desire to take things apart to see how they’re made.
A PlayStation 5 key was provided to us for the purposes of this review.