STAFF REVIEW of Car Detailing Simulator (Xbox One)

Tuesday, December 5, 2023.
by Adam Dileva

Car Detailing Simulator Box art It seems that every time I look, there’s a new simulator game out there, recreating a job or activity that I would have never expected to be in game form. The latest is Car Detailing Simulator from developers Games Incubator and GameFormatic, published by Ultimate Games. Many of these simulator games aim to recreate its real world counterpart, and Car Detailing Simulator is no different, having you renew cars to their former glory, making sure they are polished and shined with no minor detail forgotten before the customer gets their car returned and you move onto the next job.

After a brief opening cutscene about the detailing company you’re working for wins an award, you’re thrust into your first job detailing a vehicle, doubling as the tutorial to the gameplay. Don’t worry though, after a few jobs, you’re going to have the controls down and memorized, as it’s very repetitive. There’s a massive flood and your workplace is all but destroyed, so you have nowhere to go for work any longer. What better reason to go open up your own detailing garage rather than work for someone else? At least that’s the narrative that I took away from the brief storyboard cutscenes. This is a simulator game though, and we come here for the gameplay and recreation of the job, not a story. It’s time to wow and surprise your customers and build your business by focusing on the finer details.

Checking the computer at your desk will show the customers that are wanting to employ your services and drop their vehicle off to eventually look like new. Before choosing which of the jobs to take, you can see how much money you’ll earn and which components will need to be restored to their former glory. Based on how well you do and if you complete each task, you’ll earn a certain amount of money and stars based on your work. There’s even now and then some extra tasks you can do to earn a little more, like polishing the glass or putting a special product on the wheels. You’ll need all the money you can get, as that’s how you’ll purchase new tool upgrades, new garages, and more.

Detailing a car is more than simply getting some soap and washing it down. Yes, that’s usually the first task you’ll complete, getting the grime off the car, but then you’ll need to go a little deeper to make it shine. You’ll have a handful of different tools and kits to use, each with their own use and purpose. The body cleaning kit is where you’ll find your foaming gun, pressure washer and drying cloth. Your tire kit is has special brushes and sprays, where the interior cleaning kit is how you’ll clean the dirty mats and seats.

Every type of detail and clean needs a specialized tool, and while you’re only given the basics in the beginning, you’ll need to eventually purchase the others, like the headlight cleaner kit, polishing kit and more. Knowing what tools you need is only half the job, the other is hoping that the game itself deems your tasks complete, as that’s sometimes the challenge in itself.

Some of the gameplay is satisfying, like spraying down the vehicle with the foam, then the frustration sinks in when you need to annoyingly dry the car by hand with a hand towel, hoping you didn’t miss the smallest wet patch. Cleaning the insides of the car is much simpler, spraying down the seats, scrubbing them down, and spraying out any of the stains. The ‘gameplay’ in most of these sections is simply moving around the Left Stick within a small area, or spraying everywhere before cleaning it up. A small indicator will fill up a circle and disappear once that portion is fully cleaned, with the task coming off your list as well.

Clicking in the Right Stick will highlight any dirty areas or where repairs are needed with a good polishing. Doing so highlights the dirt and scratched in a faint red, though it’s quite difficult, near impossible actually, to see the smallest of the details, especially near the bottom of the car. If the car you’re detailing is red, or something that isn’t a contrast to the color red, good luck trying to find the smallest spot you missed cleaning or buffing out. This will inadvertently add a lot of extra time to the job as you go over every inch once again trying to find it. You can change this color in teh options, but having to do so each time is tedious and doesn't help all that much. In the polishing kit there’s a wand you get to highlight the scratches and such, but it barely does anything to help. I was hoping that the lighting upgrades for the garage would make the highlighting more pronounced, but it did seemingly absolutely nothing.

Once your individual tasks show complete, you can move onto the next, but when you’re 99% done cleaning or polishing for example and can’t see any remaining dirt or scratches, the frustration starts to set in, and this happens quite often. It’s tedious to go completely over the car once again blindly so that your task will complete. Other times it will show your task complete, even though you can see all of the windows haven’t been wiped or there’s still foam on the car. It's not always consistent.

One of the last tasks you might have to do to the vehicle is give it a new paint job. This costs a certain amount, and it’s really just picking a new color and clicking the button. The problem with this is that you might have less in your account than it costs to purchase the paint job, meaning you’ll have to complete the job not fully complete, thus earning less than the full amount.

It’s clear that Car Detailing Simulator was ported over from PC to console, but there doesn’t seem to have been much care into making the controls friendly as they could possibly be. More often than not, choosing a new tool won’t place it in the middle of the screen, fighting to find where it’s at before placing it where you want it. Needing to clear or polish a very specific spot can sometimes be a nuisance, as the cursor moves at mach-3 with no option anywhere to slow it down. There’s even a few spots where there wasn’t enough care to take out the mouse button icons in the tutorial prompts and change it to the triggers for a controller.

Gameplay becomes repetitive quite quickly, as it’s the same tools doing the same jobs over and over. Keeping the cursor in the right area is difficult and the UI is awkward at best. While the cars aren’t licensed, it’s clear which cars at meant to be Mustangs and other classics. Having a vehicle come in dirty and scratched then leaving polished up and looking brand new is quite satisfying. Even with the clumsy and frustrating controls, it’s addictive and relaxing at the same time.

You can purchase tool upgrades in the virtual store for $500 a piece, which generally allow you to complete each step of the detailing process a little quicker. Some upgrades seem quite worth it, like the interior clearer than does two steps in one, whereas others seem to not make much of a difference at all. You can also purchase upgrades for your garage, like shelves for your tool kits, lights for a brighter atmosphere (yet doesn’t help find the dirt and scratches any easier) and others, as well as buying a new garage and showroom. Later in the game you’ll be able to purchase old cars, make them pretty, then sell them and showcase in your other garages and showrooms, though the bulk the game play is still washing, scrubbing and polishing each vehicle.

The port from PC to console was disappointing, clearly not a focus as the controls are clunky and frustrating at best. The awkward menus don’t help much either. The worst part had to be the repetitive music that is bland and had to eventually be turned off for something else. The cars themselves look decent, especially once they are all shiny and polished, though there’s really not all that much else to look at other than stiff and awkward animations.

When you boil down Car Detailing Simulator’s gameplay elements, it really just comes down to changing one soiled texture into a shiny one by holding the Right Trigger and moving the Left Stick. For how simple the gameplay boils down to and for how repetitive it is, it’s oddly soothing, relaxing and addictive. More than one night playing I found myself saying ‘just one more car’. It’s not the most polished simulator out there, but it’s entertaining in its own way.

**Car Detailing Simulator was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 3.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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