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Sometimes, a game just piques my interest. When I saw a game called Gas Station Simulator, I directly wondered… how is this going to work? Especially since we are talking about a gas station in the middle of nowhere. So is this title worthy of your time, or should you skip it? Or maybe wait until it’s more developed? Well, in this article you’ll find my thoughts and opinions on this game. Feel free to leave your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article in the comment section down below.
Let’s fill ’em up
In this game, you’ll play as an unnamed character who bought up an old gas station in the desert along a busy road. It’s your goal to bring back this station to its former glory. Your shady uncle is here to help you via the telephone.
When you arrive at the station, it’s in disrepair. There is not only trash everywhere, all the walls need a new lick of paint, the store attached to the gas station is totally gone and so on and so forth. With step by step missions, this game teaches all the different mechanics to you. These missions are a tutorial in disguise, but it doesn’t hold your hand. You are free to complete the objectives in any order you want, and you are also free to choose when you go to the next objective. Of course, you won’t be able to upgrade your gas station to the next level without completing all required missions.
Now, if you would play this game only to complete the missions, this game is rather short. It took me around 10-ish hours to beat all missions. Yet, there is more to this game after you have beaten all the missions. There are a lot of upgrades you can purchase to enhance the environment of the gas station. Most of them, but not all, are cosmetic in nature and don’t do anything to attract more customers.
Currently, there is a cheap DLC called Can’t Touch This out for this game. Personally, I recommend buying this DLC as well. Since it not only adds a small bit of post game, but it also adds a lot of new options to customize the look and feel of your gas station, and it’s totally worth it’s price.
This game also has achievements. At the moment of writing, this game has 91 achievements. Currently, I have played this game for give or take 25 hours and I have 80% of the achievements. Most of these achievements are easy to get. Others are a bit trickier to get and require either some luck or some practice. Especially the carting mini-game, to get that achievement you’ll have to become very good. Sadly, those cart controls don’t work for me. But, I’ll talk about the controls later.
Usually, in the first section of a review I talk about the story, the characters, and voice acting. Overall, the story is nothing special. It takes a backseat pretty quickly, and it’s mostly an excuse to string the missions together in a coherent way. Which is for this game a good thing, since it ups the replay value of this game.
Now, I want to talk about the voice acting in this game. Overall, the voice acting is decent, but I do have some things that I’d like to critique. I have nothing to remark on the performance of the voice actors. It sounds pretty good. But, the amount of voice lines is just lacking and plays in strange places. It doesn’t take long before you hear the same voice line over and over again. In addition to that, some voice lines play in situations where they don’t fit at all. For example, I heard a customer shout in the store when the register mini-game failed… “Look what you did to my car!”. I mean, how can a check-out in a store do that?
On top of that, I find it a missed opportunity that some situations don’t have voice acting at all. Your staff doesn’t have any voice acting. Also, as soon as customers step in their car, they have lost their voice as well. So, you’ll never hear a driver shouting to another driver to move. Also, you’ll never hear a customer shout when they aren’t being served.
These things break the atmosphere of the game a bit. It’d give the game a bit more life and immersion when customers only said the appropriate lines in the correct places and the staff would also talk. For example, a simple “Understood” or “On it, boss” when giving them assignments would go a long way.
Let’s play the balance game
So, what’s the gameplay in this game? Well, in the end there are few things your gas station has when you have completed all the missions. Each area has its own little mini-game that’s quick to get the hang of and has its own challenges.
The first is a place to fuel. In this place, you’ll have to fuel the cars of your customers. In this mini-game you have to press the left mouse button until the gauge reaches a certain level. The closer you stop pressing the left mouse button to the ordered amount, the better you get paid.
The second area that will unlock is the store. The mini-game in there is you have to scan all the items of the customer, while keeping the belt clean. As soon as an item either leaves the mini-game area OR drops in the basket without being scanned, you’ll lose that customer when you scanned all their items.
The next area that unlocks is the garage. In there, you’ll have to repair cars. The more you upgrade your garage, the more defects can be fixed with their own little steps. The garage is something you shouldn’t ignore since at the end of the game, this is the biggest source of revenue.
The final thing that unlocks is the car wash. This is a manual car wash where the mini-game is as simple as spraying the car down with water and remove as much of the dirt you can. All in all, this is quite late game and honestly, I leave it closed.
Here are a few examples of things you’ll have to do while serving customers. These are: managing your staff, making sure everything is clean, and the roads are drive-able, making sure you don’t run out of stock for the fuel tank/the garage or the store, unloading deliveries… Honestly, as soon as you get into the micromanaging of it all, you don’t have the time to keep open the car wash. If only you could put your staff to work to unload deliveries or to stock the store/garage OR even do the car wash…
And when you think, that’s all… No, there is the reputation mechanic as well. As soon as you complete a mini-game successfully, you’ll get a few reputation points that can upgrade your popularity level. The higher that level is, the better upgrades you can purchase. But, when you fail a mini-game, you’ll get negative points, and you’ll need to earn them again. There are also optional missions for bonus reputation points after you completed the story missions.
To be honest, it can become overwhelming quite quickly. Especially when you unlocked all area’s. This is why I’m so happy you can close the car wash, and you can enable/disable certain random events in the options’ menu. Don’t want to have to deal with Dennis, who vandalizes your walls? You can turn him off. Don’t want to have to deal with the rush hour party bus? You can turn that off as well. Don’t want to make sure you close your warehouse to avoid stealing? That’s something you can turn off as well. The late game challenge missions are something else.
And the final thing you can turn off, and something I turned off is the sandstorm event. This is a random event that ruin your roads and make them not drive-able and create a pile up. This is a big problem since there is only a certain amount of cars that can be present in your gas station. You can solve this issue with your excavator, but the controls for that are quite tough to control in my opinion. You also have to be extremely precise in order to scoop up the sand, and you can’t dump it anywhere else besides a sandpit at the edge of your station. It’s a mechanic that breaks the flow of the game for me, so I turned it off.
I’m convinced that while talking about all the different area’s your station will have at the end… I forgot to talk about a few mechanics. But overall, this game is a balancing act. You have to juggle various tasks to make sure your gas station runs smoothly, so you don’t have to loan money from uncle. It’s something you can do, but you’ll have a time limit to pay him back. “Or else, Uncle has other ways to earn his money back.”
The reason I can’t tell you what the consequence is, is because it’s extremely easy to pay uncle back when you use it wisely. I never had any moment where I was in trouble of not being able to pay uncle. I mostly used his loan when I was low on stock for the garage and after repairing a few cars, I was able to pay him back easily.
Now, let’s talk about decoration. First, the painting. You can paint your gas station. But, I honestly feel that this mechanic doesn’t work too great. The mini-game to stay in the green area of a slowly rotating circle is annoying and boring and there is no way to cancel when you selected the wrong color. There is also no way to paint the selling in the building itself. You can only paint the roof. Oh, and when you install additional bathrooms, forget painting them. Since, you are unable to enter those. Which is annoying, since the paint decays in this game, so you’ll have to reapply paint after a while and it’s so frustrating to see the dirty paint back there without being able to get there.
In general, all spots are quite easy to reach apart from a few spots in the storage area and the garage. The spots in the storage area are just a bit to reach and the spots in the garage are blocked because the tire rack is in the way and the game thinks you want to fill the tire rack.
Also, you can order a paint job, but this is something I did once and regretted right away. Since, I had a color scheme I got used to and this paint job paints almost everything white. It’d be so much more useful if the color you put on the wall is remembered and for example, for some additional charge that color is applied.
To be honest, I haven’t played too much with the decoration mechanics. I find the default gas station more then enjoyable to play with and first I want to be able to purchase all other decorations before creating a totally new store.
Running out of gas?
This game is being developed by a small indie game studio from Poland called Drago Entertainment. A few days ago, they shared an update on their plans for the rest of the year. Now, why do I talk about this in a review on one of their games. Because they are talking about new features coming to this game in the future and how everything works behind the scenes.
It’s quite clear that the developers are extremely passionate and find communication with their players important. Over the summer break, they also shared what the next update to this game will have. Something I really love to see is there is going to be a patch for the random crashes this game has. In the late game, this game can crash quite often at random moments. There are some work arounds that delay the crashing but at the moment, apart from waiting for the patch, no real fix has been found. Also, you’ll be able to open and close other sections of the gas station. This is something I was going to talk about in this section. I’m quite curious to see how the game preforms when update #7 lands, since it promises to fix the biggest problem I have with this game and that are the random crashes.
Visually, this game look quite good overall. You do see certain models a lot of times but it doesn’t bother me. I think something that might help is randomize the color of the clothing of your customers. Then, when you have the same model coming in, there is a bit more variaty. The animations of this game are great as well.
But, there are a few minor things in terms of the UI that I’d love to see changed. The first is a small one. Why is the default option when you open the main menu, “new game”? I can understand that for when it’s the first time you play the game, but when you reboot the game after a crash and mash a bit… It’s scary to see the game restarting.
And secondly, it’s a mix between a gameplay problem and UI problem. The car wash is extremely picky. Sometimes a car is done with a lot of dirt on it and sometimes you have to clean almost everything. A sort of meter on how statified the customer is would help a lot.
The soundtrack of this game is good. It fits the atmosphere of you working in a gas station in the American desert quite well. The only downside is that there aren’t a lot of tracks so it won’t take long before you hear repeats. In terms of the music, I like and dislike how they handeld it. In the buildings, it’s played from the radio. But, if you put the radio in the store in a corner, it’s possible that, that area is silent. In terms of sound effects, this game is perfect. I don’t have any complaints or even (nitpicky) remarks about them.
Apart from the random crashes, this game runs overall quite stable. But, there are a lot of glitchy moments where things mess up. I have seen flipped delivery trucks on route to the station. I have also seen trash bags glitching through the floor into the void. The physics can go haywire sometimes. Jumping into the side of a car can send it flying or moving in some crazy ways.
Thankfully, the game has a sort of reset button for when cars get flipped or get stuck and you are unable to get them unstuck. You can send an alien craft over your station and reset it all. But, do keep in mind that it also sends your staff into rest mode so, you’ll have to reassign their job.
Speaking about staff and jobs, I truly wish you could manage that a bit more. I’d love to see shedules or commands like: “When you are done resting, go to the garage and fix cars.” Then again, it’d ruin a bit of the challenge of this game micromanaging it all.
Overall, the controls are quite responsive and easy to learn. You can also rebind them if needed. Since, at first, this game thought I had an QWERTY keyboard lay-out but I’m from Belgium and we use AZERTY around here.
I do have to say that reviewing games that still get new updates with new features and bug fixes is quite tricky. Especially, since I don’t know to what degree I can talk about the glitches in this game. There are glitches in this game and most of them are either the physics engine doing strange things are characters doing strange floating stuff. Or talking about limiting mechanics like only being able to have a loan of 1K. We never know what will change in the future. So, maybe some points I talked about in this review will be irrelevant in the future. Like, how tricky it is to restock shelves sometimes. The amount of times I took stock from shelves by accident when trying to refill, it’s silly.
But, something I’m totally looking forward too is that in the upcoming days a new DLC for the 1 year anniversairy of the game will come out. And looking at the store page, it’ll be a free DLC. I’m quite curious to see what’s going to be in it!
The final thing I want to talk about is that this game has an autosave. You can’t set the interval of it but every few minutes, this game autosaves. But you can also manually save. The saving and loading in this game is really quick. You do have some minor texture popping when the game loads in for the first time but it fixes itself quite fast.
Now, with that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I think it’s high time to wrap this one up.
-Still have some polishing up to do.
-Some mechanics like painting need an overhaul
-The random crashes
+ Enjoyable micromanagement simulation.
+ A lot of freedom in terms of customization.
+ Amazing replay value.
+ Easy to learn but tricky to master.
+ A lot of post game.
+ Gets new content and bug fixes often.
Gas Station Simulator is one of those games that I’d recommend without any doubt in my mind. This game is quite enjoyable to play for everybody who enjoys simulation games that are a bit more hands on instead of your “spreadsheet simulator” where you stare mostly at stats.
While this game isn’t perfect and still needs some polishing and expanding for certain mechanics… The postives outweigh the negatives here by a lot. The biggest issue at the moment of writing are the random crashes but if the promised upcoming update fixes those, I think that this game can shine even brighter.
This game has an amazing foundation to become an amazing indie title. If this game gets polished up so it’s less janky and has a bit more content, I think you might have a winner here. I’d happily fuel up my tank with this game after a long day at work. But now, I’d fuel it up until it randomly crashes.
In conclusion, I quite enjoy this game with jank and all. It has a lot of charm and I can’t recommend it enough. I’m so glad that I gave this game a shot and I hope you will to.
With that said, I have said everything I wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in a future article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care.