A Serious Review of PowerWash Simulator



It’s surprisingly good and addicting. The sounds and pleasant visuals make this a relaxing experience. If you have Game Pass, this is a no-brainer.

Video Review Transcript Below

Playing a game with the word “Simulator” in its title is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes you’ll get a game that honestly tries to simulate something in a realistic way. Other times, the word simulator is used as the setup for a joke, with the entire experience being carried by the singular gag that the game is the opposite of what it claims to be. But then there are games like Powerwash Simulator that strike a healthy balance of both.

It simulates what it says it does, but it doesn’t use that as an excuse to skimp out on other details that can enrich the experience. It’s a fairly simple game with a lighthearted atmosphere that holds a sense of humor throughout, accompanied by a welcoming art style that makes the game pretty to look at. Let’s talk a little bit more about why this game has been loved by so many despite it sounding so boring on the surface.

The game is precisely what it says in the title. It’s a video game that simulates power washing. No more. No less. You take on different jobs that involve cleaning a variety of different things from buildings, vehicles and locations. To make your job easier, you can buy better equipment with all the money you make completing jobs. You can purchase newer guns, different nozzles, or even customize the look of your character. When you’re done washing one level, you move on to the next, rinse and repeat until the game is over.

Drowning in Dirt

On the surface level, this doesn’t sound very interesting, but there’s a variety of elements here that make the experience significantly more enjoyable. One of them is the power washing itself. A lot of simulators out there run the risk of being a bit too complicated because of the nature of what they’re trying to simulate, like driving a truck or flying a plane. For a lot of players, that’s exactly the appeal of those games, but for many others, it can push people away from trying it out. When it comes to Powerwash Simulator, it keeps everything super simple. You splash water on the dirty parts and that’s it. It never gets more complicated than that.

Everyone can relate to cleaning dirty things, and I think most of us have seen those oddly satisfying compilations or ASMR videos on the Internet. This game scratches that particular itch in both visuals and sound. There’s a really satisfying feeling that comes from seeing all the dirt slowly peel off from your efforts. Seeing the before and after of the object you spent so much time cleaning is also gratifying to see. In addition, the sound design here is solid and it completely makes up for the deliberate choice of not having any music whatsoever in any part of the game.

That Tingly Feeling

The atmospheric sounds of bird chirping, machines vibrating, and other diegetic elements while the water splashes on a variety of surfaces does a pretty good job at creating that relaxing ASMR-like atmosphere. I’ve even tried to play this game while lying in bed, and I find myself falling asleep to the sounds of this game fairly quickly. I appreciate that different settings create different sounds like changing the nozzles that adjust the water pressure. Knowing that encouraged me to try out different things, even though the vast majority of the time you will never need anything beyond the yellow nozzle and the red nozzle.

I think a big part of why it’s so pleasant to witness the final result of a clean level is because of the art style. It’s not super realistic looking, but it’s not all the way cartoony either. It’s this interesting blend in between that makes me feel like I got transported into the world of Toy Story 1 where everything is much more bright, colorful, and simple, but doesn’t quite pass the threshold of realism.

Another thing that’s colorful is the people you interact with throughout the campaign. You never see a single human being in this game other than yourself. Everyone communicates with you via text messages. Here’s where people will call you for a new job and talk about what the object you’re cleaning means to them. It’s fairly innocuous and not that important, but I think it adds to that lighthearted atmosphere I mentioned. If you want to pay attention to it, you certainly can. I personally didn’t most of the time. I think it’s about cats going missing or something. You notice things like cat paws and graffiti on the dirt you’re cleaning from time to time, which is a really nice detail. I appreciate that the jobs you’re working on don’t exist in isolation and actually reference what’s going on in the story, if you care enough to know about it.

Multiverse of Cleanliness

There are some levels that exist outside of the story though, like the special stages that let you play in space or other special locations.

Another pleasant surprise for special levels is the free DLC that recently came out that crosses over with other Square Enix properties, which is the publisher for Powerwash Simulator. As of this recording, you can do power washing jobs in the world of Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII. You can clean a bunch of iconic locations, which is super fun to see. And of course, you have text messages from characters in their respective series like Lara Croft and Tifa Lockheart. This is something that I never expected the game to do, but I appreciate their creativity. They have essentially opened the floodgates for anything to be a level, with iconic locations and objects that can be binge-cleaned as fast or as slow as you want to.

Overall, the game has a very simple premise, but they filled it with a lot of charm and personality that keeps it from being another one in a long list of dry simulator games where the words, “you don’t have to,” directly translate to “don’t do it.” With Powerwash Simulator, it’s the opposite. There’s a bunch of tiny details here that they didn’t need to bother with, but they did, and that’s what makes it special.

Washing With Power

I would now like to talk about the controls for a bit. I found them easy to understand and never got in the way of the experience. You can press a button to switch from a vertical shot to a horizontal one and vice versa. There’s a button that lets you shoot water indefinitely without having to hold down one of the triggers. There’s no limit to how much water you can use, so there’s really no reason for you to ever hold down the trigger, unless you’re playing in one of the challenge modes where there is a water limit you have to worry about.

There’s another button that lets you aim your gun without moving the camera, which ended up being super useful for when I found myself getting dizzy and even downright nauseous from moving my gun back and forth for hours on end. Having a camera mode that stands still was a lifesaver during long sessions, and reminded me a lot of how we used to playing shooting games on the Nintendo Wii.

Speaking of lifesavers, there’s another button that shows you how much dirt is still left in the environment. When I did it at the start of the level, I was intimidated, and sometimes even flat-out blinded by all the orange that you have to wash away. But when you’re 99% into the level, you’re definitely going to be spamming that button constantly in order to find the last tiny specs of dirt that you need to get rid of to beat the level. I have no idea how I spent so much time not knowing that this button existed.

I keep saying “buttons” without actually specifying how I’m playing this game.

Stressful Cleaning

I played it on PC with an Xbox controller the entire time and never had any problems. I’ve heard opinions from other people that have played the game with a mouse and keyboard and claimed that playing this game was a stressful experience for them. They claimed to not understand what made this experience relaxing, but I think they’re going about it with a misguided perspective.

The first thing is that there’s this assumption that mouse and keyboard is the only way that you can play this; that this game was made for mouse and keyboard and nothing else. I don’t think that’s true, since I played with a gamepad the whole time and had no complaints, but when I switched to keyboard controls, I felt uncomfortable having to move my fingers all the way to the Tab button to see the dirt, or press R to switch nozzle orientation. I know you can customize your controls, but I thought it was worth pointing out that I found the default layout for the keyboard to be really cumbersome and nowhere near as comfortable as a gamepad.

This game is a fairly slow process that doesn’t require the fast twitch reactions of a Call of Duty game anyway, so I don’t understand where this keyboard and mouse only mentality is coming from.

One thing I did agree with everyone else on was that it became increasingly frustrating to focus on small details, which most likely got people really tense while holding the mouse, creating pain on their wrist and increasing stress levels. I can understand that, but I think it just adds more legitimacy to playing this with a gamepad instead of convincing yourself that there’s only one way to play certain games and forcing yourself to suffer because of it, and your opinion on the game suffering as well. Misguided mentalities aside, I do generally agree with what they’re saying.

This unfortunately leads me to a couple of minor criticisms.

Obsessive Cleaning Disorder

As satisfying as it is to rid the world of all of this filth on a grand scale, having to hunt down tiny bits of dirt when you’re so close to beating a level can get really frustrating. You’ll feel like you’ve searched every single pixel in a level to find what’s missing and you still won’t find it. When you pause the game, you have access to a list of everything that needs to be cleaned. When you select one of them, it will be highlighted with a gray glow so you can find it. This is definitely convenient, but it doesn’t help much when the thing you need to find is super small and hidden away somewhere.

For example, I was power washing a plane to gather footage for this video, and it said that I needed to find a “tail scoop” to clean. I don’t know anything about planes, especially not the individual parts that make one up, so I was completely lost, wandering around aimlessly searching for this tail scoop thing. Most of my time was spent staring at the top left of the screen, hoping to randomly bump into the object I’m looking for. I couldn’t find it anywhere. It got to the point where I kept telling myself that the game should have some option where it cuts you a break and is like, “ok good enough” and just lets you win if all you have left to clean is a barely perceptible part of the plane that no one would notice.

Eventually I gave up and looked up some help on google. And of course, Reddit comes to the rescue with someone posting a question about the exact same issue I had. Someone posted a picture of where it was and I very quickly found it. I’m glad that I wasn’t the only one that got lost in exactly the same way, but that also makes the game’s shortcomings that much more pronounced.

Cleaning The Uncleanable

Easily the most frustrating part of the game is that. Trying to find highly specific parts of a vehicle or mechanism that you don’t know the name of or where it could be. I find this funny, since there were many moments where I felt like I wasn’t even halfway through cleaning something, and the game would still ding it as done and clean the rest of it on it’s own. It’s silly to see that happen while the entire level at large doesn’t give you the same benefit, even when you’re 99.99999% finished with it.

If that’s how it’s going to be, then I think there needs to be more help in addition to what the game offers. My suggestion would be exactly what I got when I looked it up on Google. Maybe a screenshot that gives you a general idea of where something is, and give you a limited amount of times you can do that. Or maybe you have an arrow pointing at the general direction of where things are. I don’t think it should give away exactly where it is, but just have the game give you hints if you’re getting warmer or colder.

Assuming that people will just know what a hyper specific and tiny part of a giant robot is and where it’s located is an oversight on the game’s part, and yes it does make an otherwise relaxing game into a frustrating one, especially when you’re so incredibly close to being done.

Shopping Spree

If there’s any other criticism I can give is that the store is damn near useless. They offer a lot of things on sale, but as I said, as long as you have the red nozzle and the yellow one, you’ll never need anything else. There’s maybe a couple of levels out there where you’ll need an extension for splashing water at long distances, but that’s pretty much it. You should be able to go through 95% of the game using the default gun and buying the better ones when they’re available to you, but not much else.

There are different kinds of soaps you can buy that help you clean particular surfaces. It makes stuff like metal objects way easier to deal with, but you don’t have to use them if you don’t want to. I think that about does it for the negatives, which really aren’t negative at all. They feel more like minor issues in comparison to the rest of my time enjoying myself.

A Clean Hit!

In conclusion, I think PowerWash Simulator is pretty good for what it is. It’s easy to brush it off and assume that there’s not much to write home about here, but it’s actually a great way to pass the time while listening to a long Youtube video or a podcast, since the lack of music creates a good opportunity for that. If you want something to fall asleep to, then this is a good choice too.

The only thing that would make this game even better would be a VR version of it to make it even more immersive, and perhaps more crossovers with other properties in the future. Maybe a Final Fantasy 15 world, or a Kingdom Hearts world or an Octopath Traveler world where you have to clean pixelated buildings.

This game is also available on Xbox Game Pass, by the way so if you’re paying for that subscription, then you can download this and play it right away. If you ask me, I recommend it. If you’re looking for a game that lets you turn your brain off and just relax, then I think you should give it a shot.