Thank you Ultimate Games for providing us with a review code!
Frankly, there is merit to simulation games. Not everyone can farm hundreds of acres of land, manage a football team, or wreak havoc as a goat. Becoming a rover mechanic not only takes a lot of effort in real life, but also a lot of time as well. If you ever had the interest in repairing rovers on the surface of mars, Rover Mechanic Simulator may possibly fulfill that need.
As the title states, Rover Mechanic Simulator by Pyramid Games is all about repairing Mars rovers. The tutorial goes all about the process of fixing these mechanical marvels. Sometimes it's as simple as replacing a part, and other times it can be more complicated such as soldering electronics back onto the boards. You have your desk where you clean and repair the smaller parts, the work area, and computer-controlled crane to move the rover, a 3D printer to print parts or sets, the PCB bench to do electronic repairs, and the other computer to calibrate the rover. The tutorial is displayed in mostly text and does a good job explaining the tools of the trade, but it also happens to be a fairly slow tutorial. It introduces most of its mechanics one at a time as tasks. One tutorial has to do with cleaning filters and the very next tutorial has you repair electronics. To repair electrical devices, you have to do 90% of what you did in the process of cleaning filters so I felt that they both should have been introduced at the same time. I understand the tutorial was set the way it was to not overwhelm people, but it could have used a bit of streamlining as well.
Most of Rover Mechanic Simulator consists of analyzing the individual parts of a rover to find out what is wrong with it and fixing it accordingly. You’ll be unscrewing and screwing constantly and checking the health of the pieces to make sure they are not under the percentage threshold. After all the repairs are done, reprogramming the rover via a connect the pipes minigame rounds it all off. There Is trade-off between time and resources. Even though you can basically print any part of the over, many parts are a part of a set, and printing a set costs a lot of credits and time. Depending on how many credits are earned for each task, it’s up to the player to decide whether it is worth disassembling an entire set to replace one part or have the 3D printer print the set. Every piece has a set time for it to print and some pieces can take minutes at a time. If you’re not busy cleaning or diagnosing other parts, you can also play games on the computer. They’re incredibly basic versions of classics such as Space Invaders, Snake, and Asteroids. After the tutorial is completed, premium missions can get chosen which offer more rewards in exchange for a strict time limit and the inability to restart missions.
Even though there is a lot of disassembly and assembly, the process is fairly automated. Taking out screws consist of only holding a button and there are a lot of screws to take out, which means the process can manage to be pretty tedious. It is a strange choice as the PC version at the very least has you move the pointer to each individual screw before holding the button, giving off a little bit more interactivity. Controls are functional but even on the highest sensitivity, the pointer is too slow for my tastes. There are also some quality-of-life functions that are missing such as not being able to access your table menu at any time by clicking the touchpad when it’s arguably the most important menu. Not having pieces analyzed when disassembled (but pieces can be analyzed when in the table menu) is also a strange choice.
In fact, I was generally disappointed that the PlayStation version has no touchpad and gyro controls at all. I’m assuming it is because of the Xbox One version not having those features built into their standard controller, but it could have been an implementation that would have made the PS4 version feel a lot better.
The rovers themselves look good. They are nicely detailed and the models are of good quality. Although I can’t confirm just how accurate the process is, the developers do have a good grasp of how electrics and components look and work. The environment, on the other hand, is quite messy. The textures are pretty low-quality and muddy-looking. They end up being pretty distracting as it is a hard contrast between the rover and everything else. The music comes from the radio, ranging from rock, classical, electro swing, pop, hip hop, and synthwave. Each station consists of what I believe to be two songs each, all free use and can be found on YouTube. I think there is a small glitch with the radio stations as sometimes the pop station played electro swing and vice-versa. Only the classical station has music with lyrics while the rest are musical beats where you would probably hear from that respective genre. Not bad music but due to the short pool to pull from, you’ll probably be better off listening to your own. Sound effects are decent but can get somewhat annoying due to the short rough loop of sound effects and the repetition of the tasks.
Rover Mechanic Simulator sets out what it was meant to do, yet misses the mark in other aspects. The only goal is to repair rovers, and the only reason to fix them is to increase rank to gain skills to make the process easier. It can be nice and relaxing for some, but the lack of interactivity in the process didn’t keep me interested for long. I still feel that dismissing any kind of additional DualShock 4 features was not the best decision as simply having the pointer be used with the touchpad and having certain features work with gyro could have added so much more to the immersion. There are no moral warnings to speak of so it can make a nice gift/educational tool for a scientifically-inclined person. A person seeking a simple, relaxing, and even repetitious experience may find something to like from Rover Mechanic Simulator, although I would opt for the PC version over the PS4 if you have one capable of running it.