Another day, another simulator game. This time, you’re running a gas station in Hicksville, America. And as is the trend these days, it’s pretty good.
Good at least at recreating the life of a gas station owner. Which is to say it’s fun, to a point, but also reasonably mundane. It starts with the plot, which has you inheriting an old gas station with money borrowed from your Uncle. You learn a lesson early in the tutorial – don’t pay it back quickly enough, and your ‘Uncle’ sends some heavies around to mess you up. Lovely. Lesson learned.
Managing the gas station then begins in the way a lot of these games do – with massive elements of tidying up. Moving across from PC, Gas Station Simulator is well adjusted for console play, with fairly standard first-person controls dictating the action, as you take down boards and clear up trash, throwing it into skips. It is through this process that you learn the basic mechanics of tidying, and moving objects around, and then begin the arduous task of painting and decorating your gas station.
Animal Crossing, this is not, as once you’ve spruced the place up, you’ll then need fuel for the pumps and produce to sell. Rather than just select it, and then sell it, you really need to do all of the work. Ordering bits, receiving deliveries, putting it away in the warehouse, filling up the pumps, and using your digger to move sand away to clear parking spaces (you’re in the desert, after all), are just a few of the maintenance jobs you need to do. Doing it quickly will be essential too, as you’ll have customers to manage.
The ‘main’ element if you will then begin, as you’ll be scanning produce through the conveyor belt as your customers bring their baskets of goods to purchase. You’ll need to clean it too so it doesn’t get stuck, and then consider running outside to fill up folks’ vehicles with the right amount of gas. Very quickly, it all can become very overwhelming. Thankfully, you don’t need sleep and can close the gas station at will if you need a bit of a break.
The further you go through the game, the more things ramp up, but thankfully you can start to make your life a bit easier too. A garage facility has you be able to do basic maintenance on vehicles, which increase with complexity the more you level up. The more you level up, the more demanding the customers will get, and the more variety they’ll want – but thankfully you can hire some staff to help out too. It’s not always completely smooth sailing though, as the local hooligan – Dennis – will arrive to spray paint rude symbols all over your gas station, so you’ll need to chase him off.
The key here is balance. It’s a micro-management game, a mini-game, err game, and overall a game of balance. Thankfully there aren’t many gripes by way of funky controls or bugs to get in the way – it runs very smoothly on Xbox without issue and feels great in the controller. I really like the audio too, which recreates the sounds and atmosphere of Deep South America really nicely, with borderline comical accents setting the tone appropriately light without being too silly.
Much like House Flipper recently released on Game Pass, a circular menu appears here to help manage the wild variety of tasks on offer. Other fun bits are nestled away in here too, such as remote-controlled car racing which feels an unnecessary addition but a nice break from the usual proceedings. Failing that, you can always practice throwing stuff into a skip, with the game recording your distance and records.
Gas Station Simulator is a fairly simple yet enjoyable and deep ‘sim’ game, mixing equal parts management and activity. It can be a bit of a grind at points, but that’s kind of what these games are about, isn’t it?
Reviewed on Xbox Series X