In addition to our main Game of the Year Awards 2022 (opens in new tab), each member of the PC Gamer team is shining a spotlight on a game they loved this year. We'll post new personal picks, alongside our main awards, throughout the rest of the month.
2022 has been a fairly quiet year for games—unless you count the 67,000 (approx.) that launched in the last few months—and the shadow that Elden Ring cast over other releases has been pretty difficult to shake, too. But coming in at the absolute opposite end of the stress meter, PowerWash Simulator has been one of the highlights of my gaming year.
Taking a hose to garden furniture has never been high on my list of fun things to do to wind down at the end of the day, but PowerWash Simulator has made me rethink my priorities. I picked up this game completely on a whim. I'd heard the name but hadn't seen any actual gameplay. I figured it would be good for maybe a couple of hours before I got bored and switched to something a little more exciting. I was wrong: 65 hours later—no, not in one sitting—I finally finished the Career Mode.
PowerWash Simulator is exactly what you think it is. You are presented with an object or location covered in mud and dirt, handed a power washer and let loose on it. Your first job is a fairly modest van but the excitement ramps up quickly as your second gig presents you with an entire backyard to hose down.
You can tackle these jobs in any way you like. If you want to hit the patio first, you can; or if you'd rather get the more fiddly fences or garden furniture out of the way, you're free to do that too. There's no right or wrong way to power wash and there are no timers, so you can take it all at your own pace.
It's all loosely tied together with the Career Mode. There's no real story to speak of, though you'll occasionally get voicemails as you're working. I can only assume it's meant to remind you that you're part of a populated world in which you're growing your power-washing business but I wouldn't have missed them if they hadn't been included. Each job you complete nets you money and you can spend this on better, more powerful power washing units, different nozzles, or the various cleaning liquids that are available.
There is a sort of progression system in place, too. Jobs will get progressively more intricate and you'll find yourself needing to switch nozzles for different surfaces. Rust, for example, needs a stronger, more concentrated jet to clear it, but as it cleans a much smaller area, you'll find yourself switching back again when cleaning larger areas.
It's not just garden furniture or patios either. As you progress through the seemingly endless Career Mode, you'll encounter a Ferris wheel—which you can turn on and off—an Egyptian statue, and even a grounded UFO. Ladders and scaffolding are available for some of the bigger jobs which makes getting to those hard-to-reach spots much easier. Thankfully you don't take fall damage either because I would've died many times over the course of my power-washing career.
I think the total absence of danger or consequences is part of what made me return to this game day after day through much of the summer. You can't die, you can't fail; in fact, the worst that can happen is you have trouble locating that final spec of dirt. It's hard to put your finger on what makes this game so gratifying—perhaps it's just having your progress marked in such a visual way and the satisfaction of seeing the pristine end result.
I also learned that there are certain jobs I prefer over others. The skate park, which was a pretty early job, remains one of my favourites, thanks to the vastness of the colourful surfaces, and the helter-skelter was pretty fun to clean too—there's something so satisfying about methodically removing dirt and revealing the bright colours hiding beneath. Some of the more fiddly jobs can be pretty annoying, though, especially when you have to keep stopping to reposition yourself. It's not always easy to spot the bits that are still dirty either, and the checklist that tells you the names of the things that still need attention isn't always as helpful as it thinks it is. On the plus side, I now know roughly where to find the fuselage wiring on a jet.
PowerWash Simulator is never going to give you the adrenaline rush you get when you finally beat Malenia for the first time, but it does have a Challenge Mode that has you racing against the clock or a water limit if you want to ramp up the excitement a little. That said, if you just want to relax or wind down after a long day—or a particularly trying Elden Ring session—there's no game I'd recommend more.