Rover Mechanic Simulator starts you off in the entry corridor of your maintenance module, presumably working for Planetfix Industries as part of an early colony on Mars–you don't really know because there's no intro or backstory or narrative, other than messages from colleagues who want you to fix their rovers. Some quick tutorial missions follow and then you're pretty much on your own, left to choose which service contract to take on next and learn how to strip down and repair the various rovers—Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity ground rovers and the Ingenuity helicopter drone.
A quick explore of the workspace will discover the various workstations and machines that help you fix the damaged rovers; your main Workbench, the Configurator (a computer that recodes the rover's electronics), the PCB table (for stripping and resoldering damaged Printed Circuit Boards), the Examination table, the Lift (for examining rovers' undersides), the Crusher (where you dispose of damaged, unwanted or unusable parts and salvage anything useful), the 3D Printer (this prints virtually all replacement parts), and the MCU (Main Control Unit), where you control the–rather oversensitive–crane as well as play very basic versions of Snake, Meteor Rush (Asteroids), Pong, Speed Writer or Invaders.
The game helpfully keeps track of what you need to do, and you just need to find and head to the Green objective marker to advance to the next task. After selecting which job you wish to take on (from a lengthy list) your first job is to use a ceiling-mounted crane to unload it from the back of a large moon buggy and place it on the inspection table.
Once the rover is unpacked you can analyse it to identify which part is the problem, although you may be given a clue in the brief notes that come with each repair contract offer. and the objectives panel in the top right of the screen, which has all the details.
To avoid disassembly and reassembly becoming too confusing there's a simple and easy to understand pointer system, a no entry sign means you can't interact with that object – yet. A transparent reticle means there is no object in range, and a solid white reticle means you can interact with the object you’re looking at. In addition three side panels keep track of your current tasks and can be accessed by pressing LT, LB or RB. When all the parts are cleaned, repaired and replaced you can plug in the configurator and start the simple power grid mini-game to program the Rover correctly.
Once you've completed the tutorial orders you can choose between Standard and Premium service on any order. A Premium service earns more but also means you can fail and not be able to restart an order because there's a time limit, so should be treated as an 'Expert' difficulty setting, but I've only come close to running out of time once in this mode (because I had trouble tracing the fault) so it isn't exactly hard, in fact I found RMS to be a great 'chill out' game.
All disassembly and assembly is a simple matter of hovering over the relevant part, holding 'X', pressing 'A' on the magnifying glass icon that appears, and then moving the cursor and holding 'X' again to undo or tighten the fixing bolts/screws. Fortunately the game remembers where everything goes so there's no need to put all the screws & bolts in an old Tupperware container, and you don't end up with any leftover parts either!
Successful repair jobs makes you rank up, which in turn unlocks more complex jobs and earns skill points, with which you can upgrade your Technician, Economist and Analyst stats. These enhance your abilities as a mechanic, from speed of work through cheaper replacement parts to the ability to instantly analyse damaged parts, meaning that as you progress and gain experience the job gets easier and easier – which is the way it should be.
The camera gives you an excellent, close-up view of the relevant parts most of the time but it'd have been nice to have a bit more control over the view and level of zoom when inspecting a rover, sometimes it's a real battle to get a view of the part you want to inspect, remove or replace.
Okay so as usual, that's the good news now the bad. I was genuinely surprised and disappointed that a game that is basically set in one room displays occasional frame rate judders—even on a Series X.
There are a couple of text errors that should have been picked up, it reads 'borad' instead of 'board' somewhere and instructions say "Remove" when you're resoldering a part back onto a PCB, and the word 'Demontage' (it means dismantling) somehow didn't get translated, which seems kind of careless.
You also have to be very careful you don't miss a 'examine' icon as they can be obscured by other parts of the UI until you move the camera around, which can lead to moments of confusion as you have no idea why a part hasn't been fully removed or replaced.
When I'd nearly completed the game I also realised how poor the progression structure is as I finished every task or "quest" and never maxed out my Economist or Analyst stats. I didn't even print the 250 parts required for another achievement, so either I'm incredibly efficient or they expect you to 3D print a lot of parts incorrectly or reset your skill attributes and reallocate the points—which is thankfully an option that only costs you few of the in-game currency you amass for doing all those repairs.
While I wasn't expecting a free-roaming full-on exploration mode but I was disappointed that you never get to test drive or pilot any of the vehicles once you've repaired them, and that you don't have to deliver them.back to their owner and never even get to have a wander around outside the workshop, despite the fact that you always start the game in the entrance passageway like you've just walked in from the surface of Mars. You don't get to design and build your own rover either, which is a bit of a missed opportunity in my opinion.
After a while I started to feel a bit like a cross between Matt Damon in The Martian and Wall-E from the Pixar movie; lonely, doing a repetitive job clearing up other people's messes, and mostly unappreciated. They try to make the game feel less sterile by making the notes from clients personalised and sometimes witty, but it doesn't really help. So I began to get bored–I mean, how many Mars rovers can you actually diagnose, take apart and reassemble before the process gets tiresome? This makes for a game best played in short bursts–but of course, there's nothing wrong with that.
At a price of only £11.74, RMS isn't going to break anyone's bank and will certainly supply value for money if you play it long enough to round up all 24 of the achievements—and for achievement hunters out there, it's a very doable 1000Gs. It's also kind-of educational in a way, teaching you that a machine's parts have to be removed (and replaced) in a certain order, and you don't always have to replace a large part, sometimes just repairing or replacing one of its components will make it serviceable again. Too simplistic for the hardened sim addict, this could be the perfect starter sim for one of those kids that loves to take things apart, but never puts them back together...