Take Route 66 to get to Gas Station Simulator
If you take the I-15 from Salt Lake City, Utah to Los Angeles, California, you can get there in 9 hours and 30 minutes. That’s my best time, at least — 9 hours and 38 minutes to be more precise.
If you’re looking to beat my record, here are a few tips: first, I am legally required to tell you that you should adhere to the speed limit, but that goes doubly so for that 30 minute stint through Arizona’s super snaky mountain trail. Second, choose a playlist that’ll keep you pumped (and awake) — I personally prefer MCR’s Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge, Miyavi’s Galyuu and Gagaku, and Daft Punk’s Discovery. Third, try not to eat or drink anything while on the road because that directly translates to bathroom breaks. You’ll need to stop for gas at least twice, so if you must go, go then. Speaking of stops, don’t bother with Las Vegas if that isn’t your final destination. While in Nevada, Mesquite comes before it and both Primm and Jean come after, these highway oases having far better gas stations for your road-tripping needs than the City of Sin.
I could go on and on about this interstate drive through seemingly endless dry desert — it’s a trip I try to make at least once every other year. So many of the signs and pit-stops along the way become iconic waypoints with charm, character, and memorable personalities. Who named Zzyzx Road? Why did they choose that spot for the Seven Magic Mountains? And just what is Alien Jerky made out of?
Something tells me DANGO Entertainment knows the answer to that last question — at least, that’s the vibe I got while playing Gas Station Simulator, where the point of the game is to “buy an abandoned gas station and restore it to its full glory.” Available on Steam for $19.99, Gas Station Simulator asks players to take a derelict gas station and turn it into the diamond of the desert — a memorable pit-stop between here and there (while firmly being neither here nor there). With at least 20 solid hours of gameplay and 20+ more for achievement-hunters, Gas Station Simulator is exactly like a gas station in the middle of nowhere — worth the stop but a little rough around the edges.
Gas Station Simulator has a pretty straightforward premise: you buy a gas station, you renovate it. Your current task will always be available for you to see at any time, so you always know what you need to focus on at any given moment. Hiring staff, earning a certain amount, or upgrading your gas station to the next level are all tasks you’ll be assigned throughout gameplay, working towards the main goal of repaying your loan that allowed you to buy this business in the first place.
At first, it’ll just be you serving gas via one pump to customers off Route 66. Eventually, your little slice of civilization will grow to include more pumps, a convenience store, a garage, and even a few attractions that will allow road-trippers to get out and stretch their legs a bit. In spirit, Gas Station Simulator absolutely captures this interesting-yet-uninteresting piece of humanity. I was literally stuck to my seat for hours on end, unable to pry myself away to even take a sip of my drink. The level of obsession I had with getting my gas station to run smoothly was intense, and I’m honestly more relieved than anything that I’ve beaten the game and freed myself from its addictive grasp (I mean this in the best possible way, it’s damn good fun).
In practice, Gas Station Simulator is a little odd to run through, especially if you’re familiar with any stretch of this corner of the U.S. For example, I’m assuming we’re supposed to be in California due to the California Highway Patrol (and no other state) showing up for gas and goods, but there’s a pretty large city within view of my podunk gas station, and if that’s supposed to be LA, well… I guarantee you, there’s no way you can see LA from any sort of gas station that isn’t encased within the county-wide concrete jungle.
Additionally, I have to ask if European developers think we don’t pump our gas here in the U.S., as this is the second open road game I’ve played this year made by our friends across the pond that had me working pumps (the first being Road 96). I get that it’s just another game mechanic to keep players in a loop, but for the record, only Oregon and New Jersey don’t allow self-serve gas; the rest of us pull up to the pump and take care of fueling ourselves.
There were also just some weird inconsistencies in terms of time period where I couldn’t tell exactly *when* I was. The pumps look like something straight out of the 50s, as does the car carrying the gas, but the cars spanned decades from the 50s onwards and a big color monitor told me I was in at least the 90s. Complete with the gas station itself being called the “Dust Bowl” — something more familiar to perhaps the midwest instead of the southwest — I got the feeling that Gas Station Simulator was a collection of Americana road trip vibes as beloved from a distance. In the core loop of pumping gas, serving customers, and fixing cars, it translated well enough but if I sat and thought about it for more than a few minutes, it felt a little… off.
Now, none of those aspects makes Gas Station Simulator bad — on the contrary, it was amusing to try to figure out exactly where The Dust Bowl might be along Route 66. What detracted from the experience, however, were the odd bugs here and there. For example, trying to tell staff where to go was hit or miss, as they’d sometimes just stand at the cash register or pumps doing nothing. I’d think they were working until I noticed cars and customers pile up, so then I’d have to either talk to them and force them to leave or try to help them out in an effort to get them going. When I tried the latter at the pumps, I equipped a gas pump, then tried to unequip it and found I could not. I was forced to quit the game and reload an earlier autosave at that point.
Additionally, I cannot for the life of me to get the staff to clean properly. They’ll start off fine, but eventually walk over to the warehouse door and just… keep walking into it. Over and over again, never opening it, just walking into it. I’ll only notice because the floors get super dirty super quickly but it’s nowhere near time for a break yet, so I’ll wander over to the warehouse, let them in, they pick up the cute band setup I was trying to keep, then walk away and toss it in the garbage. Great. Thanks.
Unfortunately, there are just a lot of little issues holding Gas Station Simulator back from being incredible. Garbage clips through the ground and disappears when you try to hold it, the delivery truck carrying car parts does not announce its arrival like the goods truck so it just sits there for ages until I suddenly remember I ordered tires ages ago, dust storms clip through the walls of the later extensions, you can accidentally pick up stock from the shelves wherein you’re then unable to put it back on the shelf, forcing you to toss it in the dumpster and waste money…
…and yet I couldn’t stop playing. I literally went to bed after playing this for 10 hours, then woke up and played 10 more until I beat it. There is something so fun about getting as much money as you can to improve your gas station and make it a shining oasis in the middle of an endless desert; with a little love and a lot of elbow grease, Gas Station Simulator will surely iron out its issues and go from derelict building to booming business shortly.
Gas Station Simulator has bugs in the same way Skyrim has bugs: yeah, it’s a buggy game, but riding your horse vertically through the mountains became iconic, if not beloved. I feel like the same thing has happened here with Gas Station Simulator — there’s just so much personality that even the issues are charming. I don’t know why certain stock doesn’t move or why some cars pile up near the entrance or hover in midair, but I know the solution in both cases is calling aliens to save my business. If you want an insanely addicting core loop and don’t mind a little dust in the machinery, Gas Station Simulator will guzzle up an entire weekend before you know it.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Movie Games S.A., HeartBeat Games; Developer: DRAGO Entertainment; Players: 1; Released: September 15, 2021; MSRP: $19.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Gas Station Simulator provided by the publisher.