I’ll give anything a go—video game wise, I mean.
You won’t catch me hang-gliding (f*** heights) or deep-sea diving (f*** sharks), but there isn’t a genre of video game I won’t take a stab at. As I learned with cinema a long ago, writing off entire genres is a very silly thing to do. It was in this spirit that I fired up Tank Mechanic Simulator, expecting at the very least a game that I could see the appeal of.
Now, I never said I was a smart man.
Tank Mechanic Simulator is something of a misnomer, but I suspect marketing rejected the more accurate “Tank Cleaner and Part Purchaser” due to the way it more accurately reflects how mind-numbingly dull this “game” is.
Playing as an unseen protagonist, whom I named “BLIMBO,” you inherit a tank repair workshop from your late father, who presumably died of boredom. You are to take over the family business of fixing up a variety of historical death machines for clients, who communicate with you via email. Repair and restoration, regardless of the task, takes the form of holding down a button in a particular spot, and waiting for a few seconds. This is followed by navigating hideous menus clearly designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind, and then more waiting.
Between each gun-in-mouth level of tedious action, you must wait a certain amount of time before you can move on to the next one. It’s never for very long—a matter of seconds, really—but it feels like an eternity. Your eventual reward, should you have managed to keep sharp objects out of your ear thus far, is a short trundle around the most depressing-looking wasteland since Burnley, England before it’s time to start the process over again and request that the doctor up my dosage. You can also salvage abandoned tanks, or something. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. Gameplay-wise, it’s all the same, in that there is none.
I don’t even do things I enjoy for this long. My only respite was the mug to the right of the office PC, which is reminiscent of Twin Peaks’ famous Red Room. I own this very same mug, though it’s far more dishwasher worn than this one. This is the best part of the game, and it suggests that the faceless protagonist and I would get on reasonably well. I wish I was watching Twin Peaks. I bet BLIMBO does too.
Upon researching this and adjacent genres, I found that this particular title lacks any of the intricate and involved tinkering that fans of the genre look for. This begs the question: who is this for? It’s not for a particular fan base—it lacks any of the gameplay or functionality that simulator audiences enjoy. It’s not for a wider audience, either, because it lacks any kind of mainstream appeal. It’s clunky, ugly, and as far from what any rational person could sincerely describe as “fun” as it’s possible to be. Sure, it works. But at what cost?
Put a pin in that. We’ll get back to cost. For now, let’s get back to who this bilge is for. I think I have my answer.
It’s for me, and only me. Tank Mechanic Simulator is a video game shaped bullet with my name on it. At the risk of sounding like the worst case of main character syndrome you’ve ever encountered, I think Tank Mechanic Simulator was conceived, designed, and released specifically to find me and trigger something of a crisis. In three months at the time of writing, I turn thirty years old. I don’t know the reason why this game should be the thing to provoke a severe attack of The Fear within me, only that it was preordained. I am about to turn 30. That’s halfway to 60. I don’t have children or a stable career yet. I’ll never get on the property ladder, and I still haven’t mopped up the small pool of water that has gathered in the bottom of my fridge. My partner keeps asking me to do it, and I say I will, but I just don’t. Instead, I sit here holding down the A-button to remove virtual rust from a virtual part of a virtual tank owned by the kind of virtual person who owns a goddamn virtual tank.
Tank Mechanic Simulator is the video game equivalent of lying awake at 3am, consumed by the knowledge that you are going to die one day. The sound of your partner’s breathing offers no comfort, because she’s going to die one day too. It’s a lot to take in. Thanks, Tank Mechanic Simulator.
Finally, let’s talk cost. Tank Mechanic Simulator for the Nintendo Switch costs £16.19 on the Nintendo Switch eShop.
Yes, really. No, me neither.
- Newly translated, all-time classic Moon costs £14.49.
- Ultra-stylish first-person murder mystery Paradise Killer costs £15.49.
- Impossibly adorable new adventure game The Last Campfire costs £13.49
- The chill, meditative exploratory fun of A Short Hike costs £6.49
Steamworld Heist! Sayonara Wildhearts! Paratopic! Gorogoa! Hollow Knight! All priced similarly, or lower, than Tank Mechanic Simulator. All range from being the absolute pinnacle of what this wonderful artistic medium is capable of, to just being an absolute blast to play. Art and vision, good old-fashioned fun. Respect yourself, respect the medium, respect your money and respect your time.
I dream of a world where Nintendo implements some degree of curation to the eShop, and mobile-tier bargain bin efforts like this are left to rot in the deepest darkest corners of Steam where they belong.
[A copy of Tank Mechanic Simulator was provided by the publisher for review.]