Running your own gas station in Gas Station Simulator is just the best Gas Station Simulator, Dust Bowl
When I saw Gas Station Simulator hit Steam, I came at it with a side-eye glance—it's often hard to tell if a new simulator game is popular because it's a joke or because it's actually good. A few hours later, I can't stop filling up people's cars, ringing customers up, and fixing their vehicles.
Surprisingly, Gas Station Simulator has a plot. It starts with you driving your really cool car—complete with a smoking dog bobblehead—through a desert before pulling into the Dust Bowl Gas Stop and buying it from the owner. Shortly after, you get a call from your uncle who tells you that your grandfather once owned it, and he's happy to help you get it back into shape.
Yes, it starts almost exactly like Stardew Valley. You even have to build everything from the ground-up. Starting with breaking down 2×4 planks to get into your new gas station and driving a front loader to remove sand from the parking lot and pumps, there's actually a fair bit of work to do before you can start serving customers. Aiming and tossing garbage bags and other trash into dumpsters—Kobe!—is dumb fun that even tracks your furthest distance with a triumphant “high score” sign. Oh, and that kid that keeps showing up and tagging the stop with spray paint? Throwing trash at him is fun, too.
If you play the demo, you'll start with a fully functioning gas station that just needs a good sweeping. Once everything is cleaned up, you'll be playing gas attendant, cashier, and mechanic until you make a certain amount of money, and then the demo is over. It's clearly an earlier build, because the full game has an improved UI and controls—it feels less finicky and more responsive than the demo, which wouldn't register my mouse clicks on certain objects. The full game also adds customization and maintenance, rounding out the experience.
I hate cleaning and doing chores in the real world, but this gas station needs a lot of maintenance and upkeep, and I'm happy to do it. I'll never understand why cleaning a building in a videogame sounds so darn exciting to me, but seeing the place get nice and tidied up is satisfying in the same way spraying down a car is in PowerWash Simulator. Buying furniture an painting the station give me the personalization I love in games like House Flipper.
There's a simple kind of fun in the other tasks. Filling up a person's car presents a meter, which tells you when you need to stop. The Shift key speeds the meter up, but you'll have to be quick to stop if you want the maximum tip. Likewise, ringing people up at the cashier has you starting up the conveyor belt, scanning items, and putting them in a basket. Completing an order without stopping the belt—rapid scanning and bagging—feels cool in a way that being a cashier shouldn't.
But should I really be this into it? Even with the excellent Deathloop taking up rent in my head, my body longs to be pulled back into my dirty little gas stop so I can clean and help some customers, and I can't understand why. Oh well. I guess all that matters is that it makes me happy. I'm not packing my things, running out of the city, and opening my own gas stop—like some did with farms and Stardew Valley—but if you're a rudimentary 3D-modelled person looking for some gas and eats, come on down to the ol' Dust Bowl off Route 66. I'm running the pumps, and there are snacks and drinks inside.