When I first booted up Gas Station Simulator, a game that’s spent the last week tearing up the Steam charts, my first thought was “Christ, this place is a dump!” At the start of the game, you inherit a derelict gas station from your uncle, who I’m pretty sure is gang affiliated. Your goal is simple: pay back your uncle, renovate the station, and service wayward travelers until you’re running the best damn gas station “somewhere on Route 66.” Your life might depend on it.
Gas Station Simulator, developed by DRAGO entertainment, released on Steam in September, though there are plans for a release on Xbox and PlayStation in 2022. As a former retail worker, Gas Station Simulator both itched the muscle memory of being proficient under pressure while also reminding me how customer service jobs are the pits.
Right off the bat, Gas Station Simulator wastes no time familiarizing you with their throw mechanic. By picking up any of the objects that litter your new gas station, you can play a mini game where you hurl trash into a dumpster. The game also tracks the distance of your baskets. This mechanic becomes important for upkeep of the gas station.
Throughout the game, you receive phone calls and emails full of tips from your uncle on how to better run the gas station. The uncle does not mince words, often reminding you that he is paying all of my expenses out of the kindness of his heart. I better not be slacking off!
If you fail to earn enough money in a day, like I did at one point, some muscle-bound dude will deck you in the face. Soon, you’ll find yourself waking up outside your gas station only to be greeted by your uncle who calls the incident a misunderstanding. He then “encourages you” to make sure the gas station makes a lot of revenue. Yeah, I’m pretty sure your uncle is the Walter White of the gas station empire.
But like everything, practice makes perfect.
In Gas Station Simulator, your micromanaging skills have to be on point. You have to take your inventory and fuel levels into account and place restock orders that won’t be delivered immediately. Whether that is sweeping the floor for the fifth time in five minutes or picking up litter your customers leave around the store, you are in charge of the whole operation. Even when people just leave a fish lying around on your station. Who does that?
My fellow retail workers know the feeling of taking shipments during hours of operation. Gas Station Simulator effectively conveys the feeling of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, yet still trying to complete tasks. Panicking is a part of the experience. For example, one moment you might be filling customers’ gas tanks but you also have a line of people waiting at the register while dealing with an impatient customer who needs something, and...you get the picture. Once you get into a rhythm of moving through tasks, though, the repetition is kind of relaxing. This, too, is a balance. If you move too fast, you might knock food off of the counter or skimp on their gas.
My favorite activity in the game has to be the customization and renovation. You can paint the entirety of the station, and decide how its shelves are orientated. You can also choose what new amenities you add to the outside of your station. Of course, the developers realized it can’t be all fun and threw in Dennis to shake things up.
Dennis is a demon spawn of a child who sometimes shows up with a bunch of spray cans and graffiti to defile your newly painted walls. He also leaves stink bombs. The game encourages you to throw trash at this boy so that he’ll leave. At one point, I did too well cleaning up the place that I didn’t have any objects around me to throw at him.
I enjoyed my time playing Gas Station Simulator. It was very easy to lose track of time playing because once you get into a rhythm, you become a retail machine. I felt a lot like the one guy living in Buford, Wyoming, when it came to managing all aspects of running the gas station. There’s a bit of jank in here, like teleporting characters or bugged-out cars. But I found the bugs more funny than anything. Pro-tip: don’t close the garage door too quickly on your delivery truck!