The primary objective of a simulator is to accurately recreate the feeling and control of completing an existing real world task, like driving, managing, farming, dating, etc. Obviously, not all real world tasks are entertaining, in fact, most are repetitive jobs you work day after day for a paycheck. The draw of a well made simulator is the ability to experience a career virtually that you may never have the chance to experience in real life. Sometimes this can be interesting and educational, sometimes a lot of fun, and sometimes extremely boring. It's up to the individual to decide if the simulator is fun or repetitive, which makes this genre extremely difficult to review. Do I review it based on its entertainment value alone, or how accurately it depicts the task it's trying to recreate?
The focus of this particular simulator is in the title. At the start of each job you are provided with a work order explaining what the issue is, and it's up to you as the mechanic to resolve the issue as best as you can. Generally this requires you to remove and check individual parts, and replace the ones that are damaged. If you don't know anything about cars it can be difficult to locate the issues at first, but once you fix the first ten cars or so you'll know exactly where to look for the problems and how to fix them.
Don't worry, there is no time limit or grading system to worry about here. Each job takes however long you need it to, so you never feel rushed or stressed. In fact, later on the game feels entirely too easy, since turning off the body model of the car grants you immediate visual access to most parts, and the ones that are in bad shape stick out like a sore thumb with a very different texture than the rest.
Locating and resolving the issues is very enjoyable. Removing and replacing the individual parts is very intuitive and even a little educational if you have zero experience with fixing cars. The models are easily recognizable, even though the vehicles are generic due to licensing constraints. There's even a radio in your garage to listen to while you work, though I hope in the future they provide a way to point it to your own music directory. You really do feel like a professional mechanic, which is the most important thing when developing a simulator.
As you progress through the 70+ jobs that come with the main campaign, you'll unlock new garages to work in with new tools such as the Path Tester, Workbench, and Chip Tuner. The interesting thing is, you don't really feel like you own the garage, even though it's implied. Each car that comes in is paid for in advance and you have to fix the problems as cheaply as possible to profit. Not being able to set your own prices or contact the customer after inspections seems like a missed opportunity here. There are zero management duties when it comes to running the garage. No rent or utilities payments to make, employees to manage, cleaning to be done, inventory to take, or anything else that comes with running a business like this. Car Mechanic Simulator is very focused on the act of fixing cars, and little else. That can be a good or bad thing depending on what you're looking for, but personally, I hope that these aspects will be added in later updates.
Features such as the OBD Reader and Obstacle Course seem more like novelties than required mechanics. Neither helps with diagnosing the issues with the cars, but both were required on multiple occasions for completing a work order, which is a shame. Providing more feedback from these features in the future would go a long way to improving on this idea. Even having your character mutter to himself while driving about how the car is handling would be a fantastic addition.
Car Mechanic Simulator feels like a great base for what will eventually become a fantastic simulator. I feel that the developers are on to something special, and cannot wait to see what the future holds for this franchise. If you are even a little interested in working on cars, but don't have the money, energy, or are generally against getting covered in grease, then look no further. With multiple free add-ons, and an endless mode, you'll get hundreds of hours out of this title. It does a great job of simulating the act of working on cars, so in that respect, it succeeds in its primary goal. As far as the entertainment factor is concerned, I'll let you be the judge.