Game: Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator
System: Steam Deck (also on Steam (Windows))
Developer|Publisher: Chicken Launcher | Awaken Realms
Controller Support: Desktop: Mouse & Keyboard | Not verified for Steam Deck
Age Rating: EU 3+| US Everyone
Price: US $9.99 | UK £7.19 | EU € 8,19
Release Date: December 20th, 2022
No review code was provided, I bought the game myself.
Believe me, I’m no fan of cleaning. I know it has to be done, but it always seems to be such a waste of time. After mopping the floor, you turn around, and it’s dirty again! So then, why would it be a fun thing to do in a video game? Well, I don’t know, but it sure is in Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator. And the nicest thing? It stays clean after you’re done!
Piles of Mud and Rubble
After launching Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator, you find yourself in the first location that looks like nature has been taken over by a garbage dump. Big piles of mud, dirty puddles, plastic, rusty iron and bricks everywhere so it looks very sad. Trees, flowers and shrubs have died too. And it’s up to you to restore it!
You have a hose with a hoover attachment in your hand that has two functions: it can spray water, and it has a suction function. Use the water sprayer to clear away the mud and suck up the rubbish that is left behind. To do this, you have to fill the tank with water; the level is shown on the left top side. Aim the hose to a water body to suck up water, but you can also clear out mud puddles or even toxic ponds. The beauty of it is that it changes it to clear water instantly!
Restoring the Beauty of Nature
Aside from washing away the mud, you use the water too to bring dead trees and flowers back to life. And giving them life gives you experience points (little yellow coins) to extend the arsenal you can use to restore nature. You can power up the water stream, have a bigger water tank, get an auto sprinkler and an auto hoover, a bigger backpack and a pocket recycler.
Before you upgrade to the pocket recycler, you have to bring all the garbage you sucked up to a machine to have it recycled to experience points. The auto sprinkler and hoover can be easy to get things done quicker. But the thing is, washing away the dirt is so satisfying to do it yourself that I hardly used them. Just pottering away, getting nature back to glory and having the animals return to it.
One addition that comes in very handy is the one called Cleaner Sense. It shows you the items you still have to clean or bring to life before you can proceed. And as it can be as little as a bunch of flowers, this addition is very welcome.
Bring the Ducks, Whales, Pandas and More
Every level in Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator gives you certain challenges to finish, and to do that, you need materials. These can be found in among the rubble you clear out. Some are pretty obvious, and some have a bit more to them, but they are never difficult.
You have to complete all the challenges and restore nature to be able to progress to the next level. And feel good about yourself for bringing back all those cute animals by restoring their habitat.
Pressing the left mousepad on the Steam Deck brings up a radial menu with several commands: it lets you place the auto sprinkler, auto vacuum, access your skills and activate Cleaner Sense. In the centre, you can push a button called Renew to restore nature to the level you have reached. Around your water tank, you see several coloured leaves which show you have far along you are.
Once everything is done and nature is restored, the game points you, using a lighted yellow column, to the next level and habitat.
Playing on the Steam Deck
Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator is not verified for playing on the Steam Deck. I was able to make it work, but it’s not a perfect fit. I used the community layout made by redbraintrain called Steam Deck w/ Virtual Menu.
It can be a bit fiddly, especially using the Radial Menu, but it works. You can activate the Radial Menu by pressing the left pad and choosing your option by slowly circling it.
Music and Nausea
The background tune in Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator is designed to be relaxing and unobtrusive at the same time. Very fitting to the game. Aside from some awkwardness in controlling the game on the Steam Deck, I feel some of the controls could be more accurate. Pointing at a clump of flowers to greenify them can be a fiddly business.
Another thing I’ve found that I’m not entirely sure about is that there are some bugs. I’ve run into one myself that requires me to make a new file. I think it’s caused by the update when the game left early access. I don’t get the exit gate in the Panda habitat, as I like some more cleaning; that shouldn’t be an issue.
I’ll have to do it slowly, as my biggest problem with Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator is personal: the game is first-person. And although I’m not really prone to motion sickness, playing the game for half an hour in one go really was the max. It made me nauseous, and I feel that the more I play the game, the worse it gets. Really a pity. I can only wish they’ll add a 3rd person option too.
Although I don’t like cleaning in real life, cleaning in the Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator had me glued to the screen. There’s something so satisfying about washing all the muck and rubbish away and give the animals their beautiful habitat back. No big challenges; just getting in the zone of cleaning and watching everything look lovely again.
Although you can collect achievements in the game, this isn’t the game for you if you want a challenge. Fresh Start Cleaning Simulator mimics real life’s workings in a very satisfying way with lovely graphics and satisfying little puzzle elements. A pity the first-person view made me nauseous, but that is entirely personal.
Final Verdict: I Like it a Lot