The toughest holiday you’ll ever have
Our failed attempt to take My Summer Car for a spin
Survival sims usually involve making axes and chopping down trees. Maybe a dinosaur here and there. Vehicle building is a new one, but that’s what My Summer Car is all about – crafting a ride for the holidays while managing the usual drives of hunger, thirst, and going to the toilet. Oh, and swearing in Finnish.
Even having watched the trailers I'm still not entirely sure what to expect here. There's a promise of a car, obviously, swearing in Finnish (the developer's language), the ability to urinate wherever and whenever I want, and the joy of permadeath. As selling points go those are... unusual. However, within minutes the real game becomes clear: building the car. And not in a crafting kind of way. Oh no, building the entire thing from scratch. I find a garage full of components, and the engine alone must consist of at least 100 parts. From the camshaft to the gasket, and the little stick things I think are called tappets. This is simulating the mechanics of auto work to Matrix-like levels. Only with more pee breaks. I've no idea where to begin so I hit the swear button, causing my character to question Satan's private parts. It's a start.
I have no idea how cars work. I mean, I get the whole combustion engine thing, and wheels. That bits easy. But faced with a garage full of lumpy metal parts, I haven't a clue. I head online and find a video of someone else putting it all together. The subframe goes in first. Then something called horseshoes, and then a steering rack. Each time I add something I have to find hidden bolts and then test all the spanners to see which one fits so I can tighten them. This game is not messing about. While flight sims strive to create an authentic flying experience, this game's life mission seems to be perfectly recreating the minutia of doing up screws one at a time.
The permadeath elements seem to relate to a range of stats governing your thirst, hunger, cleanliness, fatigue, and just how full your bladder is. It’s taken me an hour of real world time to attach four things to the car and my fatigue has maxed out. I’m also hungry, having long ago eaten the only food in the house – a single packet of sausages. There is at least plenty of beer, so thirst isn’t a problem. At least not yet. Tired, I go to bed and hope food will be a thing I can somehow make happen later. I don’t get much sleep though as the phone rings in the middle of the night and a man shouts incoherently that he wants me to pick him up from the pub.
1 hour 10 minutes
garden. than the front exploring further I hadn’t even considered In order to a nearby van. Up until this point avoid the so I turn my attention ooooh, 3% done, on the floor to The car’s still only… crouching ignition first by ages wandering I have to hit the so I spend to get moving, though, prompt. It’s dark comes off and finding the Then the handbrake steering wheel to find the lights. is so I just the dashboard where the pub the mouse around idea gear. I have no and roll the the road in first I miss the corner and I trundle down Unfortunately, corner. no transport. find it around the the dark, and with drive, hoping I’ll tree. I’m lost, in down against a van, ending upside
1 hour 20 minutes
and transport, I decide to can this attempt Given that I’ve totalled my only working The if there’s anything I may have overlooked. start over. This time I explore to see there are some buildings behind the lack of food is worrying and when I realise but This may be a game about car maintenance house I set off to see if I can break in. doesn’t turn quick to hit the dirt. Looking around – like all survival games – morality is to a wood pile. Earlier, someone who wanted up any food, but I discover an axe and a be a good way to earn some cash. There’s buy some wood called, so this might the axe… it all and, hey, there’s a bottle behind trailer I can load up, a tractor to pull
1 hour 45 minutes
The bottle, as it turns out, contains vodka, and my character drinks the lot. The wobbly drunken screen effect is so severe I can barely move, let alone chop wood. As far as regretful levels of drinking go, this is as painfully accurate as the act of tightening a million bolts. The screen lurches and sways to the point where it’s hard to tell what direction I’m even moving in. For some reason, I decide to try and start the tractor. However, successfully pushing the ignition button with so much screen wobble is impossible – a strong hint that actually driving the thing, should I manage to get it started, would be disastrous. I give up and go home to sleep it off.
ready to Today I build the car! No excuses. I’ve got some videos stacked up and I’m about five conquer the fine art of modelled mechanic simulation. Every part takes all minutes to get into position and then bolt in place (once you’ve cycled through It’s the spanners to find one that fits). There is an odd satisfaction to this madness. physics glitchy as all hell, admittedly: the car constantly slides off the jack and weird several hiccups mean I occasionally get fired out of the engine hole (technical term) feet into the air. Still, it’s all taking shape as I build out the front wheels adding suspension bits, hubs, brakes and a couple of stick things that seem important.
It’s finished. No, wait. That’s not entirely accurate. I’m finding parts, placing finished. Two hours of patiently them in the correct order, and then searching out swapping spanners has bolts and finally worn me out. I’m – all the wheels kinda proud of how far I are in place and working, got, though and it’s only the lack of an (admittedly a fairly important actual engine piece) that’s preventing car-ness. However, the completion of its overall the engine also looks terrifyingly of tiny intricate bits. complicated, Having spent with 12 shelves full hours just making wheels mood to start assembling work, I’m not in the pistons, so I finish up by screen wobble drinking enough beer to and then look appreciatively make the meter maxes at my semi-finished car out and turns red. as my hunger I never did find any more food.
My Summer Car is a strange game. It’s poorly made, full of glitches, and some elements just aren’t that well designed – you have to crawl to interact with certain things, for example. Plus, it tells you nothing. This is a game where you spend more time checking wikis and YouTube than playing. The save menu being accessed from the toilet was a particularly late discovery. That said, there’s an odd satisfaction to building a car from scratch. It’s boring and fiddly, but so’s the real thing. However, stepping back to see the progress you’re making can be rewarding. Definitely not for everyone, but the obtuse challenge will light a fire under some who won’t rest until that car’s running.