Car Mechanic Simulator 2014 is almost entirely explained by its title: the entire game revolves around repairing damaged cars or making changes to their components to make them run a little better. Surprisingly, it's actually a really fun game and a great way to spend a relaxing evening, though I think I spoiled it for myself by moving on to the sequel as soon as I completed the career paths in this game. You see, there are a number of problems that the next game in the series fixes, and going back to review it now makes all of the rough edges stand out like headlights at night.
You can only work on one car at a time, and there's no way to select what you'll be working on next. But, each car comes with a repair order that lists what it wrong with the vehicle, and often some descriptive flavor text to make the job more interesting. These lists are often vague, leaving you to handle the diagnosis on your own. To make diagnosing the cars easier, you can take the car for a test drive or give it a brake and suspension test, provided your garage has this feature. Once the problem has been found, it's just a matter of unscrewing the parts and installing some new ones.
You'll find yourself settling into a comfortable routine as you learn which of the car's systems cause certain types of malfunctions, and in no time at all you won't need to spend time test driving cars in order to fix them. This is actually a good thing, as the test driving portions of the game are some of the more boring (or annoying) parts. With enough elbow grease and diligence, you'll soon become a top-notch repairman with the fanciest auto repair shop in town.
The biggest reason I can think of for not getting this game is that the sequel manages to improve a lot of things, making it the better buy. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from getting both games, as there are some important differences. For example, this version's career mode has something of a story behind the many clients you'll see, while the sequel is flatly impersonal about the jobs you're given.
Test, diagnose and fix cars
Each repair job is a small mystery to solve. Sometimes it's easy to tell what's wrong: on cars that are in otherwise good repair, damaged parts stand out clearly. However, some cars that you'll be servicing aren't in good condition, and so you'll need to take the car for a test drive or use the test path to identify the problem.
Upgrades improve your ability
When you complete a repair job, you're paid by the customer. Most of this money will be re-invested in buying new parts to repair other cars, but some of it can be invested in "self help" books. These books increase your skill in various areas, allowing you to remove parts quicker, make more money per job or get a discount on things from the store.
Four game modes
Counting the DLC*
options, there are four different ways to play. The first way is the career mode, which offers 76 unique repair tasks. Complete that, and you'll unlock the endless mode, which functions just like the career mode, except the jobs are randomly generated. The other two modes have you working on 4x4s or attempting to fine-tune racing cars instead of doing normal repairs.
Once you really get started repairing cars, it can be a little hard to stop. There's a really good chance that you'll be telling yourself that you'll stop after the next repair is done, and find that you last said that three cars ago. This addictiveness only increased in the sequel.
Simplistic car designs
Basically, you're either working on a car or a van. The insides of either model are practically the same, and there's very little difference between any of the cars. This isn't realistic enough for some players, and can take the fun out of the game after a while.
Goals aren't always clear
Most of the time, you're told what you need to do in very vague terms. This helps make the game interesting, as it means you'll need to do some detective work to fix the car, but it can also mean that you don't know the extent of what you need to do. If even one small part isn't replaced, then the job can't be marked as completed. Some jobs don't even specify what symptoms are being seen, making it a mystery.
Test drives and the test path are sometimes mandatory
User interface is clumsy
To be honest, these are the least fun part of the game, as they consist of nothing more than a short bit of busywork*
to simulate diagnostics. Many cars can be repaired without them, but there are orders where this is a step you need to perform to finish the job.
While it works for what it is, just how unwieldy it is isn't apparent until you play the sequel. Each part of the car is accessed via a hub system, and there isn't a way to switch from one part of the car to another without first leaving the hub you're currently on. This creates a sort of confined work area, and it's only made more difficult with the way the mouse handles. When not zoomed in on a part, the mouse fishtails and lags, making it drunkenly swerve around the garage. It's still usuable, but could definitely use some improvement.
4x4 DLC has quality issues
It's possible to glitch the tutorial
By far the most noticeable thing about the 4x4 DLC*
wasn't the new car models or engines you worked with. It was the quality issues. Some jobs have a tendency to become unwinnable due to a bug in the way the fixes are detected. In other cases words are misspelled on the order sheet. Neither stand up to the quality seen in the rest of the game.
This is something of a fluke, but it turns out that if you move ahead too quickly during the tutorial at the beginning of the game, you can reach a point where the tutorial doesn't know how to proceed. This is because the game is waiting for you to do something you already did, and there's nothing in place to let you back out of it or even return to the game's menu. It's stuck waiting.