All of the glory of moving a mouse cursor, without any of the excitement!
The work of indie developer The Irregular Corporation and Claudio Kiss, PC Building Simulator is a strange beast to find on Nintendo Switch. The game is, as described neatly in the title, a simulator where you run a business repairing and building PCs. It’s a concept that is likely to appeal fiercy to some, and completely bore most. That said, when the opportunity presents itself to tie together two disparate interests, Nintendo Switch and PC Building, one doesn’t let the opportunity pass by without taking a chance. Unfortunately, this game ends up feeling underclocked.
The entirety of the game takes place in a one-room office with an adjacent hallway. In the office, you’ll find a computer you can use to run your business (take orders, shop for parts, test out software) and a workbench for working on customers’ PCs. There are upgrades you can buy, like a second workbench or a cabinet to put computers, but none of it changes the core gameplay. You will be spending 95% of your time either reading email, shopping for components, or working on PCs.
Having played the PC version of the game before, I was excited to see a Switch release, but moments after I fired up the game with my Pro Controller I remembered something about PC Building Simulator that should have probably curbed my excitement in the first place: you will be spending a lot of time moving a mouse cursor around the screen with the analog stick. What feels natural when playing the game on PC feels like a chore at best when playing on the Switch, and it’s the user interface for almost the entire experience. Whether you’re trying to get the mouse cursor to hover over the tiny clip that holds in a RAM chip, unplug a thin wire running from your CPU to your power supply, or double-clicking desktop PC icons to read email or run a virus scan, everything about this game revolves around the mouse. It simply doesn’t work on Switch.
Some thought was put into this by the developers, it seems. For example, when using the PC, your mouse pointer will slowly “snap” to a nearby icon, which is helpful. In addition, you can use touch controls when playing in tablet mode, but the game is so small on the touch screen that you can’t really see what you’re doing. Even if you could, if you accidentally touch something that’s not meant to be interacted with, the touch will be registered as camera control in the 3D space and your view will instantly snap off to the side. Suffice it to say, touch controls don’t really work any better and arguably hurt the overall experience.
If you can manage to work past the clumsy controls, there’s fun to be had here if you’re the kind of person who likes building PCs. There’s a tutorial that helps teach you the ropes, but this game is clearly aimed at those who are already familiar with the basic concepts behind PC construction. This is not a tongue-in-cheek game that pokes loving fun at PC building enthusiasts; it is a sim, and a pretty good sim at that. Sure, there’s an oversimplification at play when you don’t even have to reinstall your OS after replacing your motherboard or even your hard drive, but some things are really well handled. I appreciated that when I forgot to apply thermal paste to the CPU cooler the PC didn’t fail to boot, but when I ran a benchmarking tool I quickly got a blue screen that I had to address. The game made me do the work to realize that simply reassembling the PC and turning it on wasn’t quite enough troubleshooting, and that’s appreciated.
Really the problem is that even the fun that can be had in PC Building Simulator simply isn’t worth the trouble of the painfully slow and clumsy user interface. This is a game that is surprising to find on a non-PC platform but disappointing to learn that it probably should have stayed there. It can really only be recommended if you are a die hard PC enthusiast who doesn’t have a PC.