A relaxing game built around an environmental message, Fresh Start takes you on a tour around the world, rescuing native flora and fauna by clearing up various disasters. You are equipped with a machine that acts as both vacuum cleaner and water hose to help with each mission. The messes you tackle range from natural disasters such as mudslides and wildfires, to manmade chaos like oil spills.

The gameplay is very simple. You move around the map washing dirt off the landscape, watering plants until they burst back to health, and sucking up litter and detritus to recycle. You have to keep an eye on how much water you have in your tank, and refill when necessary. As you recycle more rubbish, you gain experience points which can be exchanged for power-ups.

Each level has a number of goals you have to achieve to complete that map. They’re fairly similar from place to place. You find tools and materials to rebuild something important to fully restore the region, from bridges and other functional features to shrines and landmarks. Otherwise, the achievements are largely about clearing specific areas or spillages. 

Every level has a cat hidden somewhere and a hat you can find to put on it, after which you may pet the cat. This is optional, but is an additional bonus that encourages you to search every corner of the area.

The different places you travel to are based on various real locations around the world. The disasters in each area are based on the kind of issues genuinely faced on different parts of the planet. You’ll encounter local plants and animals in each place, which gives the levels a sense of variety. This is helpful in keeping the game feeling interesting, but the mechanics don’t change much at all no matter how many boosts you earn.

The available power-ups mainly focus on upgrading your hose or vacuum. You can also move quicker, recycle as you go instead of returning to the bins, and set stationary tools to help clean for you. These don’t have a massive impact on the gameplay. The sense of progression is also undermined by the way the maps get larger as you get more efficient. Some more exciting animations for the tools, particularly when they start to reach maximum power, could be an easy way to ramp up the experience.

There are some elements that could give Fresh Start more of a sense of urgency. The forest fires, for instance, don’t threaten to spread; they behave exactly the same as mudslides. They just need washing away, and you can take as long as you need to get around to them. It feels like there were clear opportunities like this to make some levels stand out from the rest in a logically consistent way, but they weren’t taken. A few small tweaks to the gameplay between maps could both make the game less repetitive and also more educational when it comes to the specific needs of different wildlife.

It is difficult not to like this game. Despite its unmissable environmental message, it doesn’t feel overly moralistic. Fresh Start is designed to be relaxing and satisfying, which it certainly does achieve. It’s not particularly challenging, but it feels good seeing your efforts pay off. It would be wonderful if impacting positive change on the climate was so easy in the real world. Seeing the restoration progress in game chips away and the all-too-common feeling of defeat you might feel at the current state of the planet. Despite its simplicity, this game still feels somewhat inspiring, motivating you to make whatever small difference you can to the planet.