Despite its name, Ground Control Simulator is a largely simulation-free experience. A typical mission involves driving a vehicle between several markers, parking accurately at the location, and playing a short and simple minigame before returning the vehicle to its garage.
The game includes 25 missions, and a limited freeplay mode. Missions may feature one of three vehicles - a fuel truck, baggage handler, and catering truck - each of which feature an unlockable 'upgraded' version. Each vehicle has an associated minigame, with an additional 'repair' minigame that can apply to any vehicle.
All missions take place at the same airport, an entirely static map in which the player vehicles are the only interactive objects. The airport features planes from such fictional airlines as Raccoon Air, Sunnyville Airlines, and Aero Schrott (meaning 'scrap' in German). Some areas such as the car parking, entrance or nearby industrial buildings are never used in missions; there are no invisible walls preventing the player from leaving but the airport is surrounded only by rolling green hills (and then an infinite empty void).
The game has a number of achievements; these are tracked only within the game and are used only for recognition (such as completing the first twenty missions, repairing five vehicles, or parking a vehicle perfectly).
Each mission requires the player to drive to a location, perform a minigame and usually return 'home'; later missions may have several cycles of driving and minigames before completion. Missions are scored on factors like time taken and minigame accuracy, with the high scores and number of plays tracked locally.
Usually the player only has access to a single vehicle in a mission; the exception to this is the free-play mode, which provides all three vehicles at once but with no tasks to perform (and no ability to play the minigames at all).
The game can only be played with a computer keyboard, with no controller support or key customization.
There is little actual simulation, or attempts at it, within the game. Most importantly, interaction is based around simple minigames instead of complex actions. Nothing on the airport, including the player vehicles, can be damaged, and nothing on the airport (from planes to cars to barrels) ever moves or can be moved. Vehicles have no 'first-person' view, but instead offer a series of views from behind or beside them. While a fuel gauge is present on the player's HUD, there is no way to refuel, missions don't last long enough for it to alter, and it may be entirely fake. There are also several inaccuracies - the model for the catering truck has little resemblance to a real one, instead carrying a standard cargo container, and the airport runway is less than 1000 feet long (less than some aircraft carriers) and completely unsuitable for the jet aircraft present in the game. The game also has almost no relation to its promotional art (including one image displaying a shuttle bus that is never seen in-game).
Vehicles & Minigames
Vehicles are fairly limited, with slow steering (and steering circles) and low top speeds. In what may either be a bug or cruel design, most vehicles have poor steering alignment and will veer to one side when driven straight. Upgraded versions are unlocked for all vehicles after completing the first ten missions. Vehicles can be driven in reverse at half their forward top speed.
- Baggage Cart: Coming with an attached and undetachable empty baggage cart, simplified vehicle physics prevent the player from 'jack-knifing' it. It has the highest top speed at 26 mph. The upgraded version has better steering (faster turning, and a small turning circle). The baggage mini-game requires the player to rapidly press the left/right arrow keys in sequence to load or unload baggage.
- Catering Truck: Supplied with a normal cargo container, instead of anything useful. It has a top speed of 25 mph; the upgraded version has better steering and suspension (the latter being largely irrelevant in the almost-entirely-flat airport). The catering mini-game is identical to the baggage mini-game, but first requires the player to vertically position the container and then lower it afterwards.
- Fuel Truck: The slowest vehicle, with a top speed of only 15 mph. The upgraded version has better steering and a more powerful engine (with a new top speed of 19 mph). The refuelling minigame involves using the up/down arrow keys to control the fuel flow rate, and get as close as possible to the requested amount without overflowing.
The final minigame, 'repair', can be used with any vehicle, and involves hitting spacebar when a moving indicator is within the correct zone. Unlike other minigames which should be completed as fast as possible, the aim when repairing is to fix as many 'screws' in the given time.