Simulation games are becoming a dime a dozen; from farming and mechanics to even gold mining. A recent trend has seen the genre taking inspiration from popular TV shows, it was only a matter of time before house renovation became the next thing targeted. House Flipper sees you take the role of a one-man renovation crew as you buy, repair and remodel devastated houses. Although the concept sounds enticing, the question now is whether developer Empyrean has managed to successfully tread the fine line between entertainment and tedium.
Although the main concept of the game is turning trash into treasure, you can’t just jump straight into the life of becoming a renovator without first doing smaller jobs. You start the game with your own little property, a horribly cluttered, tiny shack. Sure it’s not the high life but it will definitely do as a first office. There are 17 jobs available and 20 houses to flip, all of which can be accessed through a laptop in your office. Jobs range from cleaning, painting, removals and house restructuring with bigger jobs resulting in more money. Smaller tasks are a good introduction to the mechanics of the game and although they don’t introduce you to all of the different objects you can buy, they give a good grounding for what is on offer for the main event – buying and remodelling houses.
After buying a house the beginning processes are always the same – dealing with the many problems found in the dilapidated buildings. Different houses have different problems but they all need to be cleaned first. From a menu you can choose what equipment you need; a mop for cleaning, a roller for painting, a hammer for knocking down walls, a plastering kit for sorting out the walls as well as the option to build more walls. At the start of the game all of the tools aren’t very effective and often take a long time to use. As you use certain equipment your proficiency increases, unlocking skill points that allow you to speed up the process either by upgrading the kit or by being able to multitask.
As well as the laborious processes of cleaning there is the more enjoyable part of the process, buying and fitting furniture. There isn’t a huge selection of furnishings on offer but the game is less about making the house of your dreams, instead fitting the briefs set by the buyers. There are several different buyers that all fit a niche, usually being very stereotypical, such as a business man who wants an office and no paintings and a student who only wants one bedroom. I found tailoring a house for a particular buyer limiting, instead I would just redecorate it so I was happy with it, which usually ended up in some level of profit.
When fitting furnishings that require more technical abilities like radiators or shower units, it’s not just a case of choosing the item and placing them. Instead you have to prepare them and fit them with more than just one click of a button. The trailer makes these sections seem exciting but in reality it just boils down to clicking on a highlighted part, be it screws or pipes, and holding the button until they are fitted. Different objects require varying amounts of steps, a radiator requires 7 button presses whereas a sink needs 24.
As far as the graphics and sound are concerned, House Flipper is like most other simulators out there – ok. Textures are a pretty standard affair, the overall looks of the game aren’t something to write home about, although they get the job done. Music is more of the same, it’s not really noticeable, at least it doesn’t attract in anyway. The only issue I had was the sound effects — which range from almost non-existent to distracting.
I found House flipper to be a very relaxing experience. Sure you’re basically just doing chores but that’s what most simulation games are. In this instance I felt like I was making a difference. There’s real satisfaction to be found in cleaning up a cockroach infested house and fixing a bad paint job. Although this may sound mad, the biggest disappoint for me is how streamlined the processes are. The ability to sort out the plumbing and electrics of the house were some of the aspects I was most excited for. In the end they felt more like a cookie cutter process than real simulation. After several hours of playtime it dawned on me that it was more of an arcade game then it was a real simulation. The more mundane side of it is fine as it is, I really wouldn’t want the cleaning and painting parts of the game to feel real – but putting a radiator together should be more than just clicking and holding a button.
If you’re looking for a deep simulation of what it’s like to renovate houses, you won’t find one here. Instead you’ll get a game which is a more hands on approach to The Sims house building, where instead of being removed from the process, you can get involved in all of the hands on approaches. There are nuggets of real simulation found throughout, particularly when installing objects but even these are a little on the lighter side.
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