There’s no shortage of highly-specialized simulator games on Steam, but none of have spoken to me quite like the promise of House Flipper, a first-person sim in which you clean, fix, paint, and furnish rooms for well-meaning clients before earning enough cash to buy and flip homes of your own.
That premise probably sounds boring to many of you and, no bullshit, it kind of is: it’s a whole lot of monotonous mouse clicking as you perform repetitive tasks necessary to renovate a home. But for me, that isn’t such a bad thing. This type of “boring” experience can be soothing and gratifying.
Going into the game, I fully expected to knock down walls, lay hardwood floors, tile some bathrooms, and put up kitchen cabinets. I can’t say I anticipated mopping up a bloody crime scene.
House Flipper (PC)
Publisher: PlayWay S.A., Frozen District
Released: May 17, 2018
House Flipper is a game for folks who like to obsess over furniture placement and room layouts just as much as it is a game for people who enjoy the simple act of cleaning. (Yes, we exist!) Most of the starter homes you’ll buy are lined with garbage from wall to wall and caked in grime in places I didn’t even know stains could reach. The squalor on display is simultaneously impressive and laughable.
It’s on you to make things look squeaky clean (or at least get everything to an adequate-enough state so you can turn a profit). Among other micro-tasks, you’ll pick up trash, vacuum cockroaches, stab your mop at stains, scrub windows, plaster holes, and replace burnt-out electrical outlets. Installing showers, toilets, radiators, and sinks is slightly more hands-on — you have to manually click and hold your mouse on individual components to assemble them bit by bit — but that’s as complicated as House Flipper ever gets. For better and for worse, its take on renovation is all very simplified and streamlined.
Each time you perform an action, you get a tiny bit closer to earning a skill point for character upgrades that will make your life a little easier. These are all geared toward improving your all-around efficiency (time is money!), allowing you to see every stain on your minimap, build walls that come pre-painted, or negotiate with buyers among other more basic speed boosts for routine manual labor.
After tidying up your home, it’s probably a good idea to start adding your own personal interior-design touches with your choice of paint, tiles, flooring, and furnishings. You can search for items either by category or by typing in their name, which is a much-appreciated convenience. At first, the list feels overwhelming, but you soon come to realize what’s essential. Much of it is simply fluff.
Certain buyers will have specific likes and dislikes — I love the dude who can’t comprehend the need for a kitchen — and half the fun is trying to sell to all of the game’s potential buyers. There’s a finite amount of jobs available (though you can replay them), and you only need to flip a handful of houses before you have more money than you know what to do with. There’s not much of a reason to continue playing after that point, but I still find myself popping back in from time to time. It’s a podcast game.
Aside from inconsistent performance on my more-than-capable PC, the biggest issue with House Flipper is a lack of customization options. I don’t mind the basic click-centric gameplay — in fact, I find it rather calming and meditative — but there’s a clear lack of variety and substance in the decor and appliances. For instance, there’s one type of shower. You can’t customize countertops, get fancy with tile work, or do a heck of a lot with exterior siding. Even more disappointing, you can’t plant trees or make sidewalks or build decks; there’s no landscaping whatsoever. That’s such a shame.
House Flipper manages to scratch a specific itch, but it lacks long-term incentives and just generally feels like a missed opportunity. With more content, polish, interactivity, and customization, this could become a nice sleeper hit. It’s serviceable as is, but it won’t hold your attention for too long.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]