Review: House Flipper 2
Gaming can be a real adventure in and of itself. So many genres, themes, and styles to choose from, with different people having different needs they fill by gaming. And as a game reviewer, while I don’t like every genre or game style (and that’s fine), I’m doing this job for the benefit of others. Thus, an important part of reviewing any game is putting yourself in the mindset of a game or genre’s target audience.
That brings me to today’s game: House Flipper 2, developed and published by Frozen District. This game fits firmly within the simulation genre, which is huge. I like some kinds of sims, others not so much, and still others I haven’t even explored yet. When I first looked at this game, I thought to myself, “There’s so many TV shows and so much media out there about flipping houses, so it must be something of a popular thing. This is worth exploring.”
While it didn’t seem like my thing, sometimes you get surprised by the new things you try. So I threw my second thoughts to the wind and decided to give it a shot. Let’s dive in and see what all the hubbub is about flipping houses!
Welcome To Pinnacove
Your adventures to become a house flipper begin in the fictional town of Pinnacove, where you receive a phone call and emails from someone who seems to know you. I didn’t play the first game but it does seem, based on the conversation, that this is a follow-up to any story that existed there. Anyway, they seem to be helping you find jobs and hook you up with another person who calls. Thus you begin your journey.
So there is a little bit of story involved. It’s mostly stage-setting but it does give the experience an element of realism and provides end goals to work towards. You start the game in a house of your own (which you also have free reign to work on, which is interesting), using email on your laptop to accept jobs. Initially you do basic handy-man jobs and work your way up to full-fledged house flips.
While I said in my lead-in that this wasn’t really my kind of game, having these story-like elements instead of just working on houses and selling them without context demonstrates a solid attentiveness to detail. That’s definitely something I can appreciate, as it makes the experience much more complete. While the work elements (as we’ll get to) are accelerated, the developers clearly wanted the game to feel genuine, and having characters in the game communicating with you in natural ways really adds to that.
Building It Up
The buildup from simple handyman tasks to full house flipping might be one of the weaker points. The reason being is that when you start the game, your first jobs consist of picking up trash and cleaning stains and spills. The game plays from a first-person perspective and the control of all of this is simple and intuitive. But ultimately, you’re still picking up trash, which isn’t exactly fun in real life, and even though it’s faster and easier in the game, it’s still not what I’d call fun or exciting.
To be fair, it certainly is a part of house-flipping, but starting the game with only the least fun elements available is not the greatest. The first levels of the game also feel like a glorified hidden-object game as you lose your patience trying to locate that last piece of trash or stain which might be hidden under a table or otherwise hard to see and blocking your three-star completion score.
With a little patience, though, the game opens up fairly quickly and you discover just how much depth the game actually has. You have control over almost everything you could think of. You’ll be able to sell junk and buy and install new floors, furniture, paint and paper walls, even run wire for lighting, and it’s all well-designed and easy to do. You even have the option to learn how to assemble furnishings in a timed minigame (you never actually have to do it in the regular gameplay), and succeeding in this will earn you discounts on that type of furnishing.
Speaking of which, the game features a remarkably extensive store where you buy all your supplies and furniture, and there are actually a ton of options for different designs, styles, and colors. While there are basic requirements to succeed with each quest you undertake, there is a ton of room for creativity. The game may tell you that you need to redo the floor or walls, but as long as you do that, it doesn’t matter what colors or styles you use. This is where you’re most likely to find the fun in this kind of game, and it is well executed.
Get far enough into the game and you actually start selling the houses you work on. You get offers and you need to make money, so you want to go the extra mile to increase the home’s value. The developers thought of everything, and the result is a very complete experience that, minus the simplification of the actual physical work you do, offers a fair bit of realism, and I’m quite impressed on that front. Even though this kind of experience isn’t really for me, I can pretty confidently say that for the people who have an interest in this sort of thing, I don’t think they’ll be disappointed.
Color and Style
So now it’s time to cover the technical stuff. The graphics are very realistic (and need to be given the subject matter). The game supports lots of modern graphical features so, if you have a decent PC, it will use your hardware well. Volumetric clouds and fog and the wide library of objects you have to choose from are all highly detailed. It’s a pretty impressive package overall. The game also surprisingly features a day/night cycle, so if you spend enough time on a job, you’ll see the sun rise and set; a very nice touch.
I only have minor criticisms here. The lighting feels just bit flat, and the maximum resolution of the shadow maps could be higher, as even on the high settings, the shadows were a bit blocky. But aside from that, there are no problems and the game has a full selection of graphics options on PC so the game should run well on a wide range of PCs.
On the sound front, there isn’t a huge amount to say. This is a calm, laid back game and, other than the sound of you walking around, opening boxes, and cleaning stuff, there isn’t a lot going on. There is ambient sounds like birds chirping in the distance and such that fill in the sound on a game that might otherwise be a little too quiet. But I suspect most players are probably going to listen to their own music while playing, as they likely would whilst flipping houses in real life.
That’s because there isn’t a lot on offer for music. The game offers a small handful of calm, happy tracks while playing, and while they aren’t bad, they feel a bit generic and there just isn’t enough variety. It’s only a minor downside, and like I said, most people will probably play other music with this game. But a few more music tracks while working would have been nice.
Closing The Sale
In case it wasn’t obvious, I’ll spell it out one more time: This is definitely not my kind of game. Purely on a personal level, I can’t imagine someone wanting to play a game where you do the same kind of basic manual labor that most people do in real life – picking up trash, cleaning, and the like – which the average person probably doesn’t enjoy. Don’t get me wrong though, I do know people that actually enjoy cleaning and such, so I don’t want to knock anyone for that.
But for the right person, I have to praise the game for offering a very high quality experience with great attention to detail. The game covers nearly everything that might be involved in a house flip, it offers a huge selection of objects to populate homes (I particularly enjoyed unpacking a box full of fake video games, like “First Fiction 17,” a play on Final Fantasy, for a man cave), and is probably the most realistic experience of it’s kind available today. For that it deserves solid praise.
The only issue, really, is I think it is quite the specific niche for a game to fill. Unless you’re really into this game’s subject matter (Hey, if you like decorating housing in Final Fantasy XIV, you might just be one of these people), you’re probably going to pass on this. The game does try its best to give you the full experience without making it feel too much like real work, but for me at least, I spend enough time cleaning that I don’t really need to do it in a video game. Having said that though, I cannot deny that the experience is well-polished, and absolutely worth a buy if being a house flipper is your personal fantasy.
Review copy provided by Frozen District for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer. Featured image sourced from game’s official Steam page.