I am somebody that can’t bring myself to clean, no matter how much I want to. My desk was covered in scattered objects. Books were lying everywhere and while I have space to accommodate them, I just can’t focus on rearranging things. I kept bumping against a side table whenever I move around the room because I couldn’t think of a good place to put it. There is a stain from spilled coffee from one of those times I bumped into the table. I don’t know. It’s just too hard to bring myself to fix things up and I don’t know why.
But you know what’s an easy way to fix up a room? To just imagine doing it! Hell, why stop at just one room when you can imagine yourself fixing up everything to make it all beautiful and in-sync? So hey, let’s do that with House Flipper!
House Flipper is a game by Empyrean, where you play as a one-person renovation crew. Renovate people’s houses for quick money, buy old and shitty houses to touch up, and sell them for some nice dough. Is it gentrification? Well, these are mostly old suburban homes and the suburbs are already hell, so not really, I guess.
You start out in a small, frankly shitty house. On your laptop, you can buy new houses to renovate to sell or to relocate your headquarters. Unfortunately, you’re clearly not in the best financial situation, so you have to take on jobs.
Various clients send you e-mails about needing you to fix up a building. From simply cleaning out a garage to renovating a large building to look like a proper kindergarten to helping some weirdo arm a survival bunker, there’s a lot of people that needs someone as handy as you. Besides getting you money, doing the jobs is important because their objective based structure act as tutorials for the more free-formed house renovations.
The jobs start simple, focused simply on cleaning. Get rid of trash with simple clicks; no need to fret about bags or putting them anywhere, they’re gone. You can pull out a mop to clean any dirt spot; no worries about cleaning the mop or the effectiveness of your technique, it will all be gone. The task of tidying it up is simple to the point that it’s relaxing. There are also cockroach nests to vacuum up… however, if you’re ornery about bugs like me, there’s actually an option in the menu to change them into broken glass, so hey, thanks a lot for that option.
You’re also going to have to buy stuff for your clients, be they necessities or furniture that they could have gotten themselves. Assembling certain objects like radiators is a simple job of clicking on highlighted parts like an interactive how-to build guide. I was honestly surprised that all the shelves you order in the game come pre-made and aren’t stuff that you have to construct yourself. This could have been prime IKEA simulator stuff. After one shelf I built collapsed, I long for the fantasy of efficiently building one in a way that isn’t time consuming.
But then come the more tedious jobs: painting and tiling. Take out a paintbrush and the… uh, whatever you use for tiling and get to town on those walls.
But here’s the thing though: the tediousness works. Sure, in something like The Sims, a painted wall would be done in an instant. But there’s little work put into it. There’s no sense of satisfaction besides, “hey you have a painted wall.” House Flipper however makes you put in that work, finishing a wall bit-by-bit. While slow, it gives a sense of purpose toward coloring a wall. Whenever I finished painting or tiling over a room after a few minutes, I can look at it all and think “I did this.”
And really, that sense of tedium and satisfaction will grow as you go further in the game. Jobs grow to be more elaborate, and fixing up and decorating a house you buy can take from half an hour to a few if you want to rake in the good bucks. But seeing the final result just feels so worth it.
Soooo, we should probably finally talk about renovating homes. When you finally have enough money to buy a house, you can head on over to fix it up. There’s no rules and no one to tell you what to do…
Well, except for the panel of buyers to the left. As you fix up a house, these people will chatter about their various wants and things they hate. The person at the top is the one that will win the auction when you put the house on sale, and whoever’s in that slot is likely to shuffle around as you furnish and decorate rooms.
You start to get a feel for what the buyers of House Flipper wants on repeated plays, which is handily recorded in your tablet. One guy is a college student with very simple needs. There are a few people that probably post on r/childfree that will get turned off you put children’s toys that they could easily remove themselves, while the few family buyers will welcome it.
One guy is a blatant Trump expy that likes having expensive furniture in the hallways to wow guests while being having cheap preferences on everything else, while there’s a strawman feminist that’s one of those reddit posters that also has a big interest in art that you have to supply. Honestly, don’t bother with the commentary game, it sucks, just make weirdos.
And speaking of weirdos, some dudes want saunas? Huh? Is having a sauna in your house a normal thing? Is this how some fuckers live?
Anyway, House Flipper is a chill game, but if you’re someone pursuing 100%, the real challenge of the game will be crafting ideal houses for each buyer. Which… is surprisingly hard? A lot of characters’ interests overlap with each other, so figuring out a specific character’s ideal is harder than it looks. For example, that college student I mentioned does not have big wants – and because of this, all the other single buyers can easily outbid him if the home you’re selling leans a bit more toward them. At times, it becomes less about putting together a house that someone would love and more about putting together a house that certain people will hate.
The game also has a bunch of DLC, with the “Apocalypse” and “Cyberpunk” DLCs coming with the game for free. The former introduces bunker spaces to work in, which… feels very boring compared to what you’ve been dealing with, since the space and your renovation creativity ends up being really constrained. The Apocalypse DLC, though, introduces the flamethrower tool, which burns absolutely everything. It’s ridiculous, but if you bought a new house and have no interest in selling the things that are still there, you can easily clear the place no problem with it.
The Cyberpunk DLC has nothing fancy besides adding cyberpunk themed items to put in houses. Whatever. I feel that I would have thought they were cool a few years ago, but I honestly just consider cyberpunk to be the steampunk of this decade (aka: bad and for nerds).
The two paid DLCs – which I have not played – look to be more substantial. The Garden DLC lets you actually touch up the outside of houses beyond picking up weeds, adding a new dimension of decorating to the game. The other is a collaboration with HGTV, where you’re guided by HGTV hosts to do tasks and the game lets you see a before-and-after video of places you touch up, which I feel would be extremely satisfying to watch.
..Can this game really be called “indie” if it gets a collab with a major tv net work? I mean, people still call Devolver Digital games indie, but they’re really big at this point. Like, the Fall Guys’ studio has like, 200 people working in it so I don’t think it fits the label of indie. Ugh. Discourse….
House Flipper is a good game and renovating these digital spaces actually inspired me to take action with my own room. My desk is now fully clean, all non-essential papers dumped along with some other trash I allowed to pile up. I organized my books and I managed to make space for some of them in my closet. I found a good place to keep that side table, that coffee stain has been cleaned up, etc.
Was fixing up a room as easy as House Flipper presents it? No. Was the end result just as satisfying? Yes. Maybe one day I’ll dream of bigger renovations like the stuff House Flipper presents, but until then, I’m perfectly happy with renovating these virtual spaces.