House Flipper is a house-renovating simulator that keeps you addicted as you climb the ladder from roach-infested shacks to beautiful homes you can be proud to sell. Developed by Empyrean and Red Dot Games, this title realistically conveys what it's like to start as a general laborer — including all the hard work that entails. You won't get physically tired from smashing down walls with your sledgehammer or having to wipe out yet another infestation of creepy-crawlers, but it can be mentally tiresome, which puts the title at an apt difficulty for starting out. If it were too easy to scale the ladder, then it wouldn't feel so satisfying to reach the top.
GETTING YOUR HANDS DIRTY
The two ways of making money in House Flipper are accepting renovation jobs, or buying and reselling properties (which will also need renovating if you want to make a profit). You'll have to start by taking odd jobs, as you won't start out with enough money to buy property. There is some flexibility, as you can choose which jobs to take on, but they won't be glamorous in the beginning. For example, you may have to pick up a lot of trash, clean dirt off of every surface imaginable, scrape gunk off of windows, remove cobwebs, etc. All of this experience will help you raise your skill level, rewarding you with perks that will help you down the road, such as sweeping faster, wasting less paint, and developing a spidey-sense for where dirt might be hiding in a house.
Once you've made enough money from odd jobs to buy a property, you begin to get more into the decorating side of the game. The properties you can afford will still be dilapidated, though, so never fear! There will still be a ton of cleaning, smashing, and insect-killing to do. But once you've finished all of that, you'll be able to decorate the whole house however you see fit — unless you want to appeal to specific buyers.
WHAT'S YOUR STRATEGY?
That brings me to the strategic part of House Flipper, which requires getting to know potential buyers. As you renovate or decorate a property, there will be a list of interested buyers on the side of your screen. The higher they are on your list the more satisfied they are in the property. Occasionally, the potential buyers emit helpful comments about what they like or dislike, which you can keep in mind or refer back to. The more requirements you meet for a potential buyer, the higher they'll bid on it.
I was hoping House Flipper would let me build houses as well, but apparently not. You can build and tear down new walls internally, but I didn't see any way to construct roofs, stairs, or driveways. Also, I found the selection of home decor to be merely adequate. Many more items need to be added to allow meaningful creative expression.
Unfortunately, some things detract from House Flipper's realism, such as potential buyers wanting you to furnish and decorate the property for them. In real life, most people have their own furniture and a house almost never comes fully furnished, so I found this aspect irritating. I would've preferred house renovating and reselling to be a separate part of the game from redecorating, so that if you want to exclusively redecorate for clients, you could, or if you hate decorating, then you wouldn't have to do it.
Also, when you accept renovation jobs, you show up at the property by yourself. Real life would require a team of people. Nobody will ever be home when you're there and the doors are magically unlocked, as well. It would've been so much more fun (and realistic) to meet your clients and have them nagging you not to scratch the walls or telling you to take off your shoes so you don't track mud onto the carpet. That would be a great opportunity for some humor to be injected into the game, too, which House Flipper really could use.
BALANCING REALISM VS. FUN
What is unique about House Flipper is its level of detail. When you install sinks, washing machines, and other appliances, you get to see (and do) the behind-the-scenes magic. You connect pipes, secure screws, and mount brackets, which feels oddly satisfying. The only downside is that you accomplish all of these tasks by clicking-and-holding on whatever part is glowing, which is tedious. Some variation would help keep engagement, such as needing to press certain hotkeys or click-and-drag parts where they need to go.
Cleaning windows is similarly unengaging, being painfully slow and not fun at all. But it's not really supposed to be fun — it's supposed to feel like work. Still, I think the developers could've made actions like this a little less painful without compromising its status as a darn good simulation. A lot of people will find repetitive, tedious tasks like this to be a turn-off, although in the simulation genre it can also be considered a strength. If you're looking for a super hardcore simulator, then this one probably isn't extreme enough for you (because you'd want to have to figure out how to install sinks yourself, etc.), and if you're hoping a few minutes and a few clicks will allow you turn a house around, you'll also be disappointed. House Flipper falls in the middle of these two extremes.
The Verdict: Great
If you want a not-too-real but also not-too-unreal renovation simulator, House Flipper fits the bill. This simulator's focus is not architectural design or interior decorating, so if those are the aspects that draw you to games like this, you may want to look elsewhere. If you enjoy demolishing walls, cleaning, painting, and installing appliances with the goal of becoming a house-flipping tycoon, then this one is for you.