*Incoming reference only British people will probably get*
Have you ever sat there on your day off, or every day if you’re unemployed, wearing nothing but your pants as you binge on daytime TV, flicking through the endless shows about antiques, car boot sales, decorating, and auctions? If so, you’ve probably come across Homes under the Hammer, a show where people buy houses at auction and then do them up to either resell, rent them, or simply turn them into their dream home. If you have, you’ve probably thought “I could do that”, well, now you can thanks to House Flipper – you don’t even have to put on your trousers!
Initially released back in 2018 on PC by developer Empyrean Games and Publisher PlayWay (who are known for their simulator games – including the brilliant Car Mechanic Simulator which I reviewed last year), the addictive renovation game is now available on the PS4 and Xbox One thanks to publisher Frozen District. However, just as I’ve seen with a few games recently, such as Two Point Hospital, Spaceland and Glass Masquerade 2, there is a difference between the PC and Console versions – namely, less content.
But, before I get into that, let’s take a look at what you’ll be doing for hours upon hours within
Radiator Replacement Simulator House Flipper…
The premise of House Flipper is simple – you ‘flip’ houses. But what does that mean? To put it simply, you buy run-down houses and then renovate them so that you can sell them off at a profit. However, we need to learn to walk before we can run, or in this case, you need to earn some money so that you can spend it on your own passion projects. So, just like the little kid down the road who makes money by doing odd jobs, you’ll initially be working for other people in order to build up your finances so you can afford to buy your own house.
Starting off in a run-down shack, you must help out other people by accepting jobs from your laptop, utilising any of the new skills you obtain to completely renovate your ‘base’ or simply sell it and move into a much nicer abode.
Without realising it, taking on jobs and requests from other people actually serves as both a tutorial to the game and a way to become accustomed to the various mechanics which you’ll use when you get to the actual ‘flipping’ side of the game. Initially, you’ll be asked to pick up trash and clean the various rooms with your magical mop, but you’ll soon be smashing down walls, refitting appliances, decorating the interiors, and vacuuming cockroaches. However, don’t worry if you’re scared of bugs – or simply don’t like them – you can change the creepy-crawlies into shards of glass!
Once you’ve made enough money to invest into an abandoned house, this is where the game gets much more hands-on and in-depth as you can do literally whatever you want in order to raise the selling price. There are a few missing features and mechanics which I would have loved to see, but regardless, the entire experience is very relaxing and strangely satisfying.
As stated above, the first five to ten hours of the game will be spent taking tasks from various people and completing a set of instructions given to you. Thankfully, although each task has a backstory which details what the homeowner wants you to do, the game provides handy checklists for each of the jobs so you don’t forget what you’re supposed to be doing – this is both a good and bad thing. It’s great because as you walk into a room the game will tell you exactly what colour to paint the walls, how much trash still needs to be picked up, what tiles to use on the floor, and what items to install. However, it’s bad because it means you’re essentially completing a checklist with no free will or room for improvisation outside of what colour you want the specific object to be.
The tasks themselves are straightforward enough – you have a
weapon tool wheel which allows you to easily switch between your various roles and pushing the Touchpad brings up the catalogue of items which you can purchase. The catalogue reminds me a lot of Car Mechanic Simulator in that you can search for specific items (which is very useful) by typing in their name, or you can browse various categories such as furniture, walls, floor, and installations. However, as I said above, the big issue with House Flipper is the limited amount of items and choices on offer, outside of choosing their colour or design.
This is where I feel House Flipper will put some people off – the repetition and feelings of deja vu are very strong within this game. Almost every house requires you to fit new radiators – which is always the same radiator and same installation process. You’ll also be picking up trash, cleaning windows, and scrubbing the floors and ceilings in every single house due to the owners literally trashing the place before they hired you. Not to mention, due to the small number of actual ‘choices’, you’ll be placing the same bed, putting up the same wardrobe, installing the same Washing Machine (in the bathroom?!), and constructing the same toilet over, and over again.
Don’t get me wrong, some items have multiple options which you can personally choose between – such as the shower, toilet, sink, and bathtub, but almost everything else has to be a specific model or design based upon the customer’s preference. But, this is only within the task stage as, I guess, you’re working for the homeowners so you must provide them with what they have asked for.
Jack of all trades…
As you perform the various tasks, either for other people or when trying to flip a house, you’ll gain invisible experience points. Once this mysterious number reaches an equally unknown level, you’ll ‘ding’ and achieve a skill point. These can then be invested within your various ‘skill trees’ in order to increase productivity and efficiency within that particular skill. For example, if you paint a lot of walls, you’ll unlock a skill point in the art of painting and decorating, yet knocking down walls will boost your strength and power.
The rewards vary and you do have a small amount of choice regarding what to spend it on. Each skill has three blocks of three unlocks – so nine per-skill. You can pick whichever column you want, progressively increasing the linked ability they unlock. For example, one column may enable negotiating a better price when you sell your house, but then that same column has new unlocks to boost your success rate by 5% then 10%. The painting skills vary from making you complete the job faster, allowing you to paint up to four wall panels at the same time, and making the paint in the can last longer with each soak of your roller.
So, although the game starts off very slow and tedious, due to having to constantly buy more paint, only painting one panel at a time, installing items really slow, and having to really scrub to clean the dirt, you’ll progressively get much faster and more efficient at each skill – making every job less of a chore. I’m glad the game has progression built into it as it makes you feel like you’re actually getting better as you put your skills to work within each household you fix-up.
So, once you’re ready to perform your role as the titular House Flipper, this is where your imagination can go wild (to a degree) as there are only a few limitations in place. The main limitation is, you can knock down all interior walls but you can’t touch the outer structure nor build anything outside – so no sheds or extensions to the house. Other than that – you can pretty much install plumbing, appliances, furniture, walls, and doors wherever you want. A few houses have an upstairs (not many) and quite a few have basements, but you can’t knock down walls in the basement either.
Just like the jobs you’re given, each house is in a terrible state, so you’ll find yourself cleaning up for about 30-40 minutes with your mop and grubby hands. Once it’s looking clean, it’s time to sell all the dirty furniture, install plumbing around the house, paint the walls and set down carpets, buy new furniture, and then put it on sale to the highest bidder. Just like Homes Under the Hammer, everything goes to auction as you watch your profits slowly rise based upon how much work you did. A fun addition to this is that the people who are going to be bidding will regularly tell you if they like or hate the renovations you’re making, so pandering to a few bidders will initiate a bidding war if they’re fully satisfied.
One of the things I thought was a nice touch and easter egg was the sale gun. This is effectively a zapper which lets you sell any furniture or doors within your house or items the task-givers have asked you to remove for them. If you try and zap items belonging to the owner without their permission, you’ll be reminded that this isn’t Thief Simulator, one of the PC publisher’s other titles. I vaguely recall watching YouTubers play this game on PC last year and the gun allowed them to sell everything – so I think it may have got a moral conscience for the console release!
Hidden controls and menu
Since I found out that you could play Leisure Suit Larry with Keyboard and Mouse last year – despite the game not mentioning you can do so anywhere on the store page – I’ve been trying out all of the games I’ve reviewed with both devices. Surprisingly, House Flipper fully supports both natively and even offers an unmapped command which you can’t do on the DualShock 4!
Using a controller as normal, the options menu shows you the controls as normal, but as soon as you press any key on a keyboard, or wiggle the mouse, the controller mapping screen flips over to a fully re-bindable Mouse and Keyboard menu screen! The game literally looks like the PC version with its sensitivity options, mouse-specific invert controls, and long list of keyboard commands and shortcuts. I tried playing the game like this for a few hours and it is pretty much the PC version on the PS4 in terms of the controls.
So, whenever I discover something like this, there are two things I do; first of all, I look online for any cheats or hidden commands – House Flipper doesn’t have any – then I see if we can do things the controller can’t. There was only one command which wasn’t mapped to the controller, the option to hide the HUD. Sure, this won’t matter to 99.99% of people, but if you want to take a nice screenshot of your finished house, now you can without the UI getting in the way.
As I’ve seen a few times with PC to Console ports, there are a few DLC packs missing on the newly released versions.
• First up is the free Apocalypse DLC Pack. On PC, this gave you access to five new houses (with fallout shelters), three new bidders with new requirements, and over 40 new items to place throughout your project. This came out in May 2018 on Steam so I’m not quite sure why it wasn’t included within the console version as there doesn’t appear to be any licensed items.
• Secondly is the paid-for DLC pack, Garden Flipper. As you’d expect, this additional expansion gives you a bunch of new requests to fulfil which revolve around doing up peoples gardens – effectively having you play as Alan Titchmarsh or Charlie Dimmock. Although the game’s main complaint, over on Steam, is that the DLC seems overpriced, it added over 400 new items as well as providing new mechanics to clean up and decorate the landscape.
• Thirdly, there is a new DLC pack which is ‘coming soon’ which I really want on the PS4 – the HGTV DLC. HGTV is an American TV channel – so not one I’m familiar with – but the concept of the DLC is brilliant. Just like the base game, you’re tasked with doing over a house which is run down, making it into a home you’d actually want to live in. However, the big difference here is that the homes aren’t just in the suburbs, they’re in new exotic locations, and you’re doing up the house for new homeowners which you’re trying to impress.
So, once you’ve completed the renovation, the camera supposedly sweeps in and slides between the before and after shots as the new owners walk in, showing you how you’ve changed each room to see if you’ve satisfied their needs. The whole thing sounds amazing! However, there’s no info on whether this is or isn’t coming to consoles yet, so I’m not going to hold my breath.
• Finally, just like the above, this hasn’t actually released yet but I hope we get it – House Flipper VR. This game is supposedly being developed and published by Frozen District, the publisher of House Flipper on consoles, so I have high hopes that this will make its way to PSVR at some point as well.
Visually, House Flipper isn’t that bad for a simulation game. A lot of the items within the game look like they were created using actual scans of real-life objects, and the detail is quite good – even up close. The actual cleaning and maintaining mechanics are far from realistic (I wish I could clean as fast as I can within the game), but it’s very relaxing and a great game to play in short bursts when you have a spare moment. For those who like interior design and would like to glam everything up to their own specification, you’ll love this game.
Surprisingly, the game even contains working mirrors. As you hold one and walk around, you can see an actual reflection of the things around you in realtime (albeit at a much lower resolution), but the fact it reflects things is awesome. There is a downside though, some mirrors work within a slower time dimension than us as they sometimes reflect what colour things ‘were’ and not what they are now. For example, I painted a wall white yet the mirror says it’s still red. Also, this mechanic shows us that the designer (you) is actually a vampire, as you don’t have a reflection.
One aspect I’ve not mentioned yet is the day-night cycle and its three modes. You can disable this and have it always daytime, have it based on the in-game clock, or have it based on the real-time system clock. That’s right, you can have the game see what time it is on your PS4 and mirror the time of day within the game – this is a cool option and helps immerse you. However, if you play games mainly at night – like me – then it’ll always be dark, so you may want to disable it from time to time so it doesn’t feel like a horror game.
I never experienced any performance issues whilst I played the game on my PS4 Pro, nor any strange occurrences by having it in 4k mode. The loading times aren’t actually that bad either, with a few seconds whilst loading up a new house being the only wait time you’ll have to endure.
House Flipper makes you feel like Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen as you masterfully change a house into a home. Although there is a lot of repetition and monotony involved with each proceeding task you’re hired to perform, due to you basically doing the same thing over, and over again, the entire experience is surprisingly therapeutic and relaxing. Once you buy your first house, this is where the game truly begins as you’re free to do whatever you want with the tools provided – perfect for people with creative minds. You’ll easily sink upwards of 10-15 hours into the game before you’ve even realised it.
It’s unfortunate that some DLCs aren’t in this edition, although I’m hoping that they release at some point in the future. However, don’t let that put you off picking up House Flipper as there’s still a lot of content to play as you work towards the platinum trophy
- - Very relaxing and therapeutic
- - Lots of side-tasks to take on as well as many houses to buy and flip
- - Realistic-looking furniture and appliances
- - Fully compatible with Mouse and Keyboard
- - Strangely satisfying
- - Missing DLC from the PC version (either free or paid-for)
- - Can be a little repetitive if you're not a fan of simulation games
- - The variety of items isn't the greatest, especially when fulfilling orders
- - You can't expand the buildings beyond their outer walls