I am not a DIY person. I wouldn’t know how to put up a shelf, change a plug or replace the grouting around the bathroom tiles. Some say I’m useless, yet I would say I have other skills; skills that I can’t think of right now. So the idea of playing a game in which you need to go about building a house, collecting materials, using tools, and creating structures that will stand up longer than five seconds, pretty much fills me with a sense of fear.
Luckily the mechanics in House Builder make the whole progress quite simple – even for someone like me. So let us get our builder’s hat on and lay some foundations.
After spending a bit of time on PC, House Builder is finally released onto our beloved console. The premise is that you go around the world, taking in eleven different locations, building a house from scratch in each. You start with an igloo in the deepest poles, onto a mud hut in Africa, then go about creating a log cabin in the wilderness, all before it gets a bit more modern and a lot more complicated. Nicely though, the loading screens will help you through House Builder, presenting a little history lesson about tools, taking you from the common wheelbarrow to the friendly hammer. It’s a very nice touch.
As House Builder starts, you find yourself in one of the environments I mentioned above. The levels start out from the easy, working up to the more complicated in sense of building, but thankfully the handholding throughout is pretty forgiving; something which is appreciated. To help you out, you see the structure that you need to build highlighted in the middle of the map and from there you crack on, perhaps needing to lay down the foundations, and getting on with the building.
You play House Builder in the first person, with a pair of little hands shown in front of you. Each level requires a different type of material to build with. So for example on the igloo level, you have to make ice blocks from the ice. You use a knife to do this and then you get a block that you can carry over and put in the highlighted area for the structure of the igloo; at all times being shown the layers of ice bricks needed to build it. The same can be said for a mud hut, but this time you will have to mix clay from the earth with water from the river to make mud balls, throwing them into a tile template, baking in a furnace that you have to feed wood into. As the world of House Builder gets more modern the buildings themselves get a whole more complex, as does your skillset; using measuring tape to get the right length of wood, chainsaws, and bark stripping tools. Is it fun though?
Should you be a fan of the many sim games that frequent the video game world, or love the idea of slow working and methodical task completion, then there is a lot to love here. Fans of games like House Flipper will also adore this, especially as unlocking skills enables you to action your tasks much quicker. Soon, instead of creating one ice brick at a time, you’re going to be able to produce twenty at a time. Instead of laying down one tile on a roof, with a skill unlock you can scroll across a roof and lay multiple tiles at once.
House Builder does have some problems and mostly they are found in the visuals. The little biodome areas you occupy for each level are nicely designed and it’s easy not to get lost in what you are doing. The detail when it comes to the area where you need to build and the tools you are given all look great too; clearly designed to use. In certain levels though there is some stuttering, especially if you get stuck on something or when the area gets too filled up with things. It’s never enough to break the game, but it can get slightly annoying.
Soundtrack wise there is a continual track running, and you’ll probably want to switch that off fairly quickly, listening to your own thing instead. You’re going to be working for a while so you may as well stick some tunes on to accompany the work. Nicely though, satisfying pings tell you that you’ve completed a task well.
You may well be surprised at how addicted you’ll get to House Builder as you enjoy going about building different homes around the globe. It’s not that hard – at least not to begin with – and the whole experience is really rather relaxing. The UI is easy enough to work with and there is a good amount of content, however glitching visuals isn’t ideal.
You’ll probably need to be in the ‘Sim’ mindset to really power through your building tasks and whilst personally, this hasn’t made me want to do any DIY in the real world, House Builder does at least give the tools to help you appreciate the work that goes into it.
House Builder is available from the Xbox Store