Writing a review is not an easy thing to do. Having an opinion is easy, but it becomes much trickier when that opinion needs justification and evidence for its existence. One must clearly communicate what it was that caused their opinion to form in the way that it did. All of this becomes even more complicated by the fact that people can have different opinions. “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” goes the old adage. So if that is true, what right do I or does anyone have to critique someone’s work? What if there is more to a piece of art’s worth than the evaluation of others? What if those walls were a nice beige tone instead of baby blue?
Yes, I am aware that once again I am talking about painting walls in a review. However, painting walls is one of the primary gameplay mechanics of the game House Flipper, and it is an oddly cathartic experience. One that will become so absorbing that your mind is left to wander and contemplate the reason that video game reviews exist.
Allow me to explain. I have played video games for a long time. I have saved many a princess and slain many a foe. I have mowed down hordes of demons, and I have saved countless worlds. My favorite video games are ones that have in-depth, epic, and emotional adventures. So it strikes my gaming brain as exceedingly odd that I have spent so much time quietly humming to myself while I clean and then beautify houses for almost no reason. House Flipper is, at its core, a creative, sandbox game. It does not have an end goal in mind. This is one reason why I often struggle to enjoy sandbox games. I like having my gaming goals clearly telegraphed to me. The primary objective of House Flipper is to accrue enough money to buy houses, pretty them up, sell them, and repeat. And it is wonderful.
Though there is not an end goal, I believe the game managed to pull me in due to its incredibly effective beginning. You start with a small budget, and a beat up old shack for your office. The office is in horrible condition, and you quickly discover the joy of making things clean. A single button press will zap cardboard boxes, wrappers, and other garbage out of existence, and your brain will produce a tiny bit of dopamine each time. You equip a mop to rid yourself of dust, spills, and stains, before the game then prompts you to take a look at your laptop. You do not start with enough money to buy a house, so you must answer email requests to fix up or redecorate other houses. This is the part of the game I enjoy the most because clear goals and objectives are given to the player.
The jobs you take on in the beginning start small while gradually revealing tricks of your trade. You learn how to paint walls, how to tile walls and floors, how to sell/remove items, and how to demolish or build walls. I think it goes without saying that the best of these tasks are any which involve the tearing down of walls. As you accomplish more tasks, you unlock skill points to spend on simple but incredibly helpful upgrades to your various DIY powers. You will be able to paint with less frequent trips to the paint bucket, swing your sledgehammer with more power, and negotiate with clients for better paychecks.
Speaking of clients, they are easily the worst part of the game. I will come right back to them, but let me first explain that your character’s forearms are not the prettiest of forearms. Which is okay. They do not need to be. The creators intelligently put their graphical and visual focus into making the buildings, accessories, and furniture look good. However, they also decided to show what the clients’ faces look like when you put a house up for sale. They also decided to show those faces on loading screens. This is rough, because those faces pull you way down into the uncanny valley. They are not the kind of faces you want to see staring at you unblinkingly for eternity. In fact, the loading screens get worse because they do not show helpful tips about playing the game. Instead, you have random quips and requests from random house hunters about their preferred living arrangements. Sometimes, those requests get weird. You finish a grueling cleaning job, exit the house, start loading back to your office, and you are then assaulted with the random message that this terrifying robot in human skin wants a nice, large bed so that they can have “an enjoyable time with various lovers.” On my list of things I never needed to see, that had to be pretty close to the top. Second only to Coldplay in concert.
Terrifying NPC pictures aside, when you have gathered enough funds, you can acquire houses and begin to flip them. This is the part of the game that definitely takes the most time. It will also net you the most money. But it will also require a lot of money to fill the place with furniture and the proper decor. Yet, it will also feel the most rewarding once you have finished. That is the true joy of House Flipper. Yes, the game is just an endless simulation of hard work, but just like in real life there is joy to be found in a job well done. My second house was one that I designed to be as ugly as possible. Each of the walls were a different color, none of the furniture matched, and some sucker-of-a-cyborg bought it for $45,000 US dollars. I know I bought it for more than that. Shush.
If you love to watch HGTV but want to pull your hair out when they make a design choice that you do not approve of, then this game will offer you a perfect place to live out your home furnishing fantasies. It is also a great game to play and share with others. My wife is infinitely more creative than I am, and she has designed some lovely homes in the game. I need to ask her if I can be the Chip to her Joanna Gaines and destroy any walls she needs to remove before decorating. House Flipper on Xbox One is a wonderful surprise. It does not have the deepest gameplay, but it sucked me right in. It may not be a game I remember for years to come, but it will surely stay installed on my Xbox One so that I have something quiet and calming to play the next time I feel the need to be alone with my existential thoughts.