House Flipper is the first and only game of its kind, a first person simulation in which you work as a local handyman in order to kickstart a property development empire. It’s a bizarre, somewhat addictive novelty, but while undeniably intriguing I often found myself stopping to ask if I was actually having fun with it.
From your rundown hovel of an office you’ll start out by accepting jobs from around the neighbourhood. They’re relatively simple to begin with, introducing you to the various mechanics at play. You’ll cut your teeth by clearing debris and scrubbing down surfaces before learning to paint, plaster, and install appliances. In response, contracts will get longer and more complex though you’ll start to see higher payouts.
This money can be used to establish your own property portfolio, buying houses then doing them up before going to auction. Unsurprisingly, with the name House Flipper, this is where the meat of game lies. Instead of taking jobs and completing a prescribed list of objectives, there’s more freedom to be had here. After the usual spit and clean, you’ll be deciding which materials, colour schemes, and furnishings to use as you go from room to room. Being able to inject some creativity is liberating though overwhelming at the same time. Ultimately, you’ll want to outfit the property to suit the tastes of your prospective buyers, though a quick tidy up, fresh lick of paint, and installing some mod cons are always a good baseline.
The downside to all this is the amount of time it takes to get a house looking ship shape and ready to sell. A filthy room can take you anywhere between ten and twenty minutes to get looking fresh, depending on size. That’s miniscule compared to how long it would take in real life, of course, but it still requires an insane amount of patience.
Every action, from fitting a new shower to plastering a wall, boils down to the same clicking and holding of mouse buttons, over and over. It’s far from dynamic but, then again, it’s what we’ve come to expect from the oddball simulation genre. Thankfully there are perks which help with speed and efficiency, but it doesn’t stop House Flipper from being a mighty slog.
It’s one of few games that needs to be played on autopilot while listening to music or blitzing your way through a podcast backlog. If you’re like me and suffer from an attention deficit, it’s hard not to start fidgeting or worrying that your play time could be spent more efficiently with a different game.
In a genre that was once dominated by flight simulators, we now find ourselves zeroing in on more nuanced, menial premises. That’s not an insult as, while clearly not for everyone, there’s something weirdly fascinating about how games like Empyrean’s House Flipper attempt to gamify and virtualise real-world professions.
After a few hours of play, I’ve more or less had my fix. There are hidden depths I’ve yet to uncover, but I doubt I’ll find the motivation to reach for my toolbelt anytime soon. That said, I’d be interested to see how the developer build on House Flipper now that it’s drawn a small crowd.