The older I get, the more I need games that let me kick back and relax. I appreciate low stakes, a positive vibe, and room for a little creativity while performing mundane tasks. Lucky for me, some developers understand my needs and make games like House Flipper 2.
To be clear, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with games where you go out and save the world, or terrorize the city, or take your humble team to the NBA playoffs, or get frisky with a dark elf. I play and enjoy stuff across a variety of genres. Sometimes, though, I just want to forget the drama and vacuum the heck out of a dirty carpet, you know? House Flipper 2 lets players do that.
As the game begins, you go to work for a family friend. You accept a simple assignment cleaning up a trashed property. Your early performance leads to additional work of increasing complexity. By the end of the game, you’ll be able to confidently approach dilapidated buildings with garbage oozing out their windows and turn them into the newest must-own property in the neighborhood. The process is surprisingly satisfying. It feels sufficiently authentic that you might almost wonder why HGTV hasn’t called you to talk about giving you your own show.
The campaign mode, which is where I spent most of my time and had the most fun, presents a fairly steady stream of assignments. They come from several neighborhoods around the fictional town of Pinnacove. You’ll find abandoned cabins, coffee shops, beach houses, and more, all in need of a little TLC. At first, you go to work with a trash bag and cleaning rag. As your experience grows, you gain the ability to knock down walls, apply new wallpaper and paint, and more. New concepts come along gradually. You have ample time to master them before you advance to more difficult chores. There’s never a rush, which is exactly the relaxing sort of experience I wanted.
Making chores a game
If you were to see my real-life apartment, you might perceive me as someone who doesn’t especially like to vacuum, or organize, or paint, or demolish old walls to make guest rooms. And you would be right. But when I’m doing those things in House Flipper 2, the mundane activities I am happy to ignore in my day-to-day are somehow appealing.
Until you’ve approached a huge, grimy window and whipped out a squeegee at the press of a button, then chased away all that crud to produce a pane so clean it gleams, you probably can’t appreciate how good it feels. House Flipper 2 offers the (limited) satisfaction that comes from doing actual janitorial work. The difference is that it doesn’t demand elbow grease. Graffiti comes off old walls with a few expert flicks of the cloth. Flower petals vanish beneath a vacuum nozzle that sucks in all the right ways.
The reason I think this works as well as it does is simple: the developers at Frozen District have rendered beautiful environments that feel like real people might live in them. Not only are there desk chairs, lamps, posters, appliances, and cabinets, but there are numerous varieties of each of those things. The range of furnishings allows most new environments to feel distinct. It’s easy to appreciate the difference a quick clean-up job makes. And it’s easier still to recognize the difference in an uninspiring room after you have worked your magic.
Perfection is a headache
The developers didn’t get every detail just right, though. There are some awkward moments I wished they could have excised completely.
In quite a few assignments, you need to first clean and fix up a home, then stage it. You might have to unpack several boxes. These contain items you’re not aware of ahead of time. You will typically need to place items around the room to satisfy your client. This is fine, except there tend to be a lot of knickknacks most ideally suited for compact shelving. You might have to line up some video games or books on a shelf, for instance. If you try to select between shelves, it’s a bit of a mess. The item in question jumps all over the place. It’s sometimes difficult to get it just where you want it even with a grid supplied. The game doesn’t penalize you. But the imperfection irritates.
The overall problem extends to the placement of doors and windows and such. There usually is an outline to let you know you have the object about where it needs to be. However, there can be some variance. It’s harder than one might expect to line up a series of windows, for instance.
Painting houses is not one of my favorite things to do in life. It’s not a lot of fun in House Flipper 2, either. Early in the game, in particular, you have to map out the area you wish to paint. Then you can swipe your brush or roller all over and fill it. However, if you try to map out too much at once, you might step an arbitrary distance away from the wall and have to start over because you went out of range. This issue is exacerbated by the fact that sometimes it is difficult to see what you’re doing if you’re too close to things. A lot of my paint projects happened in frustrating fits and starts.
The developers seem to have been fairly aware of those areas that were rather irritating. They built in a “perks” system that lets you do things like upgrade how wide your paint roller is, or how fast you can lay out a row of bricks, or how much garbage you can carry around in one bag before you have to tie it off and grab another one. Such upgrades improve the experience over the start of the campaign. The effect is like getting better tools in a Harvest Moon game. Still, I wish some tasks didn’t require so much repetition to finally feel more natural.
Oodles of work
If you decide you like what House Flipper 2 is doing, which is an easy decision to make in spite of the handful of rough spots, you’ll likely be pleased to find there is plenty of it to go around. Pinnacove has four different neighborhoods. Each offers increasingly involved projects to tackle. A lot of the buildings have several rooms that need various degrees of attention. It’s not difficult to spend more than an hour tackling a more advanced project.
Once you clear enough of the project houses, you’ll prompt the game’s credits to roll. However, there are still additional buildings that need your attention. Depending on how you’ve progressed up to that point, you may also have buildings waiting for you to purchase and flip them. While most project houses provide very specific objectives you must meet, the buildings you buy as a realtor give you a relatively free hand. You’re constrained only by your budget and patience. Within those boundaries, you can customize to your heart’s content.
Finally, there is a “Sandbox” mode that lets you start with a bare piece of land. You construct a building from the ground up, without worrying about how you might pay for the various renovations. I can imagine more creative types spending dozens of hours just in this mode, without bothering much with the campaign at all. It’s a bit like Minecraft, except you wind up with a beautiful slice of suburbia when you’re finished.
Am I projecting?
House Flipper 2 will never be mistaken for the next blockbuster. But there’s ample room in the industry for a variety of experiences. This one deserves a closer look if you’re interested in a different sort of vibe. The emphasis on creativity and customization, paired with the relaxed progression, makes it the perfect diversion when you need to soothe your nerves or wind down after a tough day here in the real world.
There are moments when House Flipper 2 frustrates, due to minor interface issues or even player error (learn from my mistake and paint your new room before you ever think about placing all the furniture). However, the stakes remain pleasingly low. Cleaning up a mess is super satisfying, whether your client made it or you did, and building something nice on top of it feels great. If you’re the sort of person who fires up The Sims 4 just so you can build a house and decorate it to your liking, House Flipper 2 could be a terrific fit. Do yourself a favor and make it the next project you tackle.