If you've ever taken a day off sick, been unemployed, or sat at home with the telly on during the week, you might have come across one of the many shows that focus on house flipping.
For those not in the know, the art of house flipping refers to the practice of buying a house, doing it up, and then flogging it... hopefully for a profit. If you've watched one of these shows and thought "that's the life for me" - now you can have a trial run of your new venture on console.
You start off with some money in the bank, living in a crappy little hut that doubles as your office. You use your trusty laptop to find some jobs in the local area, for example fitting radiators and painting walls, or even clearing out cockroach infestations. The nice developers have even given the option to switch out cockroaches for glass in case you have a fear of the little buggers.
The first few jobs you do act as a sort of tutorial, just asking you to do one or two things like cleaning, painting or fitting a bathroom. At first, you're pretty slow at what you do. Pretty much everything you do, from fitting appliances to painting walls just requires you to press the X or R2 button (if only it were that easy in real life). Pick up litter, press X or R2. Screw in a sink, press and hold X or R2. Plaster a wall, press... you get the idea.
We thought we'd get bored of walking around and pressing one button all the time, but strangely we didn't. We'll get on to why later. At first, you're pretty slow at everything you do. When you pick up the magic mop that cleans anything, in the early stages it can take quite a while to get the job done.
Luckily there's a skill point system. For example, after you paint X amount of walls, you are rewarded with a skill point for the 'paint' ability. You can improve your rollers, decrease the amount of paint you use, or get quicker. We enjoyed this levelling up system as it had a genuine sense of progression, whether you were getting better at painting, fitting, negotiations for sales, demolition and so on.
After a few jobs you're ready to buy your first property to flip. The early houses you can buy are usually dumps. There's a fire-damaged house that you have to refit, repaint and renovate. Before long, however, you're buying bigger houses and making a larger profit. There's even a house that looks like the one from Home Alone.
The premise and game are simple enough but the developer manages to pull it off quite well. We mentioned earlier that we felt we'd get bored of the controls, but strangely the game has a calming, chilled out vibe that is almost therapeutic.
The game is a first-person perspective outing, and the graphics are pretty good with the objects you install mostly looking realistic. Our first complaint is that the controls felt better for PC. Even playing with the sensitivity down, it was difficult to not overshoot the crosshair sometimes. Over time it got easier as we got the knack, but you often find yourself course-correcting to highlight something you want to see.
Our other major irk relates to content. While there are plenty of colour options for you to choose for your furniture, you often find yourself installing the same sink, the same bed, the same TV. There's a real sense of repetition that will put some people off. What's more, every house you seem to go in to renovate seems to need the same things done to it. Fit a radiator. Fix a plug socket. Fit a shower. If there was more content, this would probably be a lot more entertaining. The other issue is that there was no way to build a second floor or basement, and there was very little to do in the garden. All too often we found ourselves doing the absolute minimum to a house and still making some profit.
Yes, there are lots of different floors and tables and colours of paint to choose from, but we just feel the game would have benefitted from a few more items. You can choose the colour of cabinets, stuff like that, but to get that really personal look it would have been better to have more choices. That said, the menu system for finding new things works well and doesn't feel overwhelming.
When you have finally sorted out your property, you put it up for auction. All through the renovations, the potential buyers will say what they're looking for, for example, a room for the bedroom or a space for their paperwork. A little red arrow next to their picture will even tell you when they don't like something.
The auction sees all of the people bidding on the house you've just flipped. When your final offer is in, you can negotiate to try and get the price a little higher, and then, with your cash, off you go and buy a new property to fit radiators and screw in sinks like a pro.
All in all, we had a nice time with this unusual little sim. It would have been nice to have more content, and we feel that some people will get bored without more options. It's also a shame that the PC version's DLC (even a free content drop that landed a while back) didn't make it over. That said, we had fun and the therapeutic vibe is really there. It's nice to see such a chilled out, straightforward and interesting game hitting console.