When the first House Flipper launched in 2018, it didn’t get the kindest critical reception. Reviews at the time knocked the house fixing simulation for its repetitive cleaning gameplay that turned chores into, well, chores. Playing its newly released sequel, House Flipper 2, I have to wonder if developer Empyrean was too far ahead of its time.
Games like House Flipper have become an unexpected phenomenon in the few short years between releases. That’s thanks in no small part to PowerWash Simulator, a surprise hit that only tasked players with hosing down very dirty surfaces. Maybe it was just because it launched between a world-altering pandemic and a hectic election, but many seemed to find some much-needed relaxation in some digital cleaning.
The world may not have been entirely ready for House Flipper in 2018, but it’s sure ready for House Flipper 2 in 2023.
Like its predecessor, House Flipper 2 tasks players with fixing up abandoned businesses and filthy homes. Each room comes with a checklist of renovation objectives, from simply cleaning up stains to setting it up with some fresh furniture. The included story mode starts small, tasking me with cleaning up a small house that was infiltrated by a muddy raccoon. That eventually balloons in scale when I buy full houses, renovate them top to bottom, and flip them for a profit.
House Flipper 2 hinges on the same satisfying gameplay loop that made me fall in love with PowerWash Simulator just a few years ago. I get to turn disgusting spaces back into sparkling homes like I’m a fairy Godmother granting Cinderella a wish. That’s accomplished through some simple minigames. In each mission, I have access to a radial menu of tools for the job. When I pick a scrubber, I watch as I magically wipe away paint stains and squeegee cloudy windows. I can paint walls, retile floors, and even sell junky furniture on the fly with my handy flipper tool. Those tasks are repetitive, sure, but that creates a Zen gameplay loop that’s easy to chill out to. It’s like ASMR.
None of that is terribly new for the sequel, but House Flipper 2 does make some strides in weaving in narrative. Each house I fix now has its own distinct story that I can glean as I fix up the space. A personal favorite mission has me fixing up an old woman’s attic because she wants to create a room for her visiting grandson. As I follow her instructions, I begin unpacking toy train sets and animal wallpaper she’s picked out for him. It’s an endearing mission that plays with the fact that every living space has its own story to tell.
Players are encouraged to build their own stories, too. Freeform house renovation allows for some freedom as players rip out old furniture, repaper walls to their liking, and decorate to their heart’s content. Sandbox mode brings that even further, letting players build houses on empty land plots entirely from scratch. It’s a surprisingly robust tool that’s easy to use — take notes, Animal Crossing. While some may find story mode repetitive after a while, I imagine Sandbox is where many will find the freedom to express themselves.
For myself, I’m perfectly happy sticking to the more guided side of the experience. That includes completing furniture assembly minigames, which have me building tables and lamps with step-by-step, Ikea-like instructions. Completing those quickly and efficiently gives me a discount on those items when renovating homes, creating a fun little progression hook that breaks up some of the repetition.
Most of all, though, I just love diving into new spaces and uncovering their stories under layers of filth. I piece together what happened in the aftermath of a rock concert when I follow a trail of paint-soaked footprints from the garage inside the house. In another home, I fix a shoddy bathroom DIY project gone awry by cleaning uneven stencil patterns off the tiled walls. They’re often funny but charming household mishaps that bring something human to the mechanical series. House Flipper 2 gives us a chance to laugh at our own accidents before granting us the power to clean them up.
House Flipper 2 launches on December 14 for PC.
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