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Game Review: House Flipper #amgaming

As you all know if you are regular reader here, I am an old gamer, with a great love for  epic console RPG games, the Final Fantasy empire being my all time favorite. I no longer have the time to sink into games like that, but I need a diversion now and then so I play computer games in the evening when the old brain can no longer write or edit.

The game I am going to review today is an odd one, something I didn’t expect to enjoy and couldn’t see the sense of. A friend of mine was quite thrilled with it, so I thought I would give it a try. I must say, this very strange game has been an experience.

House Flipper is an immersive first-person simulation game, developed by a European indie studio, Empyrean Frozen District and released by Playway S.A., through Steam. It was released on May 17, 2018. It has been a bestseller on Steam.

DETAILS:

  • Initial release date: May 17, 2018
  • Developer: Empyrean
  • Engine: Unity
  • Genre: Simulation Video Game
  • Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems
  • Publishers: PlayWay, Frozen District

I put off playing this game until after the second build, because several friends had mentioned it was quite buggy, and as a former beta tester, I don’t have the patience for dealing with buggy software any more. I did finally purchase it in January just before it updated and like the changes they introduced in February.

I use an Xbox controller for my PC and a mouse. There are options for keyboard users, but I do prefer games where I can use the controller.

There is no option to play as a woman. You walk into your first office, which must be cleaned and redecorated, only to find a real macho man lives there. You apparently have no housekeeping skills as you are living in filth. Cleaning your way into your home, combined with a few jobs to earn money for your first flip, is your training ground.

At first, you can only pick up and clean things and remove trash. As you do a few jobs that will be sent to you via your laptop’s email, you begin to gain other skills, such as painting, tiling, knocking down and building walls, and most importantly, selling things the previous tenants left behind. The money you earn doing those jobs enables you to purchase your first house.

The graphics are exceptionally good. While I’ve played many front-view camera console RPG games, I’ve been playing top-down PC games for a while. It took me a while to adjust to the interactive aspect of the 3-D front-view camera. I found controlling the character’s movements was a bit of a challenge until I went to settings and slowed the mouse sensitivity.

The way a player can move things around within the predefined parameters is nice.

Painting walls is time-consuming and boring but satisfying, just like in real life. Cleaning is time-consuming and boring but satisfying, just like in real life.

While the options for purchasing new finishes and furnishings are limited, they’re interesting and work well. The floor plans are of a style that is uncommon here in the U.S., and are highly compartmentalized.

I suspect the houses reflect a common European style, which is interesting to me. The kitchen appliances are also quite different from what I am used to, so that was fun. Ovens don’t seem to be high on their priority list, and I’m excruciatingly lazy–if dinner isn’t made in the Crock-Pot, I put it in the oven. Hell will freeze before I stand in front of a hot stove for more than the time it takes to make a pancake or two.

I like seeing the differences in the house layouts and styles from what I am used to. It’s interesting to see a different culture’s idea of the perfect kitchen.

While I do like this game, I have a few thoughts as to why it sells well and has a loyal fan-base, despite its (sometimes fatal) flaws.

Some flaws I’ve noticed:

Did I mention that there is no option to play as a woman? Well, there isn’t, and the first office is really creepy in a disgusting low-life mechanic’s hovel kind of way. The minute I gained the ability to sell things, I ditched the nasty girlie poster and sold the ratty chainsaw. In fact, selling all his tools and the filthy furnishings that come with the first place netted me enough to furnish it quite tastefully, thank you.

The vacuum tool is awkward and inefficient but eventually works. However, you are rewarded for the boring tasks by being able to choose furnishings and leaving the place in nice condition.

The dialogues about the prospective purchases and emails for jobs have been translated into English, but the syntax is sometimes wrong, so they’re difficult to follow. That doesn’t really matter, as the houses themselves are the important point of this game. Also–I speak no Polish, so the fact these gentlemen have gone to the trouble of making an edition in English is very good.

Hilariously Easy to Commit Operator Errors:

As I mentioned above, I use an Xbox controller. If you aren’t really careful when switching tools, you can accidentally sell an object you had intended to keep, such as, oh say, the plumbing for the toilet. When that happened, I couldn’t believe it—I laughed like a loon. The idea of being able to sell the plumbing out of a house is funny, but it’s annoying when it is not intentional.

One mistake and oops! The plumbing is gone, and there’s no going back. It costs quite a bit to replace the plumbing, and you don’t get as much for it as you must pay to replace it.

You can inadvertently sell the radiator you just bought. Doh!

In fact, if you aren’t really careful when switching tools or aiming the selling-tool, you can accidentally sell any replaceable object in the game.

One of the funnier YouTube videos about this game shows one of the players for the Beta Version discovering he can sell all the possessions of a house he has been hired to clean. That bug was addressed before the game was published so you can’t do that now. But if you skip ahead to 8 minutes into it, this video clip really is hilarious. IGP Stole Everything

Random Flaws Inherent to the Game:

Occasionally, you open your game only to find that when it loads, the colors of some furnishings have randomly changed, such as a steel refrigerator becomes bright red (the default color).

Also, I opened the game one day only to find a newly painted section on the outside of a house had reverted to its original Pepto Bismol-pink color. I had to buy paint and scaffolding—again—and take the time to paint it, again.

Sometimes the fabric on chairs will revert to the default color.

Those are annoyances, but the worst annoyance is a fundamental bug that randomly leaves the “ghost” of an object where it had originally been, so you can’t place furniture there, even though the space looks clear. I discovered how to resolve this accidentally when I couldn’t put a sofa in the place one had originally been, and when I pointed the selling-tool at the visibly empty spot, I was able to sell the ghost object for $52.00. Score! The ghost object was the wallpaper bundle that I had redone the family room with. Once I had sold all the ghost objects, I made $156.00.

Like all good fantasy authors, the developers seem to have become sidetracked by the doomsday prepping aspects of life. Many of the homes have underground nuclear fall-out shelters. Fortunately for all us virtual survivalists, the developers have included in the store a large array of items you can purchase for that nerve-center of any modern home, the bunker.

The inventory of houses to flip is limited, but each one has a unique history. They all look like squatters had camped for weeks and left their trash there. A couple of the houses have much darker histories, and one is downright frightening. That was fun to resolve.

The game takes forever to load. I do a lot of graphic design, so I suspect the massive database of images and graphics are what hangs it up, so I don’t mind waiting.

To Wrap This Up:

All in all, House Flipper is a fun game that a person can get quite involved in, but it feels unfinished as if they didn’t quite get all the beta concerns resolved before they rushed it to publication. That is a common mistake we indies in all walks of the arts often make.

I’m looking forward for the next DLC update for this game, which I understand will allow the player to clean up and landscape the overgrown yards. The developers plan to have it out in the first quarter of 2019, but I’m willing to wait for it to be completely tested and all bugs addressed first.

For the most part, the game is immersive. An odd thing that I like about this game is the fact that unlike some MMORPGs, you can play for an hour or so and easily walk away from it. It remains enjoyable but doesn’t become an obsession.


Credits and Attributions:

House Flipper Logo, © 2018 by Frozen District, Fair Use

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#amgaming: Review of Stargazer, by Amaranth/John Wizard

Stargazer screen shot 3I spend a certain amount of time playing computer games, especially when I am trying to avoid doing any serious writing. And just like the books I read when dodging work, I love to talk about whatever game I’m playing. Today I am reviewing Stargazer, which was published in 2015.

I love old-school, indie-built, computer Japanese-style RPGs, and Stargazer, created by John Wizard in association with Amaranth, is one of the best games I’ve played in years. I’ve played it through four times over the last year, setting Aura’s magic up differently each time, and have not run across any glitches or bugs. Yay for that!!!

Magic no longer exists in the world, but Zach, stargazer and dreamer, doesn’t really believe that. The game begins when a meteor falls from the sky, and Zach goes to investigate it. He manages to avoid the Chancellor’s goons and discovers a girl who is suffering from amnesia. She thinks her name is Aura. There is an instant attraction there, and Zach is smitten. Their adventures begin, and they meet Scarbeck (a detective) Thyme (a healer) Grayson (a noble, but scary, knight), Kala, (has magic and rides a Firewing bird) and Amelia Mae (a 14-year-old genius).

Their romance is sweet, but not without stumbling blocks. There is no doubt how Zach and Aura feel about each other, but as for Thyme and Grayson…it’s a rocky road to the altar. And, in true Amaranth fashion, unless all the right criteria are met throughout the game, you won’t gain attraction points, and there will be no weddings.

The story line is a good fantasy story with a great quest, and the dialogue is hilarious, rife with snark and sarcasm.The art and graphics are excellent, colorful and highly detailed. Each setting is fun to roam around in. If I have any complaint, it’s the amount of walking back and forth over the same ground that one has to do to complete the many tasks, but that’s a minor irritation–the story keeps it interesting.

Stargazer screen shot 2The dungeons are difficult but not impossible, and the puzzles are challenging. The creatures are fun, and some are hard to beat, but you do gain strength, so nothing is impossible. You do have to be careful with the gold in order to get the best armor and weapons, as there are no goodie caves or secret weapons/armor stashes, although you can gain some good armor and weaponry in treasure chests.

Shybeard’s ship and Mala (the Firewing Bird) are delightfully hokey in an enlarged SNES Super Mario kind of way. Hawkeye is the lone graphic that is pretty much indecipherable.

The final battle is fun, and if you have met all the right criteria and gained enough attraction points for the two marriageable couples, you will get two weddings at the end. Or not, but either way, it’s a great game.

This is a terrific way to spend 25 or so hours, as there are over 200 puzzles and side quests to complete, all of which advance the story.

Amaranth and John Wizard are my 2 favorite indie RPG game makers, and they have lately collaborated with each other on several other games. Built using RPG Maker, their games are reminiscent of the old Enix/Square Soft games, for the Super Nintendo with strong story lines and fun side quests. They are as much fun as The Legend of Zelda, or Chrono Trigger or any early Final Fantasy game ever was.

Stargazer screen shotStargazer is available from John Wizard, or Aldorlea, or on SteamThis game is not for sale on the Aveyond.com website, which is what Google queries for Amaranthia redirect to. Amaranth has undergone some serious changes over the last year and their website is no longer the fun place it was, although gamers and indie game creators can still meet and discuss gaming and game creation in some limited forums.

I am not sure what to make of that—even though the John Wizard site redirects Stargazer questions to Aveyond, there are no forums there to discuss Stargazer, and the game does not appear on their website.

Regardless of that mystery, I give Stargazer 5 full stars, with no reservations whatsoever—I love this game.

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