Known as Castle Flipper on Steam, this first-person manual labour simulator has received a new name for its PlayStation release. It’s a title more befitting; one that also avoids a staring down from the creators of the surprise hit House Flipper.
In Castle Renovator you aren’t tasked with ‘flipping’ medieval settlements and abodes for profit. Instead, it involves taking on menial chores before using your hard-earned gold to create bespoke houses for medieval folk to rent.
It’s a game of two halves, then. The bulk of the experience involves such quests as repairing a fort after a hurricane, rebuilding a castle, cleansing a filthy dungeon, and making a rickety pirate ship seaworthy. These assignments last around 15 minutes and mostly entail picking up objects off the floor, chopping trees, catching rats, repairing broken chairs via button bashing, locating lost items, and purchasing furniture from a catalogue before placing it in marked areas.
Nothing particularly thrilling, all told, especially when the controls and UI are finicky. The presentation isn’t great elsewhere, with music that plays on short loops and graphics that would make a PS3 blush. In fact, we were surprised by how dated it looks – blades of grass pop in and out of view, and the textures are generally muddy. Adding to these woes, at night it’s practically unplayable – even with a torch lit.
The developers have tried to adapt the controls to the PS4 controller – the touchpad is used to cycle through objects – but it still feels cumbersome.
Between quests, you’re transported back to a plot of empty land. This is your expandable “Kingdom” and it’s here you can create a village with its own customisable banner. Creating a kingdom not only eats into your cash reserves but your stockpile of recycled wood and other resources too.
Citizens demand houses of varying sizes and several pieces of certain furniture before they’ll move in, at which point you’ll start earning rent. As the village grows additional structures pop up, including a hall where new items can be unlocked by playing sliding tile puzzles.
Houses can be decorated, and later castles are introduced, but this half of the experience feels rather undernourished. During quests, there’s a list of objectives to work through – something to focus on. When building, it’s up to you to find motivation. If you lack a creative spark, this isn’t a game for you.
There are a few comical elements to lessen some of the tedium, such as notes left lying around. The trophy names are occasionally amusing too – including one with a glaring typo. One mission involves nothing more than bringing out your trusty hammer and destroying every decorative item in sight. But when the same location was reused a few missions later, essentially asking you to fix the damage you caused (and then some) we let out more of a sigh than a titter. This is very much a game that requests you bring your own enthusiasm.
Castle Renovator is out now on PS4/PS5. Published by Ultimate Games.