GamingReview: Castle Flipper

Review: Castle Flipper

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The entire time I was playing Castle Flipper, there was one thought I just could not get out of my head: ‘Wow, I should really clean my flat.’ That’s not to say that there were any chores in particular I was avoiding; instead, it was just that Castle Flipper is a game that appeals to a player’s perfectionist streak in a way few other games manage. If you’re the kind of person who likes being able to strike things off a to-do list, then I don’t imagine you’ll find a game that can offer you more satisfaction than this one.

Castle Flipper is primarily made up of a series of levels in which the player is tasked with cleaning up garbage, mopping up stains, repairing furniture, and constructing buildings. This might seem like a list of chores most people would avoid, but I promise it’s a lot more fun than it sounds. The levels start reasonably small, but grow steadily until the final few encompass impressively complex maps with a long task list to complete.

While the increasingly complicated maps may seem a little daunting, the game doesn’t require players to reach 100% completion before concluding the level. This means that even if you miss a few bits of garbage here and there, you can still continue with the game without having to search high and low for it.

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Despite its deceptively simple gameplay loop, Castle Flipper has a surprising amount to enjoy. To start with, the game’s soundtrack is brilliant. With no dialogue or ambient sounds, players are going to spend a lot of their time listening to the music and it doesn’t disappoint. With a vaguely medieval theme, the music manages to be both soothing and set the scene for each location.

That world-building is strengthened by the inclusion of mini-stories that you can follow along with. While there aren’t any NPCs, which is a little disappointing when building your own town, the game features collectible notes that gradually reveal the various machinations of different people within the world. These stories have no real impact on the game and players can ignore them entirely, but their inclusion adds some nice variety to gameplay that might otherwise have become stale.

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My biggest criticism of the game is that it is much too short. You can complete all of the pre-set missions within a few hours and while there is an endgame objective after that, it only adds an hour or so to the overall runtime. There are a couple of collectibles in each level but none of them are that hard to find and there’s too few for them to bulk out the content all that much. In my first run-through of the game I found every chest and note and still managed to 100% all the missions in around 3 and a half hours.

It’s clear from the amount of detail that has gone into each of the levels that adding more would be a tremendous undertaking by the developers, but as it stands, I think Castle Flipper needs more content to be considered a fully-fledged game. That being said, however, the low selling price does help to soften the blow somewhat.

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Less critical but still frustrating is the way in which you switch between tools. Over the course of cleaning a level, players will need to rapidly change between various items to clean stains or repair furniture, for example. All of this is done via a radial menu. While the system never misunderstood what I wanted, it felt incredibly clunky for the rate at which you are expected to switch tools. Making the issue more obvious was the fact that it’s possible to hotkey different structures – walls, windows, doors, etc – to help speed up building and it works brilliantly; that you can’t do the same for the different tools felt like a misstep. The issue wasn’t enough to dissuade me from playing, but it certainly made some tasks more laborious than they were perhaps intended to be.

On a related note, I found the repair mechanic a constant chore. Most of the tools have an associated mechanism to use them, such as moving the mop up and down when cleaning stains. When repairing furniture, the minigame involves restoring any missing pieces – almost always adding legs to a broken chair – and then hammering in nails to fix them in place. Each nail is quite small and requires two clicks to complete. There is no challenge involved, and you have to wait for the hammer animation to complete before moving on or the hit won’t register. The result is a slow, unengaging process that never felt fun. Any time I loaded into a new level and saw that I had a number of repairs to complete, I found myself letting out a weary sigh.

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The problem could have an easy fix: speed up the animation and drop the number of required hits to one for each nail. Unrealistic as that might seem, the fact that it is currently quicker to build a small house than to fix a chair just feels frustrating.

Outside of the issues with tool switching and repairing, Castle Flipper’s mechanics are largely very strong. When building, structures click together in a very satisfying and intuitive way. However, I did find that when building castle structures, it was not always clear how to place certain items. Most, but not all, structures require a foundation before they can be placed, while other features like crenellations can only be placed when hovering over a very specific part of a room. None of these caused game-breaking problems, but they may manage to take you out of the flow of things.

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One of the strangest features of Castle Flipper I found was the inclusion of a day-night cycle. If you stay in a single level long enough, the sun will set and you’re left to continue working through the night. This isn’t a problem, necessarily, but I can’t really say it added to the experience either. Its biggest impact on the game for me was the minor annoyance of the darkness making it harder to spot stains. The reason it stuck out to me was that I was aware time must have been put into developing the system when it could instead have been spent on more levels.

Likewise, the game also features a talent tree to level up your builder. These upgrades include a detection system for finding missed items and collectibles, and an increased inventory system. As with the day-night cycle, this mechanic does no particular harm and the ability to identify missed garbage was useful in places, but equally the system doesn’t add a huge amount to the game. I didn’t unlock any upgrades until the final mission because I ended up forgetting the mechanic was even there, and once I did, it made no real change to my experience.

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The much better progression system in my opinion was the inclusion of minigame jigsaw puzzles to unlock new furniture for your town. While these unlockable items didn’t provide anything new in terms of content or mechanics, the puzzles did act as a nice change of pace.

Overall, I can easily say that I had an excellent time with Castle Flipper. So much so in fact that my biggest complaint boils down to not being able to play it for longer. It isn’t a game for everyone by any stretch – if you’re not someone who gets satisfaction from completionism then you will likely be bored out of your mind. If you are, however, there is a lot of fun to be had with this game. The levels, few as they are, are a joy to explore and with limited travel options at the moment, this might be the closest any of us can get to a sun-drenched villa. Just be prepared for the fact it might leave you thinking you should probably be a bit more productive in real life.

SUMMARY

A short but satisfying game that pits you as both cleaner and builder in a number of impressive environments.

+ Very good at scratching a completionist itch
+ Excellent musical score
+ Attractive and well put-together levels
- Very few missions and even with an endgame, can be completed in a few hours
- Some clunky controls when switching tools or repairing furniture

(Reviewed on PC, also available on Xbox One, PS4, and Nintendo Switch)

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