It’s notable to see a smaller game given the time to grow into something special. When Empyrean’s House Flipper arrived in 2018, it felt less like a house flipping game than a bare-bones cleaning sim. While big updates and DLC added more and more to do over the years, it was an experience broken into chunks. By contrast, House Flipper 2, which arrived earlier in December, is a fully cohesive game straight out of the box.
While the first game dabbled with voice acting or dialogue choices, House Flipper 2 uses narrative elements to full effect in order to immerse the player. You play as a returning resident of Pinnacove, a tiny seaside community that has seen better days. With the help of an old friend named Tom Marino (who calls via your smartphone), you set out to become a full-fledged house flipper, getting your name out there with the townsfolk by cleaning, unpacking, and renovating the houses and businesses around the cove. All of these jobs, emailed to your in-game laptop from town residents, are what help you learn all of the tools and menus the game has to offer. After you have a handful of jobs under your belt, you unlock the ability to fully renovate and sell houses (which is a returning feature from the first game), hoping to lure some of the picky homebuyers from the area by catering to their needs. (It’s no House Hunters, but it’s close!)
While similar to the original House Flipper, Empyrean has expanded the gameplay of the sequel with tons of great quality-of-life changes that make using the tools easier and more integrated within the user interface. First previewed in the original game’s final DLC, House Flipper 2’s hero feature is the Sandbox Mode that gives ambitious flippers a full suite of creation tools in order to build a house from the ground up. The mode even allows players full creative freedom to design their own quests for their custom houses, all of which can then be shared on the House Flipper 2 mod.io site.
You don’t need to have played House Flipper at all in order to get into House Flipper 2. If you are someone who likes Unpacking, Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ Happy Home Paradise DLC, or are just an HGTV enthusiast, this game provides a lot of bang for your buck, allowing you to show off your creativity in a low-stress way. Even if you struggle with the idea of interior design, the game allows you to do as little or as much experimentation as you want, even providing suggested color swatches for job quests or premade palettes for customizable furniture pieces. You are never judged on your design skills, and instead are just asked to help out other residents with their homes.
I’m a die-hard House Flipper fan and have found its sequel to be a very charismatic and compelling update to the franchise rather than a rehash of the original. But getting used to such massive changes has been a little bit of an adjustment; while the depth of customization is huge, long-term players might find the size of the actual catalog so far to be quite limited. This is additionally compounded by the fact that House Flipper 2 doesn’t allow you to use custom content from other users yet. I need more rugs! I can’t live without my beautiful rugs!
Despite having an enhanced set of tools, I still found myself struggling with designing and decorating in certain ways. The biggest problem I had was with how items interact with each other; moving items as a set is sometimes persnickety, and putting items inside of other items is nearly impossible. It would be great if I could have a bowl full of hand-picked fruit in a kitchen, or maybe even individually select items to move as a unit without them being set on a surface. However, much of this seems to be resource limitations of a smaller development team, and will hopefully be added in the future.
While I encountered a few bugs and a little bit of jankiness as I made my way through the game, I consider it to be an acceptable trade-off when it comes to being so engaged and delighted by something I waited so long to play. Empyrean has earned my loyalty in the past with tons of community-driven improvements and DLC that expands the base game in a very compelling way. I have no doubt in my mind that this is yet another game that the development team will quietly build upon for years to come, ensuring that I will always return to Pinnacove.
House Flipper 2 was released Dec. 14 on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.