Review – Hotel Renovator
House Flipper became a cult hit a few years ago for its surprisingly relaxing gameplay loop, despite its poor visuals, controls, and, well, pretty much everything about it. It basically spawned a new subgenre within the deep and scary realm of simulators: the renovation genre. In it, you basically have to make something horrendous look appealing (and profitable) by giving it a monstrous makeover. Hotel Renovator is basically the bigger-budgeted version of that game, being financed and published by a larger publisher (Focus Entertainment, the same one behind hits like GreedFall and A Plague Tale: Requiem). Does that mean it’s also a better game? Let’s find out.
In House Flipper, your main objective was to clean horrendously derelict houses, refurbish them, and sell them for a profit. It was a combination of addictive and rewarding, since you’d feel accomplished by giving a borderline crack den a big fat makeover, and still get paid a lot of money in the process, allowing you to buy even bigger houses to repeat the process ad nauseum. In Hotel Renovator, you are given a hotel that looks worse than most post-apocalyptic houses in Fallout. Your objective is simple: clean it, renovate it, furnish its rooms, ensure you start receiving guests again, and start making money out of it. You are not here to sell it, though. You’re here to manage it, to make it rise from literal ashes.
My suggestion, upon booting the game up for the first time, is to initially dial down some its graphical features (it has some pseudo ray tracing options activated from the get-go and they only serve to tank the hell out of the frames), and then starting a new “story”. To be honest, there’s little to care about what Hotel Renovator considers its plot. It’s some gobbledygook about you inheriting an old hotel from your late grandfather, with your sibling helping you out in this journey of yours. This sibling can range from a Harajuku waifu to normal human beings to a robot. Yep, a robot. And he has the same grandfather as you. The plot thickens.
Besides the nonsensical plot, the story mode basically serves to teach you how to use Hotel Renovator‘s many (and confusing) mechanics. It teaches you that the renovation process is really slow and methodical. You need to demolish a room, then clean it, and only then will you be able to repaint it and furnish it. In order to spice things up a little bit, you are given tasks in the shape of requests from, uh, “unique” clients. For instance, a vampire might ask you to create a room full of curtains, devoid of artificial light, but full of candles and gothic imagery.
Pay close attention to those tutorials, because Hotel Renovator isn’t exactly the most intuitive game in the world. Its controls are functional and responsive, but its interface and button placement are bizarre, to say the least. It doesn’t do a good job at listing all objects in an easy and cohesive list, forcing you to scroll individually in order to find the one piece you’re looking for. It doesn’t help that, given the fact we live in a post-Sims world, we know how a good house building UI is. We’ve been aware of it since 1999. Sadly, both Hotel Renovator‘s UI and perspective (as in, first-person) aren’t suited for this kind of game.
Furthermore, the game is very glitchy. Its framerate is erratic. Its collision detection isn’t the best. The simple act of choosing a pattern for your hotel room wall can be occasionally hampered by the UI simply refusing to behave as intended. While nowhere near as glitchy and infuriating as House Flipper, Hotel Renovator is in dire need of a few patches of its own.
The controls aren’t great, and the game doesn’t look very enticing, with visuals that are best described as “asset-esque”, but there is fun to be had in Hotel Renovator. Once you get used to the controls in the Story mode, skip towards the game’s sandbox mode. With little to no stakes or objectives, Hotel Renovator quickly becomes a relaxing game to be enjoyed while listening to music or a podcast, as the game itself barely has any music to begin with. That’s the bizarre magic behind games like this one and House Flipper. They are beyond flawed, buggy, messy, not very intuitive, but there’s an inexplicably relaxing gameplay loop in the middle of all this mess. One you can certainly enjoy, if you can stand the jank.
It looks like your basic compilation of assets, with little to no art direction involved. It also runs at a choppy framerate, not to mention being prone to visual glitches.
The first-person view makes Hotel Renovator feel more immersive, but it doesn’t mean it is the ideal way to play a game like this. The UI is confusing as well, though you can get used to its mechanics after a few hours.
For the most part, all you’ll be listening to is the sound of your tools renovating each hotel room. There is a bit of voice acting in here as well, which isn’t bad, but not exactly amazing either.
Fun Factor: 7.5
Learn the basics on the story mode, then jump straight onto Hotel Renovator‘s sandbox. It’s janky as all hell, but it’s a very relaxing experience. A bizarre mixture between a zen game and a power fantasy.
Final Verdict: 6.5
Hotel Renovator is available now on PC.
Reviewed on Intel i7-12700H, 16GB RAM, RTX 3060 6GB.
A copy of Hotel Renovator was provided by the publisher.