Landlord's Super, from the developer of Jalopy, bills itself as a "quintessential construction simulator" but is quite a bit more peculiar than the description suggests. It's out in Early Access today, and it's a weird one.
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Gaming's relationship with the '80s is largely nostalgic, and American. It's all pop and neon and "oh wasn't it a fun decade?" Landlord's Super isn't nostalgic. You're the son of an immigrant—one of the first decisions that you make is if your dad was part of the Windrush generation—living in a bleak, brown, northern town. You've just taken out a dodgy loan to buy a plot of land with a half-built house, which you'll painstakingly have to turn into a home. Brick by brick.
You're skint, though, and have no idea how to build a house. You'll need to earn cash taking gigs from the job centre, get help from the locals—who all sound like Animal Crossing characters by way of Liverpool—and work hard. Or maybe you'll just break into places to steal scrap and supplies. With the loan's astronomical interest, there's a lot of pressure to work fast.
Everyone in town works to a schedule, just like you, so time management is a big factor. You'll also get tired and dirty and, maybe, quite drunk. Do you save your cash and walk into town instead of getting the bus? Do you cut some corners by stealing some bricks from the back of the pub? Anything to get the job done.
I've been working away on my house's foundations, which is an elaborate process that isn't particularly well explained. Expect to figure stuff out as you go along. I pinched a metal frame from someone building a patio, but by the time I got it home it was too damaged to use, forcing me to sell it for scrap. I made 50p. But it took me ages to figure out that this wasn't a bug, of which there are quite a few. There are some vague instructions about how to go about constructing your dream home, but I wasn't prepared for all the faffing and fiddling.
The version of the UK presented in Landlord's Super is one that's been gutted by Thatcher and the Tories, and the impact of strikes, unemployment and dying businesses is pretty clear. It's not a chipper game, but it's not entirely played straight. It's quirky and a bit slapstick, and you can pee everywhere. In the pub, in the street, into a bucket. There's a practical benefit, though!
I was having a bit of bother figuring out how to get the water running in my building site, which I desperately needed so I could mix some cement. So I unzipped my fly and voila! All the water I needed. Apparently drinking dark ales will also make your piss darker, in turn creating darker cement. It's bizarre and I love it.
It's janky and weird and I can't say that trying to build a home is proving to be much fun, but it's got its hooks in me deep. The low-res CRT aesthetic has plenty of charm, and it's also oddly comforting to see the '80s I recognise. The '80s were shite, but I like the honesty. Like Jalopy, it's a scrappy, fiddly thing, but incredibly detailed and tactile. It's an acquired taste, but I'll definitely be returning to see how it develops as it marches towards release.
Landlord's Super is out today on Steam Early Access for £15.49/$20.