I'm a peasant blessed with 'garbage sense' in this castle renovation sim

Castle Flipper
(Image credit: Pyramid Games)

House-flipping, the practice of buying a terrible house, fixing it up, and selling it for beaucoup bucks, first took the TV world by storm with shows like Flip This House and Property Brothers. Then it made its way to PC and became a surprising success with games like House Flipper. Something about fixing windows, painting walls, and vacuuming up bugs to turn a nightmare property into a lovely home hit the sweet spot for gamers, and there have been a number of other renovation-type games since, like Train Station Renovation and PowerWash Simulator.

And I definitely get it. There's something about fixing a virtual mess (as in Viscera Cleanup Detail) that's immensely appealing, especially when there are so many real-life messes we can't just sweep up. And now you can get in a time machine and clean up messes in the past with Castle Flipper. It's like House Flipper, but medieval-style.

Eager to turn a crappy castle into the hottest property in the realm, I boot up the demo and step into my kingdom. My kingdom sucks, by the way. It's a single broken down cabin on a tiny square of property, but as you work your way through Castle Flipper you'll earn money by fixing up other people's disastrous hearths and homes (and sometimes by simply finding enormous chests of gold—more on that in a minute). Then you can pour that sweet medieval cash into your own property and gradually go from broom-pushing pauper to scepter-wielding prince.

My first job is to fix up a settlement that's recently been hit by a hurricane. Some wooden pillars have been knocked down, fences and palisades are missing wooden boards, a couple of tall trees need to be removed—I'm not really sure why, it's not like they just suddenly sprouted into existence during the storm—and there's a ton of garbage to pick up.

That's when I discover my destiny. And my destiny is picking up trash. It's because I'm a peasant with a gift, the enchanted 'garbage sense' spoken of in legend and lore. I can tap a key and every bit of litter or unsightly stain is highlighted.

Sure, some folks are gifted with the ability to see the future, or ghosts, or auras. Some assassins have Eagle Sense, some adventurers have Dark Vision. Me, I can tell if a wagon wheel shouldn't be lying in the dirt or if a bit of rope is unsalvageable. It is my blessing. It is my curse. I am Sees-Trash, son of Spots-Litter, Janitor Next To The Mountain.

I guess I have a few more arcane gifts, like the fact that when I pick up a piece of trash it suddenly ceases to exist. Broken boards, busted barrels, and other bits of detritus, I touch them with my hand and they vanish forever. It's pretty nifty! I can also destroy things with my hammer, and I mean destroy them so quickly and completely they are banished into another dimension. I brace myself for the task of removing two tall trees, which I assume will require a ton of work, but one smash with my hammer and they just disappear. This isn't a complaint: I am pretty tired of laboriously chopping down trees in games and have been for some time now.

And I can see why people hire me to build houses, too. Once I've plonked the framework into place, using wood I've sourced from the same dimension I'm banishing trees and broken barrels into, I can add walls and roofs with a single swing of my hammer. (It's a different, smaller hammer than the one I use to atomize trees and it produces the massive shower of sparks one would expect when installing a wood floor.) Building an entire house only takes a few seconds, so I'm starting to feel confident I'll be able to build an entire kingdom in no more than a week.

And it doesn't hurt that while cleaning up trash and erecting walls, I'll occasionally stumble across a hidden treasure. No, not a few dingy bronze coins that slipped between some medieval couch cushions or a partially buried silver chalice that can be dusted off and sold for a few crowns. I mean a giant goddamn treasure chest filled several feet deep with gold bars and coins. You know, the kind of treasure one might just randomly find behind a stone wall while taking a walk.

Castle Flipper, from this brief look, feels like it may be a little too simple for people deeply into house flipping and renovation games. Even that train station renovation game I played required me to actually carry trash to the trash bin and physically throw it away, rather than it simply disappearing into thin air with a click. But there's no denying it's still quite satisfying to see a mess laid out in front of you and spend some time clearing it up. If you want to see if it's your kind of mess, Castle Flipper releases on Steam on May 26.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.