Home Sweet Home
Are you the type of person who walks into a room and immediately thinks about a remodel? "Ew... who put those curtains with that carpet? And that coffee table is way too close to the couch. How do you reach the window?" Perhaps you like to dabble in feng-shui. Or, maybe you're one of those weekend warriors when it comes to home-improvement. In any case, you're ready to try out your hand at design. If so, welcome home. Home Sweet Home, that is.
Home Sweet Home is a creative new spin off time management and career simulation games. Putting you in the shoes of both an interior decorator and a construction contractor, this game tests both your creative skills as well as your speed and agility. With the expert help of Dee Ziner (whose bright smile could be found in toothpaste ads) you'll begin filling your client's requests and homes. The requests vary, some obvious, some quite cryptic. Some, like the Packrats, may want to display the many things they already have, while others will have you begin with an empty room.
For each house you'll receive a budget which can be spent on anything from paints and floors, couches and cabinets, to plants, paintings, and other accessories. While the clients leave some hints as to what they like, the bulk of the choice is left up to you. "A blue retro lamp with a shabby white country rug? That could work. All it needs is a TV... or maybe a set of funky pagoda-shaped shelves?" A thumbs-up/thumbs-down meter will tell you if your clients are pleased or not.
When your design layout is complete and approved, you're ready to start the building process. Here, you'll become the contractor, as you direct your workers through the remodel process. This gets tricky. You have three workers, each designated by their own color. As you work, various items or furnishings will light up in matching colors. If you match the workers to the right items (for instance, have the green guy work on the vase that is lit up green) they will work harder and faster. If they are working on an item that isn't lit up, they will grow tired, and eventually need a coffee break. (You can bring the coffee pot to them to avoid stopping in the middle of a project.) Be careful! Mismatched colors cause clumsiness: Eventually, if your worker is building an item that is lit up in a different color, they will injure themselves, and you'll need to bring in the first-aid kit... IF you can get them to stand still long enough.
In case it isn't enough of a challenge to keep the right workers on the right project and fueled with caffeine, your workers will also request various tools along the way, that must be dragged out of the toolbox. If you don't grab the right tool in time, the work doesn't just stop... it reverses. Walls will un-paint themselves and pictures will blank, so don't let anyone pause for long. Also, after a few levels, you'll need to clean as you go. As each worker finishes their project, they'll appear with a trash icon and wait to be directed to the refuse can. When they've dropped off the trash, they'll be ready to begin the next job. If you can get everything built in time, you'll earn some cash and be able to move on to the next home.
Home Sweet Home even allows you to spend the money you earn by decorating your own house. As the game progresses, new items become available. Your home gives you a chance to try them out without going through the whole building process. If you like to change it frequently, or test client's designs before building, you can take a snapshot, and add it to your growing portfolio. Eventually, you may find yourself becoming the most famous designer in the neighborhood. (Dee might be a little jealous!)
Analysis: Overall, Home Sweet Home is an excellent casual game, offering just enough creative liberty along with puzzles and time challenges. In some ways, however, it is fairly limited. Your house only has one room to decorate, as only living room and dining room furnishings will become available throughout the game.
There are hints at a sequel with kitchens and bathrooms, but hopefully, some aspects of the game will be redesigned first. The toolbox, for instance, has a few glitches. You might click on one tool and find yourself carrying another. This doesn't make gameplay impossible, but often frustrating. Another drawback is the abrupt ending. After designing 50 houses, you're done. There is no warning or fanfare, just a congratulatory message and an invitation to keep decorating your own house. A way to return to previous clients homes for extra remodels would help the replay value enormously. Even still, the creative possibilities found in Home Sweet Home, mingled with the pleasant Sims-like atmosphere, should offer many hours of delight.