The Nintendo DS isn't exactly suffering from a shortage in sim titles. You've got doctor simulations, lawyer simulations, and heck, there's even an EMT simulation game (that I recently reviewed!). Given this trend, I can't say that I'm particularly surprised with this title, Our House, which is basically a contractor sim game. I know that doesn't sound particularly fun, but there's a reason for that: It isn't. It's not that Our House is broken in any way, but it's not very engaging, and it's certainly not as drama-filled or intense as saving someone's life or keeping him out of jail. Perhaps that hard story aspect is part of what keeps Our House feeling so incredibly dull, but the rest of it stems from the extremely repetitive gameplay that revolves around a Pokémon-like "Gotta catch 'em all" mentality when it comes to the furniture store aspect. I'll delve into that, but let's talk a bit about the gameplay mechanics in Our House.
As the star of the game, you play the part of a contractor who's been brought into town by a relative to fix up the somewhat-affluent abodes of various residents. Meanwhile, you're stuck with a junky, run-of-the-mill house without any furniture or frills to speak of. This might be in tune with the real-life story of an actual contractor. I imagine it's easy to get a little miffed while you're working on rich people's houses all week and then have to come home to a simple lifestyle, but the game doesn't really capitalize on that too much. You are constantly trying to upgrade your current living conditions to make your house more palatable for potential buyers, so you can in turn upgrade to a new, better way of living. In the game, you're married and you'll eventually spawn some kids too, so there's a decent incentive to upgrade instead of socking away your money for a rainy day. One thing that's slightly disappointing from the outset is that the game lacks an avatar creation process; there are some preset guys that end up with the same name between all of them, but this title would have benefited from a little more personality, which it's currently lacking.
Once you've selected your character and been introduced to the basic menu mechanics, you're ready to take on a few jobs around town. On the touch-screen, you'll have a few options, one of which is a cell phone, and this is what you'll use to see if any jobs are available. By tapping on the cell phone icon, you'll bring up a small list of homes to do work for, and when you choose a task, you'll be introduced to the homeowner. The owner will give you the list of jobs to do, and from there, you'll jump right into the action. I use the term "action" loosely here, as each job is little more than a few simple movements repeated constantly. As I've mentioned before, it's not particularly fun. For instance, you'll run into your fair share of leaky pipes throughout the game, which consists of a few valves connected to pipes at the bottom of the screen. The way you fix this is by simply turning the valves until they're tight by making circular motions around them on the touch-screen. That's all there is to it, and for the other mini-games, there's not much more involvement. You might need to spackle down some holes and then sand those spots, or perhaps put up some wallpaper and roll the virtual paper down the screen. There is a time limit for everything, so there's a little incentive to do things quickly, but most of these jobs are easily finished within the given time limit, so there's not much of a challenge to speak of.
Certain jobs will require you to clear out the current selection of furniture, which is done by tapping on an object and removing it from the screen by pushing it in the direction indicated by the arrow. On the flip side, other jobs will have you placing new furniture, but one thing I learned early on is that there's no reason to come up with a good arrangement. Each job is ranked and you can receive a gold medal (or an equivalent prize), but it doesn't matter what you do for furniture placement. I could bunch together a sofa, refrigerator, chair and sink in one corner and still get the best possible ranking at the end of the job, which seems pretty odd and a little bit lazy. Once you figure that out, one of the few possibly interesting aspects of the game becomes pretty worthless.
Once you finish up your jobs, you'll earn a little cash. You can turn around and spend that hard-earned dough in the town's furniture store, which is also accessed by the touch-screen. From here, you'll have various subcategories of furniture, like living room, dining room, accessories, and so on. These are divided up much like the rooms in your own house, and you'll want to buy items that are required by your house to increase its overall value. If you visit your house and click on a particular room, it will tell you the type of furniture you need to buy and place; this takes away much of the guess work, but that is probably a good idea. Once you purchase that furniture and arrange it, the value of your house will jump up a little. If you end up filling your house with the required items, it will sell and you can do an upgrade, which keeps your family happy and allows you to progress through the game. This is probably the best aspect of the title because it gives you a reason to press onward with the mundane mini-game challenges that make up the bulk of the gameplay.
Aside from that, there's not much else to do in Our House. One other thing to note — and this is probably where the majority of the game's budget was blown on — is that the title screen makes use of a MIDI-style rendition of the "Our House" song, and that's probably the best thing about the title. Aside from the title track, I can't think of any reason to pick up this game. The gameplay is boring, the design is simple and plain, and overall, I'd have more fun actually putting up real wallpaper than doing it virtually in this title. I'd suggest avoiding this budget game and going for one of the more interesting sim titles available on the DS.Score: 4.0/10
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