You get to renovate castles in Castle Renovator. Eventually.
What fast-talking YouTube star Yahtzee has coined the “post-dad game” has become quite the genre recently. These are games that take menial dad tasks and turns them into something actually fun to do rather than actually going out and doing the menial task itself. And I love it. House Flipper had you cleaning and repairing houses, and Power Wash Simulator tasked you with power washing a bunch of filthy locations and objects. The controls in them are as simple as the premise, but there’s a shocking amount of satisfaction to actually carrying out completing the tasks, regardless of how arguably mind-numbing they are. Castle Renovator has appeared trying to do something similar, but in the whirlwind field of…castle renovation.
It’s worth me saying this right off the bat, one of the things that makes the likes of PC Building Simulator, House Flipper, and Car Mechanic Simulator satisfying is that basis in doing something that is often immediately recognisable. The tasks here are often a part of everyday life for some people, and there’s an inherent enjoyment in that for me. Something like Mech Mechanic Simulator just didn’t hit the same notes due to the lack of real world application, and Castle Renovator suffers from this too.
With that said, this game follows a similar structure to House Flipper but with a medieval setting. You’ll pick up quests from a quest board by your house, and pop off to clean, repair, and rebuild houses. Note that I say houses here, not castles, as you don’t actually do any castle renovating for quite a long time in Castle Renovator. In fact, I repaired a ship before I repaired a castle which seems a little odd for a game with this title.
Still, the actual mechanics are pretty simple. Pick up the rubbish, scrub a brush on stains, pick up bits of wood to repair holes, and fix broken tables and chairs. There’s a degree of enjoyment in this aspect of the game, as regardless of what you’re working on, there’s a satisfaction to completing that list of tasks and seeing things being ticked off it as you scrub that final wall or fix that last hole.
Sometimes you’ll be asked to build a house — again, not a castle yet — and this is where things fall down a little bit. Once you’ve cleared the area, you’ll have to place foundations, walls, roofs, stairs, and furnishings before you complete the task, and this in itself is all well and good. The problems arise if you make a mistake in your building or decide to make a change. The parts of the structure snap onto each other, which is great. But if you demolish a part that you misplaced or no longer want, the connection on the other part of the structure no longer seems to work. This means that you’ll need to demolish the whole thing and start again, as each time to you demolish and try to rebuild, you can’t snap onto the next part of the building, and so on.
It’s really frustrating, as you can’t just build another foundation next to one that won’t snap on because this is considered another structure and won’t count towards the quest objectives. There’s an array of problems here too, as things like a roof might not register as complete even though it’s linked to everything, or a new floor won’t connect to the top of a set of stairs for some reason. It feels like someone saw House Flipper and decided to do the exact same thing but with a different theme, but without thinking about how to make the whole thing work.
You do eventually get to work on and build castles, but they have the same problems. When things click together properly, it’s a nice sort of construction set, but a lot of the time they just don’t do what you want them to, and that’s really annoying. You get your own plot of land to build your own house or castle on as the game progresses, but there’s really no impetus to thanks to there seeming to be no gameplay benefit and the actual building process being fraught with possible errors.
There’s a pretty large array of furnishings to add to buildings though, which is nice. If you want to make a bedroom with five beds and a bathtub, you can, but again I don’t see what the point is. However, you can buy animals and put them outside, so having a house with an army of ducks outside is a viable option, so I’ll give the game a pass here. There are also hidden treasure chests to find that earn you money — which I never seems to be short of I should add — and notes that give you a little bit of story about the region, so there does seem to have been at least a little thought put in.
Beyond this though, things are a bit of a mess. The visuals are two generations old, and that’s being generous. Even with graphics this basic, there’s an inordinate amount of pop in as you walk around. I suppose at least the framerate is stable. The music is really good for a game like Mount & Blade but is way too dramatic for something that includes scrubbing the floor and sweeping up rubbish. Then there are the controls, which are all over the place and resulted in me placing objects where I didn’t want them, as well as inexplicably including an 8-way movement system! This felt horribly unnatural on an analogue stick, but it’s something you can get over with enough time.
Castle Renovator is a hard game to recommend when there’s a significantly better option out there. I suppose if you’re absolutely desperate for a House Flipper with a middle-ages Europe theme then this might be for you, but I can’t imagine there’s a huge demographic here. As it stands I can’t really recommend this one, and sentence it to be launched from the trebuchet!