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Summerhouse screenshot

SUMMERHOUSE review

According to its Steam page, SUMMERHOUSE is a “love letter to the feeling of long lost summer afternoons”. Maybe it’s the way we design our houses but, in our time with this casual building game, the primary feeling we got was being stuck in Soviet-era Europe.

We think it’s SUMMERHOUSE’s rough, rudimentary art style, the way its buildings are constructed out of concrete-grey bricks and how it encourages you to stick graffiti on the side of your buildings just as readily as it does windows. Are you building your dream summer house, or are you building a shanty shack where the Blair Witch may or may not force you to stand in a corner?

It’s up to you, really. SUMMERHOUSE might not intend to be eerie, but if you fancy building something a little creepy, it’s entirely up to you. We particularly like the way you can switch between three preset weather/day patterns – sunny, stormy and nighttime. Get a storm brewing, or turn off the lights, and your picturesque little getaway soon looks terrifying.

Summerhouse screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew / Copyright: Friedemann

There’s no rhyme or reason to SUMMERHOUSE. Loading it up, you won’t be given missions, or goals to work towards. You’re simply free to design your rough-and-ready-looking houses however you want. Build a lone cottage if you want, or create a row of shops and cafés. Anything goes.

We say there’s nothing to work towards; that’s not entirely true. By placing certain blocks or doing unspoken tasks, you’ll unlock new, secret building blocks — perhaps a roof tile with birds sat on it, or maybe a woman standing by a door frame. Simply creating your own designs in SUMMERHOUSE will unlock most of these without any effort, as long as you’re creative in your builds.

It’s a relaxing little experience though, creating something in SUMMERHOUSE. It’s the type of game that’s great for short bursts, for unwinding with when you’re feeling a little stressed. Creating something from scratch always feels like an achievement, and SUMMERHOUSE makes it incredibly easy to do so. The Sims or House Flipper this is not, but its lo-fi approach to design certainly has an appeal all of its own.

SUMMERHOUSE screenshot
Screenshot: GameSpew / Copyright: Friedemann

And as rudimentary as its art style may be, we did find ourselves loving it more and more the longer we played. There are some seriously nice touches, like the way signs and roofing casts shadows on the buildings underneath them. And if you build near water, you’ll have a true reflection of the blocks you’ve placed. It’s striking.

What’s particularly neat is that SUMMERHOUSE has been designed by a solo developer, Friedemann. He previously founded Grizzly Games along with two friends, who went on to make Islanders – one of our favourites – but this is his first solo project. It’s certainly a fine little game to start out with, and we can’t wait to see what else Friedemann creates.

If you fancy a sandbox where you can design exteriors of homes, cafés, hotels – whatever you want, really – SUMMERHOUSE is a seriously cool one. It’s as basic as they come, but there’s charm in its simplicity. Nothing to bog it down: just you, some design tools, and whatever you want to create.


SUMMERHOUSE review – GameSpew’s score

This review of SUMMERHOUSE has been facilitated by a code provided its publisher. It’s available on PC.

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