Summerhouse Review – Maybe Too Minimal

I’ve long been a fan of city-building games, but few games have come across my doorstep that allow you to truly customize the exterior of individual buildings. Summerhouse looked like it may scratch that itch, featuring freeform minimalist building without any resource management. While it does do exactly what it says on the tin, and does it well, Summerhouse unfortunately has gone full minimalist on the amount of content it offers as well.

Summerhouse is about as minimal as a game’s design can be. Fire up the game, select New Game, and pick building blocks out of a selection of infinite resources to construct a 3D house on a 2D field. Once you’re finished, save the house to a slot, and make a new one. That is the entire gameplay loop.

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Come on by, we got nothing but vacancies!

Gameplay loops don’t have to be complex and layered to be fun. Many minimalist and simple games have stood out to me as excellent. Sayonara Wild Hearts, for example, is essentially doing a single thing for two hours across an amazing soundscape with spectacular visuals, and it’s one of my favorite indie games ever. Remember when Flappy Bird was so popular that people were selling iPhones with the delisted game installed for thousands of dollars?

Summerhouse, unfortunately, just isn’t very replayable. It offered me just about 45 minutes of playtime, during which I constructed a half dozen buildings, including a mixed residential-commercial office, a desert inn, the ruins of a flooded home in the woods, and more. You can see the variety of buildings I made with the very meager selection of materials, but unfortunately I hit the limit very quickly and found myself just rebuilding the same kind of thing I had already built.

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What happened here? Spooky!

I understand Summerhouse is a solo-developed game, and therefore expectations should be put in check, but with just three kinds of wall materials, a dozen doors types, a dozen window types, and about 100 features, there’s only so much I can do. The only thing in the game that resembled progression is unlocking alt forms of existing building parts with animals or humans in them. This was neat at first, but I got almost all of them unlocked during my less than one hour playtime just by placing blocks as anyone naturally would.

Summerhouse‘s UI and control scheme are unfortunately non-intuitive and laid out poorly. Left-clicking predictably places blocks, but right-clicking for some reason shifts you to a random building part. I cannot figure out why this is mapped to right-click, especially because there’s already a random button on the side of the screen. I kept hitting it all the time and had to search through the inventory to get back to what I was doing.

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Note that our dumpsters are behind a 6 ft privacy fence and feature a full turnaround radius for a garbage truck, per city ordinance.

Also, in order to open inventories for doors or trees or any group of building parts, you have to right-click to open and see the parts, while left-clicking does nothing. There’s also no function to pick up and move a block, you just have to delete it and then sort through the inventory to place it again. It all takes much longer than it needs to.

My PC ran Summerhouse smoothly as expected for a game like this at 1440p 144 FPS, with no bugs or glitches presenting themself. I would note that this game is not playable on Steam Deck, nor is it playable with a controller as of the time of publishing.

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We’ve got a serious owl problem in the neighborhood.

Summerhouse features nice art and relaxing music, and It was nice for a few minutes to just freeform build. Unfortunately, there’s just not really enough in this game to justify investing your time or money in it at the moment. I ran out of things to do very quickly, and with the unintuitve controls, strange UI, and lack of progression I had no real desire to come back.

It’s not that a game needs hardcore management or RTS elements to work – something like Animal Crossing: Happy Home Paradise does this exact idea perfectly, letting you freeform build houses with infinite resources to your heart’s content. But Happy Home Paradise features characters, a (minimal) story, and specific requests from NPCs to kickstart your imagination. Maybe if the buildings I built were connected in some way, or there was some real form of progression, or just way more building parts, I’d recommend investing in Summerhouse. Is it as cozy as promised? Yes. However, Summerhouse is far too minimal for its own good.

Nirav played Summerhouse on PC with a review code.

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