Have you ever dreamed of being an interior decorator? Then you might be interested in playing Home Sweet Home, the iPhone app version of the very popular PC/Mac game by Big Blue Bubble. As for me, I know what I like for my own house, but I've never been able to tell other people what will work for them, as much as I wished that I could! Well, the good news is you don't really have to have any decorating skills to enjoy Home Sweet Home.
Your first task is to interpret your customer's 'cryptic' description of likes and dislikes. I enjoyed this “riddle” part of the game, even though sometimes it wasn't easy to figure out how to translate the statements into specific pieces of furniture or designs. But, I do think the developers came up with a fun way to mimic real life. I'm guessing one of the most difficult things about being an interior decorator is trying to figure out what people like and dislike based on very little information from the customer.
The tutorial portion of Home Sweet Home is very good and extremely necessary. This is not a game you can pick up and learn by playing. There are very specific requirements to pass each stage, and you really have no way of understanding those goals without working your way through the tutorial stage of the game. So, don't skip the tutorial.
You start out with a budget, a mostly unfurnished room, and a catalog of items to buy and place in that room. As you try to decipher the wants of the customer, you're free to buy whatever you can afford to decorate the room appropriately. As you move furniture items, there is a little area underneath that either turns red (warning you not to position the object) or green (signifying it's okay to let go. There is quite a bit of freedom in the process. It is entirely possible that no two people will decorate their rooms the same way. If you get stuck, you can always “buy” a hint from the host, but you don't want to spend too much of your budget on advice.
You complete the design phase by meeting two objectives which are: satisfying the customers (tracked by a happy meter) and buying/placing a specific number of items. Next, you move on to the design phase where you enlist the help of your faithful workers who do the finish work. When you are in the design phase, the items you place in the room only appear in black and white and gray. . . because you are only establishing the design. When you move to the 'build' phase, the worker characters use various tools (through cute little animations) to make the design a reality. At this point, the furniture and decorating items come to life, and you realize whether or not you've made good decorating decisions. There are lots of subtle aspects of the game design like this that make this game truly unique. Like a real world designer, you have to visualize your design before you can see the finished work.
As you would expect, with each new customer the decorating jobs become more complex. You have more items you can purchase from the catalog, more demanding customers, and controlling the workers also becomes more complicated as well. The faster you get your workers to complete their tasks, the more money you get paid. You've got to keep them fed, fill their bellies with coffee, and make sure they clean up their trash.
Your 'score' is how much you get paid at the end of each project, so for those of you who are motivated by high scores, you can strive to earn big cash payouts. Deciphering the customer cryptic clues and playing around with the furniture was engaging enough to keep me going for a while.
While the graphics are delightfully colorful and the music and sound effects are perfectly appropriate, I do have one small quibble with the game. First of all, items in the catalog are not always what they appear to be. Each item has a master object that leads you to rows of choices for that specific furniture piece. The master icon for the fireplace looked more like a TV to me. There were a few times when I got confused or couldn't figure out what the item was supposed to be. I'm sure this is a byproduct of porting a PC/Mac game to a small screen like the iPhone. Sometimes, it's difficult to scale everything appropriately. Luckily, there is no real penalty for trial and error at the design phase, but it's always annoying to have unclear or confusing graphics.
Aside from that, I believe Home Sweet Home is a terrific interior design simulation game. However it is a bit pricey at $2.99, so I recommend downloading the free version first to give it a try. Then, if you're hooked, you can pay the higher price for the full version, knowing you're money is well spent. And maybe you'll find that you have some hidden design talent of your own to share with your friends later!