I’ll give you a little bit of free advice. Don’t go from playing House Flipper with your family to a session with Landlord’s Super. As you’ll soon be necking Tennents Super all alone in your stained Y-fronts on a lonely Wednesday morning.
Why I hear you ask? Well dear listener (reader), let me tell you why! Landlord’s Super is a stark reminder of just how grim Britain was in the 1980s. I mean yes we had Thundercats, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Super Gran and we didn’t know certain TV personalities were fiddling kids, but it was still bloody grim.
Before we go any further, none of the above is meant as a negative for Minskworks’ game. If anything I applaud them for having a vision for Landlord’s Super and sticking with it, when it could have been oh so easy to tone it down a bit.
What you have here is essentially a construction sim, in the mould of a Houser Flipper, House Builder, Construction Simulator, etc. However instead of being set in a modern world and sugar coating the capitalist society we live in, glorifying the idea of making money hand over fist, Landlord’s Super instead shines a light on the harsh realities of trying to do so in Thatcher’s Britain during the 80s.
The actual construction mechanics are passable, but not really a patch on some more established titles, but I do think that is a deliberate decision, to try and make you feel as downtrodden as possible, such is the commentary on the setting of the game.
You know the bits from Shenmue, that at first were groundbreaking, but now when playing you despise them for holding the game up… real-time, erm… time. Well this is a main part of Landlord’s Super. Every day you wake up, check the mail, go to the loo, get to town, sign on, speak to people, do your jobs, go for a pint, all whilst the clock is ticking. The game forces you into a routine and it is depressing.
But, that is the point and it works so well. That routine, along with your ‘work tasks’ being laborious make you feel like you are being held down by the establishment. You cannot forget to sign on, you time taken to get anywhere is in real time. Even if you ‘skip’ the actual journey, you lose the actual time it would take.
The characters around the fictional town of West Berklands are a mix of miserable caricatures of 80s Britain. I personally didn’t find anyone particularly likeable, but I did have empathy with so many of those I met along the way. I did despise some though and for a game like this to pull that off is impressive. You get to know everyone through daily interactions and learn more about them. Even those who seem to be doing will bring about an element of misery.
I don’t enjoy Landlord’s Super, it is a miserable experience, but and here is the big but (teehee). WHilst I go through the motions of daily life, I am building my own home from nothing. Literally brick by brick by brick and that sense of opportunity to own something really shines through.
The system is shit, life is miserable, but there is also a message of hope in here somewhere too. Despite everything that is thrown at you, you are working towards a goal, the goal of building you own home! Yet, it doesn’t glorify a message of ‘just work hard and you get what you desire’. That is a bullshit message and I have honestly spent time down the virtual pub, wondering if all this is worth it in the end? Do I actually want to carry on? Or shall I just live my daily life?
I wasn’t expecting to have deep conversations with myself from a game that on initial impressions looks like the creators saw a Spitting Image episode once and ran with it. The humour is dark and at times satirical but it is a means to an end and it works.
I think I am down with Landlord’s Super. For now at least. I need some colour in my life. But it shows that videogames can provide entertainment, be thought provoking, funny, miserable, fun, horrible and much more all in one. In ways other mediums cannot.
I’m off to the pub to buy a pint for 60p. I’m sure this Tory horror story won’t continue for much longer… will it?