Build a better house with Design This Home

Design This Home is a free-to-play iOS-based building game by App Minis. Cast in the role of a superstar interior designer, it’s up to players to construct, furnish and maintain a large house in order to attract residents, earn money and buy even more furniture, knickknacks and tchotchkes.

In essence, Design This Home is The Sims without the people-management aspect. Residents do wander around the player’s house in the game, but they are more an indication of progression than an interactive element. In a pleasing nod to personalization, however, players are able to rename the residents as they please and pick from several preset appearances. They are also able to use their iOS device’s contact list to pick first names from if they are struggling for inspiration.

Basic gameplay in Design This Home revolves around completing tasks by purchasing and placing objects in the house. Each object costs a certain amount of money to order and takes a period of real time to be delivered. Upon delivery, the player is rewarded with experience points and some cash — though considerably less than they paid to order the item. If delivering the item completed a task, the player is rewarded with further experience and cash, and new tasks are generated.

Adding items to the house increases its value, and every so often, the player is able to collect income according to this valuation figure. It’s also possible to purchase soft and hard currency via in-app purchase, with the latter being used to hurry delivery times and purchase more valuable items. The player may also earn up to two pieces of hard currency on every level up by sharing the good news via Facebook and Twitter, and certain tasks also provide hard currency as a reward.

Leveling up unlocks new items for players to put in their houses, and also occasionally presents the opportunity to construct a new room on the house. As more rooms are constructed, more residents arrive until the player eventually has a whole family living in their creation. And as more furniture is added, it’s more likely that items will need upkeep or maintenance — dirty or broken items stop contributing to the house’s value, so this mechanic provides incentive for players to check in on their residence regularly. Players are also rewarded with experience and soft currency when performing upkeep tasks.

Design This Home provides a solid foundation for a good building game with plenty of content — the developer claims there are over 500 items available for purchase — but feels rather “bare bones” at the moment. There is a lot of downtime waiting for items to be delivered, and while this may be bypassed with hard currency, it becomes necessary to do this a little too early for players to have made up their mind as to whether or not they want to open their wallets. There are also no social features at present — while OpenFeint is used to save progress in the cloud and level up stories may be shared on Facebook and Twitter, there is no means for playing with others at this time.

These are all issues which App Minis has specifically said it is working on for future updates, however. The game’s menu screen displays a “Neighbors” button as “Coming Soon,” suggesting that some form of social functionality can be expected imminently. And the iTunes App Store page for the game says that new items, residents and floor plans are on the way, along with the ability for gardening and landscaping and a monthly contest facility.

Design This Home has potential to be a good social building game, but there’s just not enough to its gameplay at the moment. Curiously, while the game is flagging somewhat in the United States App Store charts, the game is enjoying a huge amount of success in the UK at this time — it’s No. 16 in the top free apps, No. 31 in top free iPad apps, No. 12 in top free games and No. 16 in top iPad games. It’s also the No. 3 top grossing app, the No. 3 top grossing game and the No. 13 top grossing iPad game in the UK. In the States, meanwhile, it has slipped to No. 350 in top free games and No. 248 in top free iPad games after a relatively low peak in early March.

You can follow Design This Home’s progress through the App Store charts with AppData, our tracking service for iOS, social games and developers.