Ariolasoft had the major publisher Bertelsmann (known, among other things, for the BMG music label) behind it and used their money to grow on two foundations. First, it published hits of foreign developers in Germany. Second, they financed the development of in-house games of which the business simulations (like Kaiser, Hanse etc.) were particularly successful. Ralf Glau, developer of the latter game as well as other bestsellers, was on board and all of Germany was hungry for more. This lead to the development of a number of typically German business simulations, all having completely generic titles, which Glau supported the programming for, but which he was not involved in designing. They hit rock bottom with Das Haus (The House or The Building).
Right from this name up until the manual which consists of just three typewriter pages, one of which even lectures the player on how a manual is actually unnecessary, everything appears semi-professional at best. The character-based interface of the PC original has been replaced by pixel graphics at least, and the keyboard controls have made way for a mouse interface. The port declares prominently to have been made by the Computer Club Elmshorn (a small city in northern Germany). Semi professional is maybe a big of an exaggeration. The eponymous house is even a digitized photo, but partially painted over in a particularly amateurish way. In line with the rest of the graphics.
What happens in this house anyway? A group of teenagers, totally stoned, have the foolish idea to try a demon summoning ritual just for laughs, which then gets out of control. Ah, no, wrong story. It's just a regular apartment building which the capitalist player uses to become rich. Those of you wondering in what world this could possibly be interesting, purely conceptually, regardless of implementation, has hit the nail on the head.
The task therefore lies in optimizing, squeezing the maximum out of the tenants without them moving out. There are things to repair and to renovate. Heating oil supply should not run out. The bane of each capitalist, the tax system, makes regular appearances. Though at least the game allows to raise formal objection against those notices. Finally, at some point, you can invest profit into additional buildings and so on and so forth.
If in spite of abysmally boring subject matter and amateurish presentation, you're still here, let me tell you that in stark contrast to the manual's bold claims, there are effectively no strategic decisions to be taken. The prices of any services seem to be purely randomly determined by the game. The player's choice is just between accepting them or living with the associated disadvantage. Heating oil prices work the same way; even today, prices definitely would not oscillate this wildly in the real world. If have have the opportunity to buy cheap, it has nothing at all to do with good planning, but it's plain luck.
As if all this weren't enough, there are tons of explicit random events. You will be sued with alarming regularity by passers-by who happened to trip and fall in front of your building. You find wallets all the time. Let's not even start about the real likelihood of winning the lottery. Some of those events are followed up with a player decision. For example, you can compensate the passer-by or you can risk going to court. Though as expected, there is no relevant decision behind. The judge's decision is once again determined by a dice roll.
A few entrants to the German business simulation genre balanced out their plain gameplay at least a little by tackling a somewhat interesting subject. They evoked some associations in the player's minds, making them somewhat entertaining, based on the illusion that you would be part of what was “simulated”. This worked for Hanse, for example, or maybe even for Steigenberger Hotelmanager. I wouldn't mind owning an apartment building in real life and living off its income. Though I can guarantee that my first action would be to find a reliable administrator company to take care of all the stuff which is (badly) alluded to here. Why would I want to play it, then?
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