Build-a-Lot 2: Town of the Year Review

While the subtitle ‘Town of the Year’ reminded us of the movie Hot Fuzz, one of the first things we noticed about Build-a-Lot 2 was a complete lack of a diabolical Neighborhood Watch Association, which was a little disappointing.

In fact, the subtitle itself means little to the player for most of the game, because you play the role of a real estate master who helps every town. Maybe it should be called ‘Mercenary Real Estate Agent of the Year,’ but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. You do vote at the end of the game for your favorite town, but you are really only voting on your own handiwork.

For those unfamiliar with the series, Build-a-Lot is about managing neighborhoods by buying, selling, building, and collecting rent. You have to juggle material supplies, numbers of workers, and the demands of whatever mayor you happen to be working for, unless you’re in the sandbox casual mode.

Order your own McMansion.

Build-a-Lot 2 has two modes: campaign and casual. While these modes are identical to those in the first Build-a-Lot, the gameplay has some new tricks up its sleeve. A whole new lineup of houses replaces the old ones, and new categories of parks and shops are added into the mix. There are new industrial buildings too, from garden centers to oil rigs.

Perhaps the most meaningful and challenging change that the sequel brings is ‘curb appeal’. As opposed to upgrades, which increase a house’s value by adding to the interior, curb appeal focuses on the exterior of the house, and the overall appearance of the neighborhood. Painting and landscaping improve the appeal of a house, but close proximity to oil rigs and workshops decrease it. Parks do well to increase the appeal of a neighborhood, but they take up the space of a lot and provide no rent.

An oil rig? Not in my backyard.

What impresses us most about Build-a-lot 2 is its ability to keep us sweating over decisions while the timer counts down. It has quite a few challenging elements to juggle, and after the first few towns, the expert rating for efficient success becomes very difficult to achieve.

What it doesn’t have, however, is any drastic departure from its predecessor. The graphics are still average, and there are no new modes or online sharing. There isn’t even a score system besides expert/pass, and we see a lot of potential for bragging rights there.

Build-a-lot 2 gives some refreshing new life to its predecessor, and it’s a fantastic choice for anyone who enjoys time management games, but it’s not a Must Have for all gamers.

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