In a world where foreclosures and empty houses have become the norm, a game that invokes the old excitement of the real estate industry is a breath of fresh air. And sub-prime lending isn’t even an option! This alternate reality is based around building up rich suburbia, improving neighborhoods with names ranging from Pleasant Valley to Evergreen Park.
Build-a-Lot puts you in the position of real estate manager for eight neighborhoods, all with separate mayors and each comprised of 10 to 15 plots of land. Each mayor has a personality and an agenda, from the Irishman who loves Tudor houses to the mayor of River Glen and her stamp fetish. In Career Mode, there are several levels per neighborhood with objectives that usually follow the whims of the mayor. Examples include raising an amount of money to justify a bank in the neighborhood, building a three-star colonial house requested by an incoming family or raising a certain amount of rental income. Casual Play is all about making money. The options are limited, but while these two modes can keep you busy enough, we can definitely see room for more.
Each neighborhood and level starts with a set amount of money, materials and properties. Each house you own periodically generates rent, depending on its upgrades and condition. Houses cost materials and manpower to build, with construction workers being represented by yellow hard hats. While you take care of the objectives, different elements, like property taxes and plumbing problems, will affect your houses and special buildings, complicating matters. In career mode, each level is timed, with the “expert” time as a target, as you try to meet the mayor’s demands. Achieving “expert” is actually difficult, unlike many other time-management titles out there — We appreciate that. If the game is interrupted, auto-saves picks up where you were, but only allows for one save slot.
Build-a-Lot is a solid game that actually requires strategy on the fly, giving it a healthy level of difficulty sometimes lacking in iDevice games. There’s definitely room for more material, but for now it is a great union of strategy and time management, even if it is slightly unrealistic in today’s economy.