|Publisher: Red Marble Games Genre: Simulation|
|Min OS X: 10.3 Hard Disk: 60 MB Graphics: 1024x768 @ 16-bit|
Calm down Jack, it's only another -- (shudders) -- Casual game!
Yes, Build-A-Lot is yet another casual game for your Mac. It seems that the market is churning these titles almost as fast as first person shooters these days! Heck, maybe the potential is there, but I'm no fanboy for the likes of Bejeweled or Diner Dash. No matter, let us proceed.
GameplayBuild-A-Lot, as stated above, is a casual game, meaning that a lot of the gameplay will be centered on fairly simple objectives, making it easy for the layman to play without having to invest years of his/her life to get good at it. Build-A-Lot is, as the name suggests, a building management sim. You play the role of a landlord who is sent to tidy up some fairly desolate towns by building housing facilities and buildings for public use, such as post offices and banks. The gameplay is well organized -- in order to build a house you need workers, whom you train for a price and send to do their job. Once a house is constructed you gain a set amount of rental income which can be raised by upgrading one of your, to name a few, rambler, Tudor or, interestingly, castles (how anyone could afford to rent is beyond me).Two game modes are supplied: Story mode and casual mode. In story mode a certain amount of objectives must be met, such as earning $250,000 or building a specific kind of house. For the most part the idea is to generate a set amount of rental income per month. As you progress through the levels you will move from town to town, meeting a different mayor in each area. The fact that they constantly "help you out" with tips even though you have to complete a tutorial to play can get a little annoying, I do not like being treated like an idiot! Though again, this is a casual game and most players won't be as game-literate as some.
Casual mode is a timed affair, pitting you against other players around the world in a rush to gain a set amount of money. I found, however, that some of the records were cheated, as earning $1,000,000 in 1 second did not seem so believable to me. This is something that should really be fixed, as "it's no fun to have to compete with those who cheat" (that's a tagline right there). Each map has a different goal, so besides the look of the "lot" there is some variation. It would just be a little more enjoyable if there weren't cheaters on the leader boards.
PresentationBuild-A-Lot has the usual 2D based graphics we have come to expect from this genre, with painted backgrounds and drawn sprites littering the page. It's not that bad -- it has a unique art style -- but OS X has powerful capabilities when it comes to 2D technology; Check out Neon Tango (http://www.apple.com/games/articles/2008/02/neontango) for a good example of what I mean. Then again, this game was made on Windows originally, so recoding the whole game would have been a hefty job.
And another thing -- the menu is fairly basic and feels sluggish. It can take some time to move from one page to another.
SoundLike the presentation, sound in Build-A-Lot is very standard and consists of MIDI warbling of sorts. I found some of the tunes quite relaxing and easy to listen to for long periods of time, though, with some memorable melodies and ditties. The sound effects are very poor. It's easy to hear that they were recorded in very low quality.
ConclusionBuild-A-Lot is a rather well made simulation, despite the irritating tips, which can't be turned off. The story mode contains a host of levels with eight different neighborhoods available, while casual mode has promise, as the online leader boards should provide a fair amount of competitiveness against other players around the world (once they rid it of cheaters). All in all it provides a decent amount of playability and fun for the average gamer.
Pros• Good gameplay
• Online leader boards
Cons• Annoying tips
• Sluggish menus