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Publisher: Red Marble Games    Genre: Simulation
Min OS X: 10.4

Real Estate Empire
July 16, 2008 | Michael Yanovich

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When reviewing a new game, I occasionally find myself in a situation where I donít personally like the game Iím playing, but where I also feel my personal bias is unfairly affecting my judgment. Does the game involve pretty pink unicorns? Perhaps the target audience is five-year-old girls. Or maybe itís a puzzle game Ė not my cup of tea Ė that has a large casual gamer fan base that deserves more than, ďItís not a shooter, so I didnít like it.Ē And truth be told, thereís always part of me that hesitates giving really bad reviews to some games because I canít help but put myself in the shoes of the people who worked so hard to put a particular game together.

So I suppose itís some combination of guilt and professionalism that makes it so hard to write a bad review for a game I simply donít like.

Now, Iím happy to report that Iíve apparently shed any burden of guilt and I can categorically (and guilt-free) proclaim Ė while maintaining my professional detachment Ė that my latest assignment, Real Estate Empire, is truly a terrible game that should be avoided at all costs.

Ah, the sweet, sweet freedom!

I donít even have to worry about angering the folks who put time and effort into it, because itís clear they donít exist. This game is so bare bones and lacking in Ė you name it Ė features, fun, playability, excitementÖ that it plays as if a freshman college student threw this together during a coffee-fueled all-nighter so they could turn it in as their Programming 101 final exam. And if they were lucky the teacher gave it a C.

Gameplay (and the rest)
Look, Iím going to gloss over this review. The game really just isnít worth any real effort to write about, and the only reason I didnít end with the paragraph above is to prevent anyone from shelling out the absurd price of $20 to see the problems for themselves. At $5, the gameís a rip-off.

First, check out the screenshots. Relax, I only took five of them. It wonít take more than a few seconds. See the map? Thatís it. Thatís the only map youíll ever see in the game. See how small it is? It takes up, oh, 25% of my monitor. You canít resize it. And the Mac finder menu thatís at the top of your computer is worthless while you play the game. No saving/loading games allowed (though the game does save your progress automatically as you go, so if you quit and come back later Ė WHY would you ever come back?! Ė youíll be forced to continue your existing game whether you want to or not, all the way to the bitter and boring end).

The game consists of checking out houses that have real estate signs in front of them, reading the news bar to ascertain current market conditions, and then buying a property. Then you can click on some buttons to fix it up. Eventually you turn around and sell it. Youíll start with trailer homes, move on up to double-wides and low end tract housing, and if you play your hand right (i.e., read the news ticker to see where the market is heading), youíll soon be working the ritzy McMansions up in The Loop. Just be prepared for the housing bubble to burst, because the game is predictable enough to throw that in every time as well.

At the end of each month, youíll check your financial health, pay off any repair bills and mortgages, and get ready to start again.

Folks, I actually found myself falling asleep during the game. This game is about one step more advanced than the Lemonade Stand game I played on my Apple ][+ in 1978.

Hey, if a middle school teacher wants to have their 6th grade class play this for an hour to learn beginner economic theory, Iím all for it. The concept of buy low, sell high is there, as is the concept of basic market timing and current events affecting your pocketbook.

If, however, you want a moderately priced yet entertaining real estate simulation, then the mantra of, ďLocation, location, locationĒ should start running through your head as you look around and realize this is an empire you donít want to be caught in when the sun goes down.

• Extremely basic economic theory put into practice. Appropriate learning tool for 10-12 year olds.

• You can turn the game music off.

• Boring, repetitive gameplay with zero depth or entertainment value.

• Annoying music.

• No menus to save, load, change screen resolution, change maps, change number of players, change difficultyÖ no menus whatsoever (except, thankfully, to turn off music and sound effects)

• Feels like an unfinished school project.

Real Estate Empire
Publisher: Red Marble Games
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