What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this is a pure building sim and lacks some of the "playing God" features of the SimCity and The Sims games. (For example, here you can't destroy your town with natural disasters or force its inhabitants to become unhappy.) Children will learn about managing cash flow, resources, buying and selling in a way that is challenging but not too complex or overwhelming.
What's it about?
Many people might find the world of real estate intimidating, but BUILD-A-LOT makes it seem easy. With a few clicks of the mouse, players will be building, buying, renovating, and selling properties in no time and having a blast doing it.
Players can construct a variety of buildings on vacant lots, from modest one-level ramblers to ostentatious estates, as well as structures like banks, sawmills, museums, and skating rinks. To do so, you'll need the required blueprints, enough workers to do the job, and building materials, all of which cost money. The mayor of each of the eight towns in the game gives players a specific set of goals to complete, like building four Tudor-style homes, earning a rental income of $60,000 per month, or earning a $250,000 cash total. To increase a house's value, it can be upgraded with amenities like hardwood floors, indoor tennis courts, and a wireless intercom system. An upgraded house will yield more rent per month and can also be sold at a higher profit. But beware of property taxes and repairs, which will sap up money and materials. There's also a Casual mode where the goal is to raise a certain amount of money in as short a time as possible.
Is it any good?
The nice thing about Build-a-lot is that players don't have to know a lot about real estate or be skilled number-crunchers, to succeed and have fun. There's a wonderful tutorial, and the game's pacing is just right in terms of introducing new challenges and concepts in a manageable way. Each town presents unique challenges that keep the game fresh until the end. One mayor, for example, is partial to Tudor-style homes, while another wants to attract wealthy retirees by building estates on premium lakefront land. For such a potentially dry subject, Build-a-lot manages to deliver a game that is extremely accessible, as well as challenging.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about what strategies they developed for doing well at the game, and how they had to adapt these strategies to meet different goals. For example, what did you do differently to achieve a high rental income verses building up a large total sum of cash? Do you enjoy simply being able to build structures, or would you prefer a mixture of resource gathering and combat as offered by real-time strategy games like Warcraft and Age of Empires?