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Nintendo DS Review: Build-A-Lot

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This real estate simulation game with the clever double entendre features quality game play, challenging multitasking and estimation/management skills. This game, first released on mobile phones and the PC, makes a great transition to the Nintendo DS with a career and casual game mode. This game has 35 sublevels based in eight main levels, each with their own mayor. Overall the series looks to expand to a third installment soon.

The difficulty levels ebb up and down instead of gradually increasing in difficulty. Some players might want to keep a pen and paper handy to help with the math and estimation demands. Other players will get some great challenges from keeping it all in their heads. The handy, well colored tool bar, complete with common sense color scheme located on the bottom screen, displays your three main folders: materials (red), workers (yellow), and blueprints (blue). You must constantly access these main folders and manage the top screen site map to stay ahead of the real estate market and meet your goals. You can definitely complete the actions faster with the touch pad/stylus on the bottom touch screen over the PC mouse.

The information screen at the top also features a timer, which can be really handy for in-depth gamers who want to really micromanage their empire. The faster you build and manage your materials, workers and blueprints, the faster you sell, collect rent and upgrade – always upgrade. The building upgrades include mansions and castles, plus commercial giants like libraries and post offices. You can also improve your operation efficiency with sawmills and workshops to save money. You can even build a bank to earn more interest, and then eventually donate your interest to a local charity to lessen your property taxes.

You need a minimum amount of workers just to build a high level residential building after buying the often-expensive blueprints. Be sure to create some rentals first before buying a blueprint in a level that requires a new building. Blueprints can clean you out quick then leave you waiting for your rent to collect repeatedly before you can do anything again. It’s a good bet that if you’re waiting for your rent to collect it means you did something wrong. You can miss your deadline with quick, uninformed decisions. Read the beginning text before your start the level.

Once you have the basic format down, collecting rent is the key activity because it kick-starts your revenue right away. You can even sell the houses you own, especially recommended when they constantly need repairs, though the game forces you to fix any properties before putting them on the market. This game could easily expand into a legal battle royale if builders and buyers butt heads in the community. The game's developers stuck with their main format though, rather than surprise you with Monopoly-like notices like “You’re getting sued for building negligence. Pay $50,000 in court costs.”
The special items bestowed on you by the mayors and their encouraging comments provide some rewards, but your lifetime earnings amount will probably be your biggest incentive. You can replay levels or switch to the casual mode once you have a few sublevels under your belt. This game could have used a few more unlockables and doesn’t present any pro-environment themes (just use up those resources and build, build, build!). Still, this high quality game provides so much entertainment and content for a very reasonable price. Any game simulation fan should have this title!

Build-A-Lot is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB.

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  • nic

    too long, who can be bothered reading that

  • Lisa L

    I don’t think 580 words is too long. Thanks for the review TW! :-)