I was excited when I heard about the announcement of the new Build A Lot game. I’ve played the others and enjoyed them, and reading previews about the improvements made it sound fabulous. Unfortunately, the reality isn’t quite so good. To look at the game to begin with, you wouldn’t really know any difference. Again, there has been no improvement in graphic quality, which you would expect from the fourth outing of a brand.
The basic premise of the Build A Lot games is to complete a set of goals in order to progress to the next level. These include building certain properties, making a set amount of money, increasing your rental income, and so on. You can build houses from tiny little cottage-type things up to enormous apartments. Give them a lick of paint, landscape them and inspect them to prevent any damage, and you’re good to go.
Build A Lot 4 in particular adds a new dimension – power. You’re basically doing the same thing you did in the other games, but this time you’ve got to make sure there’s enough power to do it. This means building power sources. Choose from Wind Farms, Solar Towers, Hydro Electric Plants and Nuclear Plants. As you’d expect, the bigger they get, the more power they produce. But also, the more they drag the overall attractiveness of your neighbourhood down. Luckily, you’ve got something to counteract this with, which I’ll come to later.
Given the ‘power’ nature of this game, you can make your homes more energy efficient in order to use less of the town’s overall power. As you’d expect, the bigger the property, the more power it uses, so be careful or you’ll end up in a blackout which causes unhappy renters to withhold their payment. On the plus side, the more improvements a property has, the more rent you’ll earn, and the building will be worth more should you decide to sell it.
However, you can’t just max out your buildings, then sit back and watch the rent money come in. You’ll be continuing to build, improve and tear down properties in order to meet the goals in time. They’re not always straightforward, so you’ll probably find yourself replaying some levels and reassessing your strategy. Particularly if you’re one of the perfectionists who likes to finish a casual game with a perfect or expert score on every level.
Now you can build recreational activities, namely tennis courts, golf courses, swimming pools and amphitheatres. These will make your neighbourhood more pretty as a whole, and also increase the rental income of the buildings directly next to them. Much to the delight of your residents, you can build shops for them to go and spend their hard-earned cash and even cinemas where they can go and watch the latest from Hollywood.
In addition to the mediocre changes made in this game, the developers have added more modes. On top of the standard Main Challenge and Casual Mode, there’s also a Challenge Mode and an Expert Mode. Beyond perfect for those who want to get the most perfect score they can – but for others, it’s meaningless.
Sadly, there’s no excitement factor in this game. It’s the same old thing with a few new features tacked on. You can earn trophies as you go along, but for me, this was no big deal. I just found myself mindlessly playing the game without having any feelings either way. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. I didn’t feel addicted either. With the last game in particular, I’d find myself really wanting to play it, especially if I failed levels. I’d be dying to have another go to get past it. This time, however, I just wanted to finish the game so I could move onto something else. Disappointing.