It’s That Time of the Year Again
The Town of the Year Award is looming, and every citizen wants to let the country know that their town is the best one out there! Always eager to stir up any popularity for the upcoming elections, mayors everywhere are now scrambling over themselves to win the coveted prize by improving the status of their respective homestead.
Enter you, a contractor. You will tour each of the towns, renovating the neighborhoods to meet each of the mayors’ expectations, and in the process, take a hand in which town will earn the prize.
That’s the basic plot of Build-a-lot 2: Town of the Year</i>. It’s not really much of a story, but it gives you context to justify why you’re improving the infrastructure in each level. For that end, it is sufficient. The game does a fair job at giving each of the mayors you work for a different personality that highlight their goals and methodology, which in turn affects how you complete each level. But even they are not going to stick with you for very long.
Like the story, the graphics of Build-a-lot 2</i> are nothing impressive, but they get the job done. There’s not really much in the way of animation, you’ll mostly just be looking at a bunch of still pictures. Mind you, the visuals are clean and colorful, and look like something you would find in any real estate catalogue, but they’re just as forgettable.
The music, on the other hand, is much better. It features a variety of pleasant-sounding violin chords, all of which are very relaxing. Sound effects, likewise, are also put to good use. You’ll be getting light bell chimes to alert you when something is going on, or hear the sounds of construction while a house is being built or renovated. None of them are overly loud and obtrusive, sound realistic enough, and serve their purpose of letting you know what’s going on in the neighborhood.
I Never Knew Real Estate Could Be So Easy…and Fun!
For a game like Build-a-lot 2, though, story and presentation are not really important. No, it’s the resource-management gameplay that matters, and does it ever deliver! The gameplay is simple enough; you start out each level with limited resources, a number of set goals to meet, and a strict time limit to achieve them. You construct houses and buildings on lots that you own, buy up ones that you don’t, or further develop your properties.
Nothing comes free, though. In order to build anything, you need building materials and workers. Both cost money, and to make that, you will need to collect rent from the houses you build. There are several different kinds, from meager bungalows, to townhouses, to actual palaces. The larger and more luxurious houses are more expensive to make than the smaller ones, but they also provide more rent. If you’re willing allocate more resources by upgrading the house, however, you can increase the amount of rent the house generates.
Building is easy, thanks to the game’s intuitively designed interface and controls. You can pretty much play entirely with one hand, for everything is just a single mouse click away. Important details, like how many workers or supplies you have on hand are always visible to you on screen, and more specific information, such as the price to construct or upgrade a building is available with a quick click of the mouse. Just about everything else is tucked away in a tried-and-true tab-based menu. It’s impossible to get lost, and the opening tutorials in the first few levels make this game incredibly easy to learn.
More Than Just Housing
But sometimes, rent alone does not provide enough. Selling property is always a viable way to make some quick cash that you need. However, an alternative is to construct some specialized shops, parks, and buildings instead. Shops at times share their earning with you, and parks, though they may not turn a profit, nevertheless increase the neighborhood’s Appeal rating, making your assets that much more valuable. Both act similarly to houses, where building the bigger and better shops and parks is more costly, but more “profitable” in the long term.
Buildings, however, are much different. They serve a more utility purpose, acting as factories of sorts to make your job easier. One example includes a worker-training facility which offers you a discount for hiring new workers. Buildings are useful, but being the eyesores that they are, they drive down Appeal. Oftentimes, you’re going to have to juggle between your personal convenience and the happiness of the residents, which adds a neat twist to Build-a-lot’s strategy. Unfortunately, many of the buildings are too situational, and outside a level that requires that you build them, you’re just as likely to ignore them entirely.
You Just Can’t Sit Still
One of the neater touches to Build-a-lot 2: Town of the Year are all of the random events that happen while you play. After playing for a while and getting used to the mechanics, it’s easy to grow complacent and form a general plan of action at the beginning of a level, but something always comes right out of left field. Privately-owned houses will occasionally go on sale for a limited time. You can buy them for their stated price, but if the situation is just right, you can try low-balling them too. Other times, your own properties will get damaged, and need to be repaired before they provide any future income. These events come and go with enough frequency to keep you on your toes, but are thankfully balanced enough that you won’t get bogged down with micromanagement.
In the End…
Build-a-lot 2 is fun little game to while away for a small passage of time. It’s oddly addictive, and requires a good deal of careful management of time and resources to succeed, especially in the later levels. The main campaign may not be very long, but you can get a little more dynamic playtime out of Casual mode, which effectively acts as a more freeform sandbox game.
There aren’t a whole lot of issues with Build-a-lot 2. Just that its graphics are rather on the bland side, some of the in-game tools aren’t going to see a whole lot of use, and that, when you get down to it, it’s very similar to the previous game in the series. If you have played the first Build-a-lot, keep that in mind. If not, and you’re in the mood for a fun little strategy game, Build-a-lot 2: Town of the Year may be a worth a look.
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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