Build-a-Lot 2 is a dangerous game to play on the go. In fact, I swear it warped time while I was playing it on the train earlier, as the first time I pulled my eyes away from the screen was when we reached the end of the line.
Thank goodness it was a non-stopper or else I may have had to explain to the ticket inspector that I was too busy buying and selling fictional housing developments to notice.
Build-a-Lot 2 puts you in charge of building up various middle-American suburbs with housing and buildings, improving them, charging rent, and, sometimes, selling them on.
This is all performed using a pointer that leaps to the next plot with each button press, with the ‘5’ key used to bring up the action menu. Move to below the lowest row of plots and the pointer automatically moves onto the menu bar, where activities like building and purchasing a fine new modern house can be performed.
It’s quick and painless after the first few levels, with handy shortcuts, ‘*’ to instantly jump to the menu bar and ‘#’ showing the objectives, making navigating around the screen a breeze.
Why BAL2 is so absorbing to play isn’t so much to do with the subject matter as with the structure and balancing of the game.
Each of the 35 levels places multiple objectives for you to hit before completion. These can range from the obvious, like ‘own two farmhouses’, to more long-term and subtle objectives like high desirability or a strong cash flow.
Each house you buy or build generates a certain amount of rent that can be used to purchase more land, houses, and more materials, with upgrades to each building’s level and cosmetic touches like re-painting all affecting the bottom line.
Those are the basics, anyway. Before too long the game introduces buildings like workshops, parks, and recycling centres that can affect the ‘desirability’ of the land they’re near, crippling or raising house prices in the process.
This is all done under an excellently paced timer that always just about leaves enough time to make a few missteps along the way. For the elite players, though, there’s a notch higher up the bar that denotes the fabled 'gold award' time.
Even though these gold times are often around the three minute mark, the desire and pull to try out another level or just to dabble in the ‘Casual’ objectives mode will have you glued to the mobile for far longer than that.
Just make sure you remember to look up from time to time.